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West Side Story Essay

In: Film and Music

Submitted By paigeiscool
Words 850
Pages 4
The popular 1961 film, West Side Story, follows the adventure and triumph in New York City, of two star-crossed lovers, born into opposing dichotomies. Although the movie may seem like nothing more than a musical about two feuding gangs in the 1950s, this story dates back to the sixteenth century, during the Dark Ages. It is perhaps even more ancient, developed by Ancient Greeks. The exact tale did not originate that far into the past, but its basic plot of a literary tragedy was invented long ago, and was adopted to modern times. West Side Story qualifies as a literary tragedy because the established tragic hero impacts the rise, climax, fall, and ultimate inescapable disaster of the story. The plot structure of a literary tragedy follows a very specific and necessary path throughout the story. The tale begins with hatred, fighting, and conflict, at nobody’s ideal. The plot requires a reason to escalate or rise, which is the Tony, the tragic hero, and his desire to reach his ideal of love. Other characters’ ideals are also attempted to be achieved. The individual members of the Jets and Sharks strive to gain superiority and territory from each other. The gangs start the path to their ideals by arranging a fight to decide who the victorious and superior gang will be. Tony rises towards his ideal when he meets Maria, and makes a proud and willful decision to pursue a relationship, despite forces acting against them. Uncontrollable forces act upon our hero, such as his circumstance and the hate he is surrounded by, but he nevertheless begins to rise to something greater, establishing Tony as an elevated character. Tony raises himself above his peers because he strives for a greater ideal than one achieved through fighting; he is pushed by fate and peers to conform, but stands by his different beliefs and goals and embraces his situation. For example, Tony works a job rather than wasting his time in a senseless feud so he can be successful and achieve a greater purpose. Suspense, excitement, and anticipation build up during this point in the plot because there is hope that the hero’s ideal can be reached. The story finally reaches the ideal when Tony and Maria share moments alone in the bridal shop, and stage a wedding. This is the point in the story when the hero has achieved what he has been seeking in the rising action: to escape hatred and embrace his love for Maria. Unfortunately, the ideal does not mean that everything is perfect; conflicts and natural forces continue to exist. Although Tony is madly in love with Maria and both characters are elevated, they are still in a hateful and feuding environment. The hero’s ideal cannot exist for long because other characters are striving for their ideals, which involve violence and hatred, such as the gangs’ goal to defeat one another. The protagonists will not be satisfied with these forces existing, and make a proud and willful decision to try to prevent the battle between the gangs. Tony, the tragic hero, must make a proud and willful decision to begin the fall of the plot. The hero has made other proud and willful decisions previously. However, stabbing Bernardo begins the fall because this decision is caused by Tony’s tragic flaw, his overpowering pride and emotion. Tony’s downfall becomes his own doing, and he is no longer the helpless victim of fate. Chino now is determined to kill Tony and the authority figures are eager to intervene in the conflict. Despite the countless, strong forces against the hero, many attempts to save the day and avoid tragedy are made. All are evidently unsuccessful because they must stay thematically imbalanced; complications are handled by Maria and Tony with emotion, haste, and secrecy, rather than reason, patience, and truth. The lovers plan to run away together in a desperate attempt to maintain their ideal, and Anita tries to speak with the Jets to help them save Tony, but fails. However, if Tony and Maria had shared the truth and considered their actions, these conflicts would have been avoided and a catastrophe would have been dodged. All endeavors fail because thematic imbalance drives the plot towards the inescapable disaster, which is Chino murdering Tony. “Pride is a seed that bares two vines-life and death.” (Scarlet Ibis). In the end, Chino’s pride for his gang results in the heartbreaking death of Tony. However, a resolution is somewhat reached after the tragedy when the gangs choose to no longer fight. West Side Story fits the definition of a literary tragedy because it shows a heroic character’s proud and willful decisions leading to ultimate, inescapable disaster. However, themes present in literary tragedies are not only useful when reading and writing these tales. Archetypal concepts, such as reaching an ideal or making proud and willful decisions, could prove useful in human’s everyday lives, and assist in avoiding disaster in the real world. Therefore, humans who learn to act with thematic balance and maintain purposeful ideals will evidently reach success and remain at their ideals.

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