literature and society

 Sur Lecturer The play “waiting for lefty” and the movie “on the water front: collectivism in conflict with individualism Individualism is the notion of being independent and relying on one’s self. Individualists are persons who promote their own desires and goals. hence they are usually self-reliant and fight against outside forces which interfere with their own interests. Collectivism is a concept where a group is offered priority over the individuals in it (Odets 62). In both on the waterfront and Waiting for Lefty by Clifford Odets we observe the conflict between Collectivism and Individualism. Constant strive is generated through speaking for the greater goods.

The movie On the Waterfront is based on conflict of values. Marlon Brando, the main character, plays as a former boxer as well as a longshoreman who is accidentally engaged with dishonest labor unions the slaughter of young Joey (Elia 36). Marlon works as a puppet for corrupt bosses in the movie. We constantly see conflict of values since there are individuals who have embodied truth as well as law whereas corruption prevails on one side. Brando’s Terry Malloy has lost in an important boxing fight having been persuaded by his brother. Terry plays a man with a conscience torn between two sides. Le asks him to monitor and spy on Barry, Malden’s father and Eva Saint’s Edie. Soon Terry witnesses their good plans but initially he is doubtful and mocks them (Elia 27). He gets confused since he wants to assist Edie and at the same time wants to meet expectations of Charley and Johnny.

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Individualism is a theme that has been well illustrated in this movie. Terry is experiencing a lot of hardships just because of Friendly, the self –centered individual. Friendly is an individualist since he is inspired by his own interests to make taint the working atmosphere with corruption.

The play waiting for Lefty by Odets explores union movements by workers because they have been let down by their seniors (Odets 56). Collectivism is broadly spread since communism is what the employees aim as protest to strike. Tax drivers suggest striking as the ideal option to seek out the attention of their seniors. The only individuals who skipped the strike were the people in forefront organizing the strike and the military workers. Even after finding out that the union leader had already been murdered by their senior they still carried on with the fight for their own rights.

Collectivism is further illustrated because the author creates the presence of Lefty as crucial even though the union does not disintegrate and collapse with his absence. However, Lefty`s absence made the protest more difficult (Odets 73). Collectivism stayed a dominant feeling in the entire play and there are characters who gave themselves to assist making the situation better for the community.

However, there are some characters that are depicted as individualists. They were not ready to collaborate with the rest in the union just for their own good. Harry Fatt is one of the characters. He tries to counter by the union committee. Harry is a corrupt pretender driven by hypocrisy. Despite most characters having diverse ambitions and goals they collaborate in the movements just for the good of the whole society. Joe, a taxi driver, is very vibrant in that strike besides being lively and active union committee member.


The aspects of collectivism and individualism have been well illustrated in both the movie and the play. In both cases, the employees strike as they struggle to achieve their rights in spite of facing an opposition force that makes their task more complicated. Also in both cases, a form of betrayal is witnessed.

Work Cited

Elia, Kazan. On the Waterfront. London: British Film Institute, 2005. Print.

Odets, Clifford. Waiting for Lefty & Other Plays. New York: Grove Press, 1993. Print.

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