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Symbolism in ‘On the Waterfront’

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Presentation on theme: "Symbolism in ‘On the Waterfront’"— Presentation transcript:

1 Symbolism in ‘On the Waterfront’
Learning Goal: Understand how symbols and motifs in ‘On the Waterfront’ add meaning to the film.

2 Joey Doyle’s Jacket Joey Doyle is the first character we learn who has tried to stand up to Johnny Friendly and the mob to end the corruption. He is a true morally righteous character. His jacket is representative of his character and his action. It is passed onto other characters in the film who attempt to follow in his footsteps and ‘get their rights’

3 Kayo Dugan with Joey's Jacket
Dugan is the first to receive the jacket after Joey's death. Pop Doyle gives it to him. He is also the next to give evidence to the crime commission and the next to be murdered.

4 Terry with Joey's Jacket
Terry is given the jacket by Edie after the death of Dugan. Edie is another morally righteous character, who helps guide Terry on his own moral journey. It is significant that she gives him the jacket as he looks up to her and doesn’t want to disappoint her. “I brought this for you, Terry. It was Joey's. Yours is coming out at the elbows.” - Edie

5 Terry's checked jacket It is also interesting to take note of Terry’s own jacket. It is shown to become more worn and torn as the movie progresses. Showing that his own clothing and previous way of thinking doesn’t fit him anymore.

6 Terry with Joey's Jacket
Interesting that Terry does not wear the jacket straight away. He doesn’t even put the jacket on when he is testifying against the mob in court. Indicating that even though he is doing the right thing through testifying, he perhaps doesn’t truly feel that it is right. Remember that Father Barry had to stop and convince him to not murder Johnny Friendly and rather testify.

7 Terry with Joey's Jacket
Terry does put the jacket on during the ending when he is finally and truly convinced that he has done the right thing to take stand against the mob.

8 Other Clothing Makes a distinction between the different classes and hierarchy on the waterfront. Johnny Friendly and Charley wearing expensive suits and coats. This is symbolic of their power Interesting that Johnny Friendly has to remove his coat in the court room – perhaps demonstrating his loss of power

9 Gloves Gloves are used to expose a new layer of a character’s anxiety, sexuality, or vulnerability. When Edie drops her pure white glove in the park, Terry picks it up and plays with it casually, frustrating Edie’s sense of order and what is proper. In a way, he is touching an extension of her, especially when he inserts his hand into the glove.

10 Gloves Gloves appear a second time when Charley plays with his in the taxi with Terry. Charley is scarved and buttoned up tight in his camel- hair coat and proper hat, but he takes one glove off and fiddles with it nervously for the duration of the ride. This gesture indicates his anxiety and suggests that he is bound to face something uncomfortable Compared with Charley’s tightly dressed body, his one naked hand suggests a small vulnerability.

11 Pigeons Terry - ‘There’s one thing about them, they’re very faithful. They get married just like people' Tommy - ‘Better’ Terry - ‘They stay that way until one of them dies’ Shows how Terry admires pigeons for their loyalty and this is why he looks after and cares for them so much. Demonstrates how Terry values loyalty in his life. Later in the film he needs to decide who he will be loyal to.

12 Pigeons There are two meanings
Pigeons are known as rats of the sky. Rats are people that ‘dob’ or tell on their “friends” Therefore pigeons also have the same meaning as people that are talking to the Crime Commission ‘Stool Pigeon’ is a dummy pigeon. Terry says to Charley ‘I would just be stooling for you’ which means that he would just be ratting on the people at the church meeting to Johnny Friendly and the mob.

13 30:54 Pigeons 1313 ‘I wouldn’t have thought you’d be so interested in pigeons’ - Edie Edie is perhaps making a connection between pigeons being associated with rats and given that men on the waterfront don’t want to be seen this way they may distance themselves from this A sign of hope here to Edie that not all is lost for Terry?

14 1414 30:54 Pigeons and Hawks ‘You know this city is full of hawks? That’s a fact. They hang around on the top of big hotels’ - Terry To Edie when she visits him on the rooftop for the first time. Johnny Friendly and his mob are always watching Terry (the pigeons) throughout the film Will pick them off and kill them whenever they appear weak and threatening. ‘Big hotels’ connects them to Johnny Friendly’s bar where most of the business is carried out.

15 Rats and Canaries Some of the men are described as being ‘cheese eaters’ and this is another way of describing them at rats Cheese eaters = men who will give info to the authorities Men who aren't “D and D” (deaf and dumb), such as Joey Doyle, are described as canaries. Canaries are known for their singing, and people who aren't “D and D” don't keep quiet.

16 Bars, Spikes and Fences Demonstrate a barrier that is keeping the character trapped or restricted in some way Normally we see these in scenes with Terry to show how difficult his situation is and the decision he has to make. Examples - Fences, pigeon coop, tight alleyways on the street



19 1919 55:18 Rooftops Terry spends his free time on the rooftop caring for his pigeons

20 Rooftops Terry escapes here to clear his head.
After Dugan’s death Edie finds Terry here and gives him Joey's jacket. He is feeling confused now that Dugan and Joey have been killed and both times he had the information that could have stopped it. Edie and Terry share their first kiss here, away from all the prying eyes of the mob. Straight after this scene, Terry goes to Father Barry – showing that he has made a decision of sorts. He wants to clear himself of the guilt he feels, he needs to tell someone.

21 Fog/Mist/Smoke You can’t see clearly through it. It is used in the film to show how characters (mainly Terry) are confused and aren’t able to see the picture clearly. You could discuss this symbol when describing why Terry needs to be convinced of the right things to do - he has some many things that are influencing his opinion. “Hey, you got a real friend here. Now don't forget it.” - Charley


23 Longshoreman Hook The sharp metallic hooks that the longshoremen use to help them load and empty pallets hang over their shoulders menacingly. They represent the forces that literally hang over them in the form of Johnny Friendly’s goons. Over the course of the film, Terry, Dugan, Pop Doyle, and many other longshoremen have the hawk-like talon of the hook pressing against their chests. We are shown Charley's murdered body swinging from a longshoreman's hook

24 Religious Imagery Father Barry orders the longshoremen to account for their actions that he considers sins. Suchas their silence. Father Barry often compares the deaths of innocent longshoremen to crucifixions, highlighting their martyrdom. Joey Doyle and Dugan both died for the sins of the longshoremen, and religious imagery accompanies these deaths.

25 Religious Imagery Edie cradles Joey’s corpse like Mary cradled Jesus’ body. Father Barry rises out of the cargo hold with Dugan’s body as if ascending to heaven Charley’s corpse hangs by a hook in a Christ crucifixion pose


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