Justice and Injustice

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In his conversation with Socrates via Plato, Glaucon claims that “It will be clear that those who practice justice do so involuntarily and because they do not have the power to be unjust” (3) Glaucon believes it is human nature to pursue injustice because injustice can better fulfill self-interest. He, therefore, asserts that if there come the chances of not taking the responsibility, everyone would choose to do injustice. However, Kazan’s movie On the Waterfront shows the opposite of Glaucon’s theory, that people may be confused or terrified by the immediate harm of pursuing justice, but their nature is leading them towards justice.

The movie starts with a disturbed scene of a group of longshoremen remain silent about Joey’s death while in fact, everyone knows the murderer. Their silence is in sharp contrast with Edie’s passionate screaming. One may rebuke them as Dumb and Deaf, while it is undeniable that their neglection is based on reasonable concerns on their jobs and lives. The longshoremen’s inaction is not a promotion of injustice, but an alternative compromise when knowing that injustice is too powerful to be defeated. With the huge splash of Johnny Friendly falling into the sea, every worker starts to cheer up for the temperate victory. The longshoremen’s celebration shows that despite for the indifference, it is human’s nature to replace injustice.

Terry is a complex character, yet a good example to show the human’s natural desire for justice. When serving the mug loyally, Terry is the “slugger” that can be sacrificed at any time for greater interest; when he decides to testify against the mob, he is hated as “the pigeon” (the informer). Terry’s life is always manipulated by the people around and is constrained by his own appetitive desire for money. In the movie, Kazan uses countless scenes and plots to show the conflicted status of Terry’s conscience: surrounded by the fence on the dock, by the pigeon cage on the roof, by the window in the church, being pushed by the crowd in the wedding, and so on. The bonds are set to be broken. All those metaphors imply that Terry’s nature of seeking justice is imprisoned by the powerful injustice being temporary. Loyalty stops Terry from questioning, he could have followed the loyalty, but his remained conscience keeps torturing him and dragging him towards justice at the end.

Another evidence is the romantic attraction between him and Edie. Some may argue that Terry’s affection on Edie is out of guilty, however, their romantic love is more like the result of Terry’s incomplete soul pursuing a complete form of morality. If the first meeting outside the church builds up shallow physical attraction, the second conversation in the bar complete Terry’s transition from love to self-redemption. Both young people are seeking justice – Edie wants the truth of her brother’s death; Terry is hesitating between loyalty and conscience. During the second conversation, Edie’s paling face is on the upper right corner of the screen, hovering above Terry like an angel. This scene implies that Terry is not only romantically attracted to Edie, but also attracted to another complete form of justice.

Glaucon believes that justice is always self-interested and thus not justice but a form of injustice. While the movie gives an intriguing example of those who ignore or practice injustice do so involuntarily or because they do not have the power to overthrow injustice, but deep inside everyone’s heart, there remains the indelible natural desire towards justice.

Work Cited

  1. Kazan, Elia. “On the Waterfront.” Amazon.com, 22 June 1954, directed by Elia Kazan, written by Budd Schulberg, starred by Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, Lee J. Cobb, et.
  2. Plato. “The Republic (selection 2).” Traditions in Ethics and Philosophy, Fall 2018, edited by Joellen Masters, McGraw-Hill/Create, 2018, 1-13.

Cite this paper

Justice and Injustice. (2021, Oct 26). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/justice-and-injustice/

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