Posted by: katieb555 | June 18, 2015

Our OTW study begins here!

1. An active viewing: watch the original trailer for the Oscar Award winning film On the Waterfront. As you watch note down as many things as you can that it reveals about the film. Consider:

  • Themes
  • Characters
  • Conflicts
  • Settings

2. Predict: Write down three or more predictions about what you think the movie will be about.

OTW trailer.PNG

3. Background: Before we view the whole film we are going to take some time to understand the historical context of the film’s narrative. This will help us understand the ‘ways in which the author constructs meaning and suggests a point of view and values’. As a class discuss what you know about the following:

  • 1950’s America
  • Unions
  • Docks – ‘The waterfront’
  • Communism
  • McCarthyism
  • HUAC
Posted by: katieb555 | August 2, 2013

Make the most of YouTube

You can source On the Waterfront through Clickview at school. If you download it to your Clickview schoolbag and save it in your documents you will be able to view the text in full at home. To access at home you need to open the program through the Clickview shortcut icon.

Another source for reviewing the text is Youtube. A search for On the Waterfront scenes provides you with access to numerous key scenes for close study.

Wise Owl

Remember: The independent learning efforts you put into developing your skills are the most important. ‘Value learning, strive for success.’

Posted by: katieb555 | July 29, 2013


  • On the Waterfront argues that standing up for one’s beliefs is paramount. Discuss.
  • Tension and suspense are key narrative features Kazan employs in On the Waterfont to engage the viewer. Explain.
Wise Owl

Mr Hoot – ‘Back to basics is worthwhile for all!’

So, some students find writing text response essays doesn’t come easily to them. Well, based on my years of experience, going back to the basics is a strategy many students find they can benefit from. I have seen numerous students develop their essay writing capabilities in leaps and bounds throughout the course of their VCE studies by doing just this. Make sure you take the time to deconstruct/unpack an essay topic and plan it before you write. Make use of the interactive essay mapping tool to think through each of the elements of your practice essay before you write. It provides a foundation for putting together a solid five paragraph essay. Once confident in this, it becomes a matter of aiming to build your capacity for putting together an essay discussion each time you write. Mapping out your essay forces you to think through the key ideas you wish to discuss in relation to the topic and directs you to pinpoint supp0rting details for each point you will make.

NB: Even if essay writing comes more naturally to you, it is worthwhile sourcing topics and mapping out response ideas. This is an excellent way to ‘bank’ discussion points about a text for when you have to write to essay topics cold in SAC and exam situations.

RWT essay map

Posted by: katieb555 | June 18, 2013

Script your Interpretation

Posted by: katieb555 | June 18, 2013

Interpretations in Action

Posted by: katieb555 | June 18, 2013


Wise OwlA sustained interpretation:

– considers different readings of the text

– considers views and values presented in the text

– is aware of historical, social and cultural influences

– uses quotes and examples

– explains literary and cinematic techniques at work in the text

Posted by: katieb555 | June 18, 2013

OTW – The Historical Context in Depth

The experiences of Terry Malloy can be viewed as a reflection of Kazan’s own life story in terms of the conflict he faced due to McCarthyism. A fear of Communism was prevalent in America in the 1940s and 1950s and McCarthy, alongside the House of Un-American activities, wrought investigation upon people assumed to be wanting to challenge the democratic, capitalist and ‘free’ American way of life. As Terry, Johnny and the mob were investigated by the Waterfront Crime Commission, Kazan and his peers were were investigated by HUAC. As Terry was put under pressure to speak up against the waterfront crime lords, Kazan was put under pressure to name who he knew to be a Communist that could be classified as an enemy of the state. As Terry testified, Kazan provided provided names to the HUAC. However, is their story actually the same? Is On the Waterfront a straightforward hero narrative that is simply a tale of the good guys versus the bad guys? Or is it more complicated when you analyse it for various perspectives of justice, loyalty, guilt, survival, honesty, human rights and freedom.

Elia Kazan pores over the 'On the Waterfront' screenplay.

Elia Kazan pores over the ‘On the Waterfront’ screenplay.

1. RESEARCH: We have discussed in brief the historical context of On the Waterfront, now it is time to delve that bit further. This will require further thinking and research of some of the key elements and influences of the text. The focus areas we have outlined are:

2. WRITING TASK: Discuss the connection between Elia Kazan’s HUAC experience and Terry Malloy’s narrative journey in On the Waterfront.

You need to decide on your own interpretations of the text. Do you view Terry as a hero or a villain? What do you believe Kazan wants the viewer to think and why? What is your overall summation on the message of the narrative?

You need to decide on your own interpretations of the text. Do you view Terry as a hero or a villain? What do you believe Kazan wants the viewer to think and why? What is your overall summation on the message of the narrative?

Posted by: katieb555 | June 18, 2013

On The Waterfront – A McCarthyite Film?

Dominant and Resistant Readings of the Text:

This video essay by Matt Zoller Seits presents an interesting discussion of the ideas that can be viewed as being implied in On The Waterfont. He explores Kazan’s experience with Macarthyism and the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and considers the ways this might have impacted on the film. He outlines the dominant reading of the text that enthuses On the Waterfront has been constructed by Kazan to challenge the negative view associated with the act of naming and dobbing in others; a justification of Kazan’s real life Macarthyite role in naming fellow Communist supporters to the HUAC. However, a resistant interpretation is presented by Zoller Seits as he speculates that the guilt the film’s protagonist Terry feels for, ‘naming the wrong name – and setting up a good guy to be taken out by bad guys – [siding] with the powerful over the powerless’ , is a reflection of Kazan’s underlying apprehension about the HUAC scandal and his actions.

Your text response essay requires you to show an awareness of the ways in which Kazan suggests a point of view and values in the film, having a knowledge of the varying interpretations that can be applied to the text will help you to develop a thoughtful and sustained interpretation of your own. Zoller Seits concluding comment encapsulates both the dominant and resistant readings of the text that you should bear in mind when reflecting on Kazan’s construction of meaning in the text. He asserts, ‘On the Waterfront is… a conflicted work by conflicted men, a story fueled not just by defiant assertions that its makers did the right thing, but also by a gnawing fear that they didn’t, and that their cowardice, unlike Terry’s, can never be redeemed’.

Posted by: katieb555 | June 18, 2013

Viewing the Text

YouTube is an easy resource to help you study a film text such as On the Waterfront. You can access a variety of key scenes to consider closely. Enjoy.

Posted by: katieb555 | June 18, 2013



This blog is a space for MSC VCE English students to study their Unit 2/4 reading and responding text On The Waterfront. Where images are used they will be not be directly copied and pasted from another website where an embed code is not provided. However, where they have come from will be acknowledged through a written reference and/or hyperlink. If there are any issues with images that are in use on this blog please let me know what the problem is so I can sort out the problem or remove the problematic image.

otw pic



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