In West Side Story, what is the characterization of the scene in which Tony kills Bernardo?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The rumble scene is staged with a foreboding use of lights and shadows.  Its characterization is one of imminent doom even before it starts.  The use of the colors red and black is of significant mention in conveying this mood.  The use of Bernstein's orchestral chords especially when Tony holds Riff in his arms after Bernardo stabs him also helps to feed the characterization presented.  I think that there is a feeling of a vortex of violence that grips the scene and all of the characters in it.  The optimism and hope that might have been featured in the characters beforehand completely disappear in this scene and the staging of it helps to bring this idea in full force.  Additionally, it should be noted that part of the characterization of the scene is that life for all of the characters will never be the same.  This is brought out by the displacement of the gang members once the police sirens are heard, the distorted refrain of the themes of the Jets and Sharks, and the corpses of Bernardo and Riff and Tony seemingly lost in his movement between both of them.

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