Miller and Kazan: On the Waterfront and The Crucible


All literary works, ranging from plays, films, novels, short stories to oral narratives and everyday stories, derive their material from the way any society lives. The period in which a certain literary work was conceived is of no importance, as in all eras, people take the concerns of the society to come up with the various genres of literature. Themes, contained in these works, reflect the main issues that are affecting the society, their fears, strengths, norms and even demerits. On the Waterfront is a more captivating work than The Crucible. The ideas contained in the former are much relevant than the ideas addressed in the latter work. On the Waterfront reflects the concerns that are much relevant to many countries today. The plight of the dock workers lay in the hands of a corrupt leader who is ready to do anything, even kill to safeguard his haven. However, after a series of ill treatments the main character overcomes the hardship, and he is ready to stand for the light.

On the Waterfront as a Parable

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On the Waterfront is a parable in which the fears that engulf people when they are met by other people with authority are addressers. People tend to have excess fear for people in authority, and they easily accept those things that these people do. In this film, Terry faces a lot of suffering because he refuses to be a part of Friendly’s gang. In fact, his brother, Charley, works for Friendly, and the two brothers often come into conflict because of their opposing positions. The society in which they live does not uphold the rule of law and they have to respect the local authority. However, this authority is carried by a man who is immoral in the way he follows the rules, and the police want the people around this man to testify in order to bring him to justice (Braudy, 2005). However, all the people are unwilling to testify and it takes unwavering persuasion to have Terry Malloy testify against Friendly.

Crime in On the Waterfront

The society in On the Waterfront seems to disregard the rule of law. They know that Friendly is a criminal, but they continue to protect him. This shows that people are unwilling to let the law prevail over Waterfront. However, fear drives these people not into testifying because they believe that Friendly, the force of the waterfront criminals, will have them killed. Friendly runs some illegal businesses and people cannot reveal this to the police, who suspects this, but lacks sufficient evidence to convict Friendly on these crimes. Therefore, the assumptions can only rely on some informants who have witnessed the crimes done by Friendly. Knowing that this will take place, he continues to instill fear in these people to discourage them from testifying. Therefore, the people in Waterfront are ruled by fear. They cannot go to the police to seek for justice, since they will be killed by Friendly and his associates.

Friendly also uses other people to coerce his victims; he knows that people are weak in front of the people close to them, and he uses this for his advantage. He dopes this to emerge the sole benefactor of his crooked deals. For instance, he convinces Charley to make his brother deliberately lose a fight. This is because Friendly has bet against Terry and he does not want to lose his money. Terry has been a promising boxer and he has to endure the shame of losing to a weaker fighter. However, Friendly looks victorious, since his crooked plans have worked (Braudy, 2005). He is ready to continue using people for as long as they serve his interests. Friendly also has a strong hold on Terry, a man who is ready to stand for the right, and he even uses Terry to ambush Joey Doyle. Joey Doyle is fed up with Friendly’s crimes and he intends to testify against Friendly. However, the fate of those people who act against Friendly faces him, and he ends up dead. Terry resents being a vessel of Joey’s death, but he has no alternatives but to remain silent to protect himself from Friendly’s criminal hands.

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All these instances reflect the traits of the society that is full of the evils that are prevalent in most modern societies. The conspiracies among brothers, relatives, coworkers and friends are revealed in a very relevant manner. The Crucible also contains instances of crime. These crimes are relevant in that they topple the solidity of the social order. There is a rule of law in this society, but the law acts on evidences that cannot be proven and many innocent people end up being dead. People give conflicting testimonies in court, and the judge does not have an apparent picture of the truth told by these people (Miller, 2011). These people can only be released by incriminating other people. However, people like Proctor refuse to give false testimonies in favor of their lives; they are willing to die to save other people.

The crime reflected in On the Waterfront is more relevant than the Crime reflected in The Crucible. This is because witchcraft is not a very common phenomenon in most societies. Although some societies harbor witchcraft, many others do not have witchcraft in their midst. Therefore, this story may not sound relevant to people whose societies were not introduced to the witchcraft. On the other hand, crime is common in all societies and the movie On the Waterfront reflects particularly this crime. It is relevant to many people and a very wide audience enjoys and the movie and believes it to reflect the peculiarities of their lives. Thus, On the Waterfront is a very convincing parable as compared to The Crucible. Both works address the same phenomena of corruption, betrayal and disharmony, but the movie presents a more realistic view than the play. The characters in the film are related in many ways, including the suffering they undergo. Therefore, they form a closer bond than the characters in the Play, the Crucible. Therefore, the betrayal at the end of the film is more explosive than the betrayal in the play.

The Church and the State

In both works, the church and the state have some relationship. In On the Waterfront, the priest encourages people to testify against the oppressive mob controlling gangster, Friendly. The priest knows that Friendly is a dangerous man, ready to kill to defend his territory, but he goes ahead to encourage people to bring this man to justice. He encourages Terry to testify against Friendly and this shows that the church supports the rule of law (Braudy, 2005). The priest, father Barry, discourages Terry from killing Friendly and convinces him that testifying will bring justice to a lot of people (not only Charley). Therefore, Terry takes the course of action proposed by father Barry and he seeks to have Friendly convicted, thus, he testifies against Friendly.

The Crucible reflects a situation in which the church and society are integrated into one and the injustices of the state become the injustices of the church (Miller, 2011). The state, as well as the church, wants to convict people accused of witchcraft; the two institutions cannot find enough evidence to carry out these sentences. Therefore, they rely on the witnesses who incriminate each other on the matters of witchcraft. The church wants to maintain its moral stand, but it is hooded in that the church seems to advocate the injustices of the state; it does not want to seek justice.

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The role of the church changes in the two works. In the first work, the church seeks to maintain the rule of law, but in the second work, the church is a barrier to achieving the rule of law. Father Barry wants Terry to assist in nailing Friendly, a criminal, but Hale, encourages people to give wrong information in the court. Therefore, the church in On the Waterfront is more authentic than the church in The Crucible. This is because the church in On the Waterfront encourages the rule of the law, and it wants citizens to act according to the expectations of the society. It lives to the moral and philosophical expectations of the society. The church in The Crucible does not have the qualities of the church in On the Waterfront, it encourages people to give wrong testimonies (Miller, 2011). In so doing, the church seems to encourage individualistic sentiments among the people; this is wrong.


In conclusion, the hero in On the Waterfront realizes that he can only help people by testifying; he does not seek wrongful revenge against Friendly. In The Crucible, some people incriminated in the witchcraft case choose to remain quiet. Therefore, Terry gets a voice at the end of the movie, but the people in The Crucible remain silent. However, the two groups of people (in both works) follow the right actions. In The Crucible, people believe that it is alright for them to die instead of incriminating other people. Likewise, Terry testifies and gets the trust of other dock workers.

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