Edie’s nearly angelic soul helps Terry to reclaim his conscience. Her restraint, modesty, and acceptance open up a new place in Terry’s rough-and-tumble heart. Sexuality is crucial in her involvement with Malloy, and their attraction grows, in part, because they are physical opposites: Malloy is a brawny former boxer and she’s a polite church girl.
Edie’s loyalty to her brother is the driving motivation for all her actions. Were it not for her steadfastness, Pops Doyle would have succeeded in sending her home, and the thugs of the gang would have succeeded in intimidating her. To Malloy, she represents a way out. Not happy with the few paths open to him on the waterfront, he could start a new life, with Edie, somewhere else. Malloy tests her genuine naïveté and faith in the good will of others when he tells her of his involvement in Joey’s death. But at the end of the film she has reclaimed her faith in humanity, and she remains almost purely good to the end.