Study Guide

On the Waterfront Terry's Walk to the Warehouse

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Terry's Walk to the Warehouse

Terry goes from accidentally helping a murder at the beginning of the movie to being a symbol of redemption at the end. Not a bad character arc for a washed-up ex-boxer, eh?

After doing the right thing and testifying against Johnny, Terry gets a nice reward. A box of chocolate? A spa day? Nope. Lucky Terry gets a brutal beating.

Johnny and his gang beat the pulp out of Terry, leaving his face looking like a Halloween mask and leaving him walking like a drunken sailor on shore leave. He needs some medical treatment…or at least an ice pack and some Band-Aids.

Father Barry and Edie don't give him either. But they do give him encouragement:

BARRY: You lost the battle, but you have a chance to win the war.

TERRY: What do I have to do?

BARRY: Walk.

And this isn't just a "walk it off"-type encouragement. Barry's instructing him to get up…and get to work. By walking, he's showing the world—and Johnny Friendly—that he's not beaten down. Bonus: if Terry walks into work, the other workers say they'll follow him, telling Johnny to kiss off once and for all.

So Terry buckles up his big boy pants and does it. He walks. He makes it into the warehouse, and everyone follows him. Johnny is left behind to rage and yell, stripped of his power.

This isn't just an awesome scene using some very cutting-edge (for the 50's) POV shots. It's symbolic, not just of the "hard road" of redemption, but of the movie as a whole. Yeah: Kazan is basically distilling the entirety of On The Waterfront down into a several-minute long scene.

Because what's the movie about? A dude who has been beaten by life doing the hardest thing: getting up, dusting himself off, and doing the job that needs to be done. And that, in its most literal form, is what's happening in the last scene of the movie.

Clever boy, Kazan.

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