Waiting for Lefty by Clifford Odets is a play that is centered on taxi drivers’ meeting, who are planning to hold a labour strike. The play involves separate scenes and a number of characters who are either supporting or opposing the strike. One character that arrests my attention as very significant in this play is Joe. Joe, one of the workers and also a family man, expresses his dissatisfaction with low wages but is reluctant to stand up for his fellow taxi drivers for fear of further negative consequences from his boss.This is not until Joe’s wife, Edna, challenges him to act on behalf of his fellow workers so as to realise better income. Edna threatens to leave Joe for her old boyfriend who has better income and earns a decent living (Odets 12). Joe is encouraged by Edna to start a workers’ union, citing that Joe’s boss is the cause of all the problems. Thanks to his wife, Joe gets conscious of how much the situation is dire and decides to confront the matter with the help of Lefty Costello, who later becomes their elected chairman of the union committee. Closely related is an American film On the Waterfront directed by Elia Kazan. This crime drama film is also centered on workers’ union violence and oppression of longshoremen by a mob-connected boss known as Johnny Friendly, who controls the waterfront. The character I admire most in this play is Terry Malloy, a dockworker, who is at first presented as a submissive and lenient person dutifully carrying out the orders of Johnny Friendly.
The waterfront of New Jersey docks has been under control of the mob headed by Johnny Friendly for a long time. The gang commits a number of crimes including murder, exploitation and extortion of the workers, which makes people play deaf and dumb instead of risking their lives confessing to the police. Terry, however, comes to his senses when he is tricked into playing an integral part in his fellow dockworker’s death. He becomes guilty and begins to question his involvement with the mob as well as their control of the docks. Terry is encouraged to stop playing deaf and dumb when he meets and gets into a relationship with Edie Doyle, sister of the murdered Joey Doyle. Edie makes Terry more aware of the crimes of the mob and gives him the courage to stand up and speak out against Friendly and his gang despite threats. In the two plays, the characters Joe and Terry both experience moral and ethical growth throughout the plays. At one point, both of them are faced by fears of confronting their problems, even though they are well aware of what is affecting them and their colleagues. Joe is a victim of underpayment by his employer, a problem that proceeds to affect his family and is about to cost him his relationship. Nevertheless, he would rather survive on his low salary than engage in a strike since he argues that strikes are ineffective and instead would make him lose more money. Terry, on the other hand, is subservient and voiceless to the oppression of the ruling mob at the waterfront. He unconsciously plays a part in the atrocities committed by the gang and is even coerced to giving up his career as a boxer. Terry, though aware that he has been used wrongfully, is still adamant to testify against the mob and its leader for fear of being murdered as well. Both Joe and Terry are faced with problems that come down from their superiors who are oppressive in nature. However, since they are afraid of facing the problems on their own, a turnaround presents itself in the form of motivation to action. Joe’s wife, Edna, puts sense into him and makes him understand the need to stand up for himself and his colleagues so as to sustain his family’s need. Edna opens a new approach to Joe’s problems and encourages him to form a workers union without the racketeers, an idea that Joe puts into action. It is from this union that Joe can address his plight and speak on behalf of his fellow cab drivers. The union is