On the Waterfront

Quotes

Important Quotations Explained

Quotes Important Quotations Explained

Quote 4

Terry:   “But you know if I spill, my life ain’t worth a nickel.”
Father Barry:   “And how much is your soul worth if you don’t?”

After Father Barry hears Terry’s out-of-church confession about his involvement in Joey Doyle’s death, he urges Terry to tell both Edie and the Waterfront Crime Commission, and he gets this response. This brief exchange effectively summarizes Terry’s mounting dilemma and is the thematic crux of the film. Terry must decide whether he wants to risk his life by speaking out against larger, stronger forces, or to live the rest of his life with a secret harbored deep in his heart. Father Barry’s response here indicates that Terry’s duty as a human being is to tell the truth. Otherwise, he’ll live a tortured existence with a cowardly soul. As a priest, Father Barry believes in a glorious afterlife, but only for those who have done their best to cleanse their souls. This conversation foreshadows Terry’s final explosion on the docks in which he reclaims his conscience and forges an individual identity: “I been rattin’ on myself all these years.”