Could you give me a short character analysis of the West Side Story characters Tony, Riff and Bernardo?Suggestions for places I can already find a character analysis will be helpful as well. Thanks...

Could you give me a short character analysis of the West Side Story characters Tony, Riff and Bernardo?

Suggestions for places I can already find a character analysis will be helpful as well. Thanks in advance.

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akannan's profile pic

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

Posted on

I think that you can compose a character sketch that is very similar between Riff and Bernardo.  Both cling to their identities as leaders of a particular group of disaffected youth.  Their roles as leaders of Jets and Sharks respectively form the basis of who they are, what they do, and how they should live.  We can see how each of them carry themselves in the defense of their territories as well as their crews.  This is even true in song.  "When You're a Jet" and "America" both express how Riff and Bernardo feel about both themselves and the world in which they live.  In both songs, the notion of identity is clearly defined through collective senses of the good.  Tony is the bridge between both, not fully able to embrace both worlds.  He represents the idea of elusiveness in his identity, as in the song, "Something's Coming."  While he does believe in the value of collectivity, Tony does not fully embrace it as Riff and Nardo.

kapokkid's profile pic

kapokkid | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

One of the things you ought to remember when looking carefully at the characters is that they are designed to mimic those from Romeo and Juliet.  In this case, Tony is supposed to be the mirror image of Romeo.  As such, Tony falls in love with Maria, the little sister of the leader of the rival gang.

Just like in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Tony plays the role of a tragic hero, bound by his love for Maria to pursue her with tragic results.  As such, he is completely blind to everything but his love for her, and oblivious to possible other choices besides his pursuit.  Because of his loyalty to her, he gets his best friend Riff killed (semi-accidentally) and suffers from that mistake.

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