On The Waterfront

Essay by jake_1988College, Undergraduate November 2014

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Rocky Sabano

2. In both 'On The Waterfront' and 'Vertigo' - the opening scenes are instrumental towards understanding both the similarities and differences between Scottie Ferguson and Terry Malloy. More specifically, we see, quite early on, the inherent flaws, circumstances, and qualities of Scottie Ferguson and Terry Malloy, as well as how evident it is that they both share a lack of purpose and awareness as to who they are, where they stand, and where their future lies. While both Scottie and Terry share the same obstacle of discovering a sense of purpose and identity - they are handicapped by drastically different flaws and circumstantial challenges in their pursuit towards that goal, and ultimately fight their way towards strikingly contrasting outcomes.

The opening scene of 'On The Waterfront' is extremely revealing in terms of exposing Terry Malloy's current condition. For example, Terry is the only mobster out of four who was not aware that Joey was going to be pushed off the roof.

Moreover, when he asks the other mobsters what had just happened, they laugh about the murder - saying, "Maybe he could sing, but he couldn't fly!" Since Terry is the only one in the group who does not laugh at the joke, he is instantly portrayed as being the odd one out - out of place among a group of men who have far less compassion than he does. When a person can laugh at murder, it implies a lack of conscience, and when you lose your conscience - you have nothing left worth keeping. So, by not laughing, Terry shows us that his conscience is in tact, and it even makes us feel empathy for a person that needs rescuing from his circumstances. This sets up the plot perfectly for a...