Study Guide

On the Waterfront Family

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EDIE: I want to know who killed my brother!

Edie's reacting the way any family member hopefully would to the murder of a loved one—with outrage and demands for justice. But her dad's been so cowed by the mob, and is so concerned for her safety, that he doesn't want to make waves.

TERRY: Why me, Charley? I'd feel funny going in there.

CHARLEY: Johnny does you favors, kid. You got to do a little one for him once in a while.

TERRY: But going in that church, I'd be stooling for you, Charley. You make a pigeon out of me.

CHARLEY: Let me explain you something, kid. Stooling is when you rat on your friends, on the guys you're with.

Charley is putting undue family pressure on Terry. Terry's already given Johnny way more than he deserves, but Charley's trying to convince him that he owes more. In reality, Terry's been used by them.

POP: Edie, for years your mom and me put quarters in the cookie jar to keep you up there with the sisters and keep you from things like I've just seen outside the window. A daughter of mine walking arm in arm with Terry Malloy.

Pop Doyle knows that Terry's in with the gangsters. He wants to see Edie stay safe because she's his daughter and he loves her. Just look what happened to Joey… Pop doesn't want to lose another kid. But Edie knows that she can't stay silent. She needs to seek justice and follow her heart.

POP: Do you know who Terry Malloy is?

EDIE: Who is he, Pop?

POP: He's the kid brother of Charley the Gent who is Johnny Friendly's right hand and a butcher in a camel hair coat.

EDIE: Are you trying to tell me Terry is, too? He tries to act tough, but there's a look in his eye.

Everything Pop's saying makes sense. But Edie's heart is grounded in morality, not just a sense of family loyalty. She has to go with people in whom she's indentified a sense of goodness.

CHARLEY: Make up your mind before we get to River Street!

TERRY: Before we get to where, Charley?

CHARLEY: Listen, Terry. Take the job, no questions. Take it!

TERRY: Terry, take this job, please.

Charley is trying to save Terry's life—but he's trying to do that at the cost of Terry's principles. And, ultimately, Terry has to choose to follow his principles even at the cost of going against his brother, his one remaining family member. Ironically, Johnny kills Charley while Terry manages to survive.

CHARLEY: Look, kid, I—how much you weigh, son? When you weighed one hundred and sixty-eight pounds you were beautiful. You coulda been another Billy Conn, and that skunk we got you for a manager, he brought you along too fast.

TERRY: It wasn't him, Charley, it was you. Remember that night in the Garden you came down to my dressing room and you said, "Kid, this ain't your night. We're going for the price on Wilson." You remember that? "This ain't your night"! My night! I coulda taken Wilson apart! So what happens? He gets the title shot outdoors on the ballpark and what do I get? A one-way ticket to Palooka-ville! You was my brother, Charley, you shoulda looked out for me a little bit. You shoulda taken care of me just a little bit so I wouldn't have to take them dives for the short-end money.

Terry is telling Charley the truth. Charley sees himself as Terry's protector, but, in reality, he's exploited Terry and used him for personal gain.

CHARLEY: Oh I had some bets down for you. You saw some money.

TERRY: You don't understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let's face it. It was you, Charley.

Charley took away Terry's chance at leading an amazing life—all so he could make money. It shows that he was only thinking about his own greed, not about other people. This helps convince Charley to let Terry escape, since he knows he owes it to him.

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