English & EAL

On the Waterfront: Essay Prompts

by
Lisa Tran

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1. Edie is depicted as an angel that saves Terry. To what extent do you agree?

2. On the Waterfront portrays a world where people are only successful through money and violence.

3. We are able to understand the moral struggles of the characters through the cinematic devices used in On the Waterfront.

4. On the Waterfront demonstrates that silence cannot be achieved through murder.

5. The actions of only a few individuals can result in a revolution. Discuss.

6. Terry is the true hero of On the Waterfront. Do you agree?

7. Joey and Edie are both catalysts for Terry’s transition.

8. How does the film show Terry’s emotional and moral struggle?

9. Joey is said to be able to ‘sing but he couldn’t fly’ after talking with the crime commission. How does Terry prove Johnny Friendly wrong?

10. ‘You got a real friend here. Now don’t forget it.’ On the Waterfront shows that ‘real friends’ can betray you.

11. ‘Why don’t you keep that big mouth of yours shut.’ On the Waterfront demonstrates that remaining silent is the only way to survive under Johnny Friendly’s reign.

12. ‘You stand up and I’ll stand up with you.’ It is only through the longshoremen’s group effort that they are able to overthrow Johnny Friendly. Discuss.

13. On the Waterfront shows that redemption is only possible if you pay the ultimate price.

14. The music in On the Waterfront provides a strong portrayal of Terry’s transitional stages throughout the film.

15. Terry is a ‘bum’. To what extent do you agree?

16. ‘Pop, I’ve seen things that I know are so wrong’. Why is Edie so clear on the wrongdoings on the waterfront, yet the men are blind to all the crimes?

17. Joey died because he chose to tell the truth rather than taking the advice, ‘quit worrying about the truth all the time. Worry about yourself.’ What were the consequences of only ‘worrying about yourself’?

18. ‘Conscience – that stuff can drive you nuts.’ The men on the waterfront have no conscience. Discuss.

19. ‘It’s none of your business! Mind your own business.’ Only when Terry begins to ignore his own advice do things begin to change On the Waterfront. Discuss.

20. On the Waterfront shows that power and money can destroy a man’s soul.

21. On the Waterfront shows that threats are a powerful tool.

22. Terry’s success at the end of the film demonstrates that it is never too late to change for the better.

23. Elia Kazan shows us that loyalty can be fulfilling but also a burden.

24. Self-preservation is essential in order for the characters to stand up for themselves. To what extent do you agree?

25. On the Waterfront is a story about a hero and his struggles to become ‘someone’.

26. Johnny Friendly is as much a victim as those he exploits. Do you agree?

27. Terry Malloy is an ambiguous character at the beginning of On the Waterfront. How does Elia Kazan demonstrate ambiguity through cinematic devices?

28. Through cinematic techniques, On the Waterfront demonstrates the oppression of those who live by the waterfront. Discuss.

29. Charley Malloy is the true hero of On the Waterfront. Do you agree?

30. How does Elia Kazan depict the segregation between the rich and the poor?

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