How is pathos relevant to the characters in West Side Story? 

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Maria is a character in West Side Story who evokes pathos, or strong emotion, in the audience. She is a sympathetic character who is newly arrived in the U.S. She says in Act I, Scene 3, "One month I've been in this country--do I ever touch excitement? I sew all day, I sit all night." Her diligence and suffering make her appealing and sympathetic to the audience. When she tells her brother, Bernardo, that she wants to have a good time at the dance that night, "because tonight is the real beginning of my life as a young lady in America!" she evokes strong feelings of compassion and warmth from the audience. Her innocence and idealism are easy to like. 

Bernardo, Maria's brother, also evokes strong feelings from the audience--though negative feelings--because he is a brusque know-it-all. When Anita tells Bernardo that Maria has parents to look out for her, he says, "They do not know this country any better than she does" (Act I, Scene 5). He comes across as arrogant and disdainful of his parents and sister. He later tells Anita, "Back home, women know their place." By putting down the lively and bright Anita, he comes across as rude and haughty. In Act I, Scene 9, he escalates the violence in the rumble between the Jets and the Sharks by telling his opponents, "Every one of you hates every one us and we hate you right back." With each of these argumentative, arrogant statements, he evokes strong feeling in the audience--of dislike. 

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