Study Guide

On the Waterfront What's Up With the Ending?

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What's Up With the Ending?

After testifying against Johnny, Terry basically has to eat lunch all by himself. None of the other dockworkers will play tetherball with him. No one wants to share their crayons.

And—bringing it back to the land of adults—he's told that no one will give him work.

But Terry bounces back. In fact, it turns out the neighborhood idiots aren't the only people with an opinion on these matters. The workers are on his side—sort of. They just need a little convincing.

So Terry heads down to the docks and calls for Johnny to come out. Johnny does, and he and his thugs beat Terry up. Terry gets punched and kicked a bunch of times, and his face ends up looking like that of a Walking Dead extra. Johnny doesn't think he'll even be able to walk.

But he hasn't counted on one fact: Terry used to be a boxer, and he's useful to taking a beating. He can keep on keepin' on even with blood pouring out of his lovely mug.

The workers are waiting for a courageous person to lead them, to break Johnny's rule. But Iron Man isn't available, so they'll have to settle for Terry. Father Barry and Edie encourage him to get up, saying that the workers said that if Terry walks into work they'll walk into work—defying Johnny's orders, and eliminating his power. Barry tells him:

BARRY: You're on your feet, you can finish what you started.

Terry walks. It requires every ounce of will in his body, but he makes it.

Here's the thing: the workers want to side with Terry against Johnny. But they can't bring themselves to do it until Terry makes this big symbolic gesture. They need a hero to shake them out of their complacency. And when the workers rally around Terry and start filing in for work, Johnny's not pleased:

JOHNNY: Where you guys going? Wait a minute! I'll remember this! I'll remember every one of you! I'll be back! Don't you forget that! I'll be back! 

Of course, the irony here is that he probably won't be back. He's been reduced to a sad little man, raging against people who've gotten the better of him. He needs a juice box and a nap.

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