English & EAL

On the Waterfront: Terry and Edie (Part 3)

Lisa Tran

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Once safely away from the church, Edie asks whose side Terry’s on –Friendly or Father Barry’s. Terry says he is with himself. A homeless man asks them for money, and shares with Edie that her brother was a ‘saint’ for helping him out. Terry gives him money to stop harassing Edie, and the homeless man leaves, saying that Terry is ‘still a bum’. Edie asks Terry what the homeless man meant, but Terry ignores her question. The two develop a friendship as they stroll through a park discussing other topics such as Edie’s education and their childhood.

At home Edie’s father Pop, declares that he is sending her back to school, St Anne’s. He scolds her for associating herself with Terry since is he is closely knitted with Friendly’s gang. Although it is against her father’s wish, Edie states that she is going to stay in Hoboken because she is determined to find out who murdered Joey.

The next day Edie visits Terry at ‘Joey’s Coop’. One of the pigeons lays an egg, which Terry gives to Edie. When Edie says that ‘even pigeons aren’t peaceful’, Terry argues that at least they are loyal. After some persuading, Edie agrees to a beer with Terry.

At the Saloon, the two discover more about each other. Terry used to be a prizefighter until Friendly ‘bought a piece’ of him. He avoids explaining why he stopped fighting by asking why Edie would care. Edie believes that ‘everyone should take care of everybody else’. On the other hand, Terry’s ‘philosophy of life’ is to ‘do it to him before he do it to you’. The topic shifts to Joey’s death, with Terry believing that everyone is ‘putting the needle’ on him. He says that ‘every man [is] for himself’ otherwise they would end up like Joey. Edie is offended and asks Terry to ‘help [her] for God’s sake’. On their way out of the pub, the two dance together to the wedding ceremony music being played next door, forming an even closer bond. Before they kiss, one of the mob men from the wedding interrupts, stating that Friendly is looking for Terry. When Edie asks whom the man was, Terry warns Edie to stop inquiring about Joey’s death since ‘it ain’t safe’.

Soon after, the Waterfront Crime Commission officer approaches Terry, and serves him with a subpoena. Edie confronts Terry with her suspicion that Friendly was the one who ordered Joey to be killed, but Terry tells her to ‘quit worrying about the truth.’ Frustrated, she retorts that Friendly ‘still owns you…no wonder everyone calls you a bum’ and flees from the pub.

That night, Friendly and his men approach Terry in the street, wondering why he was not at the congregation. Terry argues that he was there but discretely adds that ‘nothing happened.’ The others refuse to believe him since they had discovered that Dugan had a secret session with the Crime Commission. The men order Terry to ‘wise up’ and to stop seeing Edie. Friendly demotes Terry’s position from the loft to work with the sweat gang. Before Friendly’s mob drive off, they warn Terry that they will fix up Dugan for talking to the Crime Commission.

The next day, the men load up a crane with heavy crates containing Irish Whisky. As the load is carried up halfway in the air, one of Friendly’s men sends a signal to purposely release the heavy load, causing the products to fall down and kill Dugan who was standing beneath. Someone cries for a doctor, but Pop says ‘he don’t need a doctor, he needs a priest’.

Later, Father Barry uses Dugan’s death to persuade the men to ‘wise up’ and put a stop to the corruption on the waterfront. He states that their lack of action against the mob is a crucifixion.

On the roof that night, Edie offers the Dugan’s jacket to Terry. They comment on how the pigeons are nervous because a hawk had come over before. The two passionately embrace.


Terry’s new journey shows him struggling between two worlds – the first, Friendly’s, where it is best to remain ‘D and D’ and the second, a world beyond Friendly’s control where one can be righteous and kind to others. When he encounters the homeless man who carries on about Joey’s good deeds, Terry physically pushes the man away, as though he is trying to stow away his conscience. Ironically, it is the homeless man, a person not immersed within the waterfront activities that recognises that Terry is ‘still a bum’, despite Terry’s dismissals. Throughout the film, he repeatedly declares that he is ‘not a bum’, illustrating his sense of denial since a ‘bum’ is someone who has no particular purpose in life, and being under Friendly’s reign has turned him into just that.

However, as Edie and Terry’s relationship grows, Terry becomes drawn out from the grasps of Friendly as Edie urges him to question his beliefs and morals. This is highlighted when he wears one of Edie’s white gloves, demonstrating that he is experimenting with a different perspective on life or ‘trying out’ Edie’s moral values. The white colour illustrates the pure intentions and goodness that Edie is transferring to Terry, giving him a sense of enlightenment. Nevertheless, since he only tries on one glove, emphasising the polarity between Friendly and Edie’s world as it appears as though Terry exists partially in both. Additionally, their light conversation is carried out on a playground, which represents his re-entry into a world of innocence or naivety – a place where he isn’t burdened with issues – much alike young children.

The division between the different groups of people living on the waterfront is reflected through the heavy bird symbolism filtered throughout the film. When Terry refers to the hawk that ‘swoops right down on’ pigeons, this represents Friendly as the ‘hawk’ watching over all the longshoremen, ready to ‘pick’ at anybody that misbehaves. Hawks have become the symbol of wars as they are an aggressive and large bird of prey, highlighting the battle between Friendly and the stevedores. Meanwhile, the workers are characterised as ‘pigeons’, that are being ‘swooped’ or targeted by Friendly. Pigeons tend to be peaceful, loving and gentle, reinforcing the idea that Friendly easily coerces them into doing his bidding. Terry, in particular, is an example of the caged pigeons on the rooftop, as if he is ‘stuck’ inside Friendly’s grip. On a different note, Edie and Terry’s connection with Swifty the pigeon, who lays an egg, represents their romantic relationship blooming as the egg depicts a new beginning, and hope for the future. Yet, the cage fence between Edie and Terry demonstrates that Friendly is preventing their relationship from becoming stronger, and this cannot happen until Terry is set ‘free’.

Friendly’s domination is shown through the mob’s distinguished costume. Their top hats, long thick coats and cigars all depict the wealth of the mob, juxtaposed with the longshoremen who wear thin jackets with holes throughout them. Although Terry is accepted into Friendly’s inner circle, he is not completely established as ‘one of them’ due to his worn out jacket. The idea that Terry is not a part of their group is further established in the scene where Friendly pulls up in his car next to Terry as their respective positions in camera frame highlights the literal and metaphorical distance between them.

In addition to Edie’s angelic figure, religious imagery is portrayed again after Dugan’s unfortunate death. The low-angle shot of Father Barry captures his face against the clear sky above, demonstrating that he is a voice of heaven, urging the longshoremen to do the right thing by God. He declares their silence is a ‘crucifixion’ while Joey and Dugan were martyrs. As Father Barry rises up and above the longshoremen on the cargo, this symbolises the priest ascending to heaven for his good deeds, along with Dugan’s body, which will also be awarded by God.

Important Quotes

‘Your brother was a saint, the only one who ever tried to get me compensation.’

‘You don’t buy me. You’re still a bum.’

‘Who’s calling me a bum?’

‘Don’t pay no attention to him. He’s drunk, he’s falling down. Everything. He’s just a juicehead that hands around the neighbourhood. Don’t pay no attention.’

‘It isn’t just brains. It’s how you use them.’

‘That’s what makes people mean and difficult. People don’t care enough about them.’

‘Pop, I’ve seen things that I know are so wrong. How can I go back to school and keep my mind on things that are just in books that aren’t people living?’

‘I’m going to keep trying to find out who is guilty for Joey.’

‘You know this city is full of hawks? That’s a fact. They hang around on top of big hotels. They spot a pigeon in the park, right down on them.’

‘If another bum comes along and take his place, he really lets him have it.’

‘Even pigeons aren’t peaceful.’

‘There’s one thing about them, they’re very faithful.’

‘Shouldn’t everybody care for everybody else?’

‘Do you want to hear my philosophy of life? Do it to him before he does it to you.’

‘There’s not a spark of sentiment, or romance, or human kindness in your whole body.’

‘When things and people get in your way, you knock them aside, get rid of them.’

‘Down here it’s every man for himself.’

‘I’d rather live like an animal than end-up like…’

‘You gotta quit trying to find out about Joey. It ain’t safe.’

‘I ain’t going to eat cheese for no cop and that’s for sure.’

‘Quit worrying about the truth all the time. Worry about yourself.’

‘Pop said Johnny Friendly used to own you. Well I still think he owns you. No wonder everyone calls you a bum.’

‘Guts! Why, that crummy pigeon. He ought to have his neck wrung!’

‘That’s what we get for mixing with this punch-drunk brother of yours. He was alright hanging around for laughs but this is business. I don’t like anyone goofing off on my business.’

‘It’s down in the hold with the sweat gang till you learn your lesson.’

‘He don’t need no doctor. He needs a priest.’

‘Taking Joey Doyle’s life to stop him from testifying is a crucifixion. Dropping a sling on Kayo Dugan because he was ready to spill his guts tomorrow – that’s a crucifixion. Every time the mob puts a crusher on a good man – tries to stop him from doing his duty as a citizen, it’s a crucifixion. And anybody who sits around and lets it happen, keeps silent about something he knows has happened, shares the guilt of it just as much as the roman soldier who pierced the flesh of Our Lord to see if He was dead.’

‘Go back to your church, Father.’

‘He sees you selling your souls to the mob for a day’s pay.’

‘Only you with God’s help have the power to knock them out for good.’

‘They’re nervous. There was a hawk around here before.’

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