Literary forms reflect most of the time social conditions and scenario. This is because most writers have the gift of being sensitive to their surroundings. A lot of writers have already wrote about the pains of war, the stories of success, and criticisms about the existing flaws of the society. When narrating about war, writers never forget to touch the topic of patriotism. When it is a story of success that they want to write, they always incorporate the keys to success. However, when criticizing the society, most writers focus often on two themes: the struggles between the wealthy and the poor and gender discrimination.
For example, in Budd Schulberg’s “On the Waterfront”, gender criticism is one of the compelling themes the author has presented and embedded in the story. However, unlike other gender-based novels, ‘On the Waterfront” does not mainly focus on one gender but tackles both criticisms pointing to males and females. The novel suggests that gender-defined roles damage both gender along with greed for power. Criticisms on Women In the society that Schulberg has created, the D and D society, women seem to be victims of double jeopardy. Here the women are being discriminated in two levels.
First, they are abused as being women in general and second, they are abused by their own society led by Johnny Friendly. In the novel, women already experience household violence, specifically coming from their husbands or other members of the family. For example, Edie, has experienced to be limited by his own father. It could be remembered that Edie’s father wants her to continue pursuing college: “But Pop, I’ve seen things that I know are so wrong. Now how can I go back to school and keep my mind on… on things that are just in books, that-that-that aren’t people living? ”
Although one way of empowering women is to educate them, it is more empowering for them to follow their own will and not be dictated by others. Edie’s decision to stay in Brooklyn to search the truth behind the death of his brother could be considered as more rewarding than to attain a degree in college. Her father, on the other hand, might not be aware of what he did. Nevertheless, his action could be considered an act of limiting the rights of women to think and act on their own. Criticisms Against Men Clearly, the novel shows more cases of criticisms and abuse against men than women.
Unlike women, men in the D and D society are not victims of two-level criticisms. However, the abuse they experience seems to be as heavy as the abuse those of women. In their society, those who are in power mainly abduct their rights—the members of the mob-connected union, particularly their leader Johnny Friendly. The novel clearly shows how the rights of men to live and to speak the truth were violated. They are not simply hurt physically; they lose their lives once they go against the union. But Schulberg did not stop on that; he even explored the psychology of how men hurt each other’s feelings.
For example, one of the biggest conflicts in the story is the dispute between siblings Terry and Charley: “You don’t understand. I coulda had class. I could have been a contender. I could have been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it. It was you, Charley. ” (Shulberg p. 266) These lines from Terry clearly shows that it was indeed a hard life for people to live having dispute with their family. Greed for Power Aside from gender criticisms, another theme that is present in “On the Waterfront” deals with the greed for power.
In the story, Schulberg clearly shows how man can become a monster just to achieve a power comparable to that of a god. This universal truth, in reality, also damage both gender. Being greed for power could push a person, regardless of gender, to commit actions that violate both the law and morality. In the novel, killing people and oppressing them just to remain in power is one vivid example. Johnny Friendly, together with other members of the union, is evidently guilty of it: “You want to know what’s wrong with our waterfront? It’s the love of a lousy buck.
It’s making love of a buck— the cushy job— more important than the love of man! ” (Schulberg p. 225). These lines from one of the characters in the novel is an attempt to verbalize the problem with the D and D society. People are so absorbed on how to gain power over other people. Thus, one effective way to do this is to gain an incredible amount of money. In summary, “On the Waterfront” tries to capture forms of abuse that are a result of greed and the need for power. The novel clearly shows, through the character of Johnny Friendly, how man can be blinded by his constant pursuit for money and power.
Generally, it is the greed for wealth that a person could lose his sense of what is right and what is wrong. To dream of becoming rich is not a bad dream. It is in the nature of man to look for ways on how to improve himself and his condition. But when the dreamer let himself to be carried away by the grandiosity of wealth, the dream will suddenly turn into a nightmare. As a result, greed for money and power both damage men and women. Both are threats to the rights and freedom of people. Moreover, it is a stain of our society,
Work Cited Schulberg, Budd. On the Waterfront. Pennsylvania: Continuum Intl Pub Group, 1985
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