Study Guide

On the Waterfront Criminality

Criminality

The bad boys in On the Waterfront aren't Robin Hoods—they're not cartoon foxes that rob from the rich to give to the poor and win the hand of an alluring girl fox.

Far from it. They rob from the rich and the poor.

It's a rip-off bonanza down at the waterfront, where the corrupt union gangsters exploit the longshoremen and take sizeable cuts of their money, while staging walkouts in order to shake down shippers. Oh, and they're also willing to kill people, like Joey and Dugan. It's as sickening as a Hot Pocket you just dug up from under a couch cushion.

Questions About Criminality

  1. In On the Waterfront, what are the criminals motives for being criminal?
  2. What makes Terry different from the other criminals? Why does he have a conscience despite having the same childhood experiences as Charley?
  3. What excuses do the criminals make for their actions? How do they see themselves?
  4. What attitude do the locals take towards the criminals in the union leadership?

Chew on This

The criminals in On the Waterfront are criminals because they're bad people.

The criminals in On the Waterfront are criminals because of their upbringing and the society they've lived in.