On the Waterfront

Father Barry

Characters Father Barry

Though his behavior changes throughout the film, Father Barry remains steadfast to one overriding mission: administering the word of God by advocating peaceful resistance. Early on, the priest appears well intentioned but of no practical use, as when he tells Edie she can find him in the church if she needs him. After visiting the docks and speaking with the workers who don’t get jobs that day, he begins a slow process of toughening. In many ways, his development parallels Terry’s—he becomes active rather than passive and begins to acknowledge his own potential effectiveness. Father Barry’s increased cigarette smoking represents his thickening skin. He affirms his faith in his mission to guide the longshoreman with a peaceful hand when he delivers his famous “Sermon on the Docks” over Dugan’s body, withstanding banana and beer can attacks to deliver his message and demonstrate the good of his word. Despite the presence and importance of Father Barry, religion does not play an overt role in the film’s crucial events.