Loyalty and betrayal are central to ‘On The Waterfront’ Essay
“Stooping is when you rat on your friends, the guys you’re with. ” (Charley Mallory) ‘Loyalty and betrayal are central to this film. ‘ Discuss. “l was ratting on myself all them years, and I didn’t even know it. ” Terry Mallows eventual realization in Elli Khan’s film, On the Waterfront (1954), reveals the philosophical nature of allegiances that the story of an exploited waterfront community’s resistance to an oppressive mob is centered on. Set on the docks of Hoboken, New Jersey, the film explores how certain loyalties are detrimental to one’s dignity and integrity but necessary for survival.
Whereas other loyalties are often innate to one’s being, born out of love and protectiveness. Kane argues that ultimately, it is our moral conscience that decides where our dominant loyalty lies. Using a variety of personalities with conflicting morals and fluctuating loyalties, the director suggests to audiences that the most important loyalty we owe is to ourselves, that is, our moral conscience. Loyalty is essential when it comes to survival on the docks, however, this will only perpetuate the harmful status quo.
As a survival tactic under the waterfront’s oppressive regime, the dock workers’ unwritten code of “D and D” (“deaf and dumb”) exemplifies the tacit, blind compliance of the longshoremen. Despite their hatred of the mob, the longshoremen do not “rat”. Through the men’s submissive obedience, Kane implies that without a desire to change the unfair oppressive loyalties, this injustice will never be overturned. The subservient nature of the dock workers attitudes toward the mob is again epitomized in each days “shape-up”.
We see the pack of fully grown men fervent scramble for the few work tokens that are carelessly seed over the hiring stevedore’s head. Demonstrating the annalistic instincts of the workers, the film evokes a sense of helplessness and pity within audiences who are able to see how this passive adherence is necessary for “staying’ alive” in this society. Attending to a corrupt social hierarchy, Hoboken is ruled by the manipulative, power-hungry Johnny Friendly and his army of flunkey’s. Whenever Johnny is after a “favor”, one must follow through. Charley warns Terry: “Don’t think about it. Do it. Even members of the mob are trapped into abiding by all of Johnny’s requests and do his dirty work. Thus, Kane warns viewers of the diminishing aspect of loyalty when facing the harsh reality of life. As an innate part of human nature, protective loyalty, such as family values and human kindness, plays a significant role in the film. After years of working on the harsh docks, Pop Dole’s right arm is “two inches longer” than his left. Nevertheless, he has no regrets. Every time he “heists a box or a coffee bag”, he does this “for Edie”, reflecting true family values through his physical sacrifice.
In this particular frame, Pop and Edie stand very closely, embracing each other with warm fondness, gaslights Charley and Terry’s brotherhood. In the taxi cab heading toward “437 River Street”, a desperate Charley begs Terry to “take [the Job]! ” in return for his silence, even drawing out a gun. Terry, however, is not intimidated and softly lowers the gun. The fraternal love and trust between the two is perceived by audiences, despite the brothers’ past conflicts. A non-dietetic track plays in the background of this scene to further resolute the brothers’ affection through its soft, gentle melody.
Here, Kane intends to let audiences realism the instinctive importance of loyalty and human nods. The film illustrates how one’s conscience heavily affects where one’s loyalty lies. It is Terry’s conscience that begins to take control as his relationship with Edie grows. The guilt of his involvement in Joeys murder causes him to “stool” on the mob and tell the truth to the Crime Commission. Inspired by Father Barry, Terry acts on his conscience, I. E. The upholding of Justice. Terry is no longer the “bum” he believed himself to be, rather, becomes his own man. Charley case is similar.
Charley, initially the “right-hand man” of Johnny Friendly, is driven to betray his loyalty to the mob deader by the guilt for his past treatment of his brother. Charley conscience reminds him that his actions were unfair to his brother, that he “should looked out for [Terry] a bit”. A symbol for this redemptive change is Charley taking off of his black glove in the cab, signifying his decision to follow his conscience, and also the subsequent turning point of loyalties. In this film, Kane depicts conscience as the catalyst between the loyalty and betrayal that is central to the film, and therefore, central to the film’s motives as well.
The shifting ties of loyalty and betrayal powers the storyline of On the Waterfront, here conscience acts as a switch between the two. Director Elli Kane explores how both society and human nature determine the different relationship bonds between people. While one’s conscience motivates the decisions they make. Through On the Waterfront, Kane implores audiences to understand that our altering loyalties and internal conscience are essential features of life. They are some of the central driving forces behind our actions, or in a similar sense, our inaction. In the words of Terry Mallory: “Conscience… That stuff can drive you nuts. “