Although Terry complains that he”coulda been someone”, he eventually does become a person worthy of admiration.
“If I spill, my life ai not worth a nickel”. Terry Malloy retorts back to Father Barry at an integral scene agonising over what to do, his understanding and unwitting participation in the ruthless murder of a co-waterside employee – Joey Doyle. Can he inform to the government or does he stay’D & D’ -‘deaf and dumb’?
His memory of the past is haunted by’What could have been cases of a result had his conniving older brother Charlie, and the unethical union boss – Johnny Friendly not interfered with his’Sure Winning Outcome’ of a career-defining boxing game.
Terry’s conscience of his criminal predicament goes from woe to woe after fulfilling Edie, the murdered (nearly by his own hand) Joey Doyle’s sister with whom he quickly develops a strong affection for.
The Visually Surreal Moments of Terry’s inner journey of transformation: The symbolic speaking to the Snow White Innocence of Edie in the foreboding fence/barrier, talking from 1 side to another through the cold iron spears. The stressful on, without success, of Edie’s nice warm little glove – we see the planet where he comes from and the funniest universe of his desire.
A hard to dismiss Metaphor is when Edie palms Terry her brother’s coat,”Yours is coming apart”. Possibly saying this indicates that Terry Malloy’s world is falling apart.
Our guilt ridden hero confronts a range of problems as we follow him along his journey self-realisation. One of those issues being self-esteem as us the movie audience play’Fly on the wall’ at the famous cab ride scene -“You do not know, I coulda had class. I coulda been a Contender. I coulda Been Somebody… ”
Another potent Metaphor – Terry has travelled full circle because the’Dive Years’ before in the boxing ring. All bloodied and bruised. Terry is transformed into a vision of’Christ on the Waterfront’ because he’s helped to his unsteady feet by the tender exonerating lady in his life – Edie and the church’s ever-faithful representative – Father Barry. An extremely poignant ‘Redemption Scene’. He must take those unbelievably painful steps on his own today if he’s to win this last round against the callous Johnny Friendly, and furthermore, to see his fellow Waterside Workers successfully crush the criminal oppression by following him to the Gates of Freedom – so to speak.
What makes this story truly intriguing and one which is going to be a long time discussed, is the question of Terry’s climactic reason: Has Terry Malloy turned into a selfless hero driven by the demands of the countless fellow oppressed longshoremen or has he just become vengeful, – Avenging his brother’s murder?
However exulting the general wind up the movie ascends to, Terry has transfigured himself from Bum,”I Coulda Been A Contender…”, Snivelling has-been kind without smarts’, into’Heroic Liberator’ for the Fellow Everyman.