On the Waterfront: Terry Overcomes the Role of Bum That Others Have Marked Out for Him, Do You Agree?

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Terry overcomes the role of bum that others have marked out for him, do you agree?

Terry is the main character in the movie, ‘On the Waterfront’. Terry is called a bum many times throughout the movie, for different reasons. Terry tries to convince himself that he is not a bum, although he opens up towards the end of the movie, and finally admits that he is one. Terry’s brother Charley and Johnny Friendly are shown to be responsible for Terry’s role as a bum. Although it is open to interpretation, Terry seems to overcome this role in the last scene of the movie.

At first, Terry is a young man with no real path or ambition in life, which shows the viewer that Terry doesn’t seem to know who he is or where he is going in life. Terry is part of Friendly’s ‘gang’, although he doesn’t really seem to fit in anywhere. Chapter 9 gives us the first meaning on the word bum. Rummy (the drunk) asks Edie and Terry for change, and to keep Rummy from opening his mouth about Terry’s role in Joey’s death, Terry throws change at him. This is when Rummy says, ‘You don’t have to buy me. You’re still a bum.’ From this quote, we see that Terry is called a bum because of what he has done to Joey and his position in Friendly’s gang. This shows the viewer that everyone thinks of Terry as a bum, even the ‘bums’ themselves. Chapter 13 gives us another meaning of bum, when Edie says ‘Pop says Johnny Friendly used to own you – well, I think he still owns you... no wonder everyone calls you a bum.’ This is open to interpretation, as Edie could mean that Terry is a bum because he is not his own person, or because he is still part of Friendly’s gang. Terry seems to be looked down on morally because of his position in Friendly’s gang – which shows us what people think of Friendly.

Terry never takes responsibility for his role as a bum, as he blames is on his brother Charley when he says, ‘You was my older brother, Charley... you shoulda looked out for me’. Terry really believes that he...
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