In  "Cool" from West Side Story, where is there evidence of the characters struggling?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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There is an obvious struggling in the group that sing "Cool."  The struggle comes from a variety of sources.  How will the group function in the absence of their leader, Riff?  What will the retaliation be for Riff's murder?  How can a sense of emotional balance be restored after a center of emotional recognition has been so quickly displaced?  What does appropriate and holistic healing and mourning look like in the individual and in the group?  I think that this becomes one of the central issues of the song and it's reflected in the lyrics.  When the line of "Turn off the juice, boy" emerges, it appears as a path that must be pursued in order to deal with the intense emotions of grief and pain.  The need to "play it cool" becomes the refrain of guidance in the midst of a world where there is so much divergence of action and magnitude of emotions driving action.  In this, there is struggle.  There is struggle because the group, the gang, has been the only reality that has made sense to its members.  Losing Riff in the manner they did has demonstrated the fleeting and temporal nature of this identity, and within this, struggle emerges both within the characters and is illuminated through the song.


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