On the Waterfront

Important Quotations Explained

1. Father Barry:   “D & D? What’s that?”
Kayo Dugan:   “Deaf and dumb. No matter how much we hate the torpedoes, we don’t rat.”

This exchange takes place during the secret meeting the priest holds in the basement of the church. It illustrates the depth and longevity of the longshoremen’s bind. Though they all agree, deep down, that the treatment they receive from Johnny Friendly and his goons is unfair and inhuman, speaking out about it might put them in a worse situation—that is, jobless or dead. Living by the code forced on them by the corrupt union has preserved their lives, but they live in a degraded state almost like slaves. To save their own lives, the longshoremen agree to act as if they see and hear nothing. The word torpedoes is slang for Johnny Friendly and his goons, who point weapons of sorts at the longshoremen every day. The goons hang out on the docks as perpetual reminders of Friendly’s strength, and they have a long history of roughing people up. To rat means to reveal injustices or transgressions to a party that’s not immediately involved, such as a lawyer or the Waterfront Crime Commission. It holds the same significance as stool pigeon in the slang of the stevedores.


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