The Role of Bum That Others Have Marked Out for Him

2 February 2017

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.

The Role of Bum That Others Have Marked Out for Him Essay Example

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 could have had class, and he could have been a contender. He shows us this when he says, ‘ I could have been somebody… instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it. ’ We know that Charley takes responsibility for this due to the addened look on his face and the rising in music. When Charley then gives Terry his gun and says, ‘You’re gonna need it’, we know that Terry is going to defy Friendly – which is part of his task in overcoming the role of bum.

It is open to consideration whether it is Terry’s conscience, Edie and Father Barry or Charley’s death that really helps Terry overcome his role of bum. Although all of these characters seem to play a part. Terry shows the viewers that he is starting to overcome it in the third scene of the movie, because we can see that Terry feels guilty for his role in Joey’s death.Although, his guilty conscience really starts to bother him when he meets Edie. We can see by the anguish and sadness on Terry’s face when Edie calls him a ‘bum’, that he wants to be who Edie wants him to be. Father Barry also plays a part in Terry’s change of character, because he sticks by Terry and stops him from doing things he will regret like ‘taking it out of their skulls’. Charley’s death was like the push for Terry.

Terry wanted to get back at Friendly, and he decided to ‘fight him in the court room with the truth’.Even though Terry’s so-called friends decided to ignore him, Terry had done the right thing morally and he had broken away from Friendly’s gang. This is when Terry really feels like he has overcome his role of bum, ‘they always said I was a bum… well I ain’t a bum. I’m gonna go down there and get my rights.

’ From this point on, he wears Joey’s jacket – which symbolises all the people who were going to tell the truth and do the right thing. It is also open to consideration whether Terry actually overcomes this role. He seems to overcome it, although the last scene when the door closes on the longshore men could confuse some viewers.We don’t know if Terry has really overcome his role – because although he has done the right thing morally, the longshore men still looked down on him, because he didn’t stick to D and D. Even Tommy looked down on Terry when he throws a dead pigeon at Terry and says, ‘a pigeon for a pigeon’. Although, it all changes in scene 28 when Father Barry says, ‘You lost the battle. But you have a chance to win the war’- and Terry wins this war by leading the longshore men into the workshop and leaving Johnny Friendly isolated.

The end scene confuses some viewers, because when they all walk back into the workshop – they seem to be going back to their old life, with no change at all. Therefore, it is hard to know whether the longshore men would make the same mistake by not standing up for themselves. To most viewers, Terry does overcome his role of bum that his brother Charley and Friendly have marked out for him. He does this by breaking away from Friendly’s gang, learning what is morally right and wrong, standing alone and fighting for the truth – and finding himself in the process.

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The Role of Bum That Others Have Marked Out for Him. (2017, Feb 11). Retrieved July 30, 2021, from
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