What are some examples of authority figures being ignored and how they are ignored in West Side Story?

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analiesev eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the musical West Side Story there are few adult characters present to represent "authority" figures. Because the plot focuses mainly on issues that are being faced by the younger characters, the adult characters are scripted as either comic relief or just ineffective people. As such, they are ignored by the younger characters who have bigger matters with which to concern themselves. The adult characters are Officer Krupke, Lieutenant Schrank, and Doc the drugstore owner. 

One example of authority characters being ignored or disrespected occurs in the very first scene of Act I. Officer Krupke and Lieutenant Schrank arrive right after a fight has taken place and question the boys in the Jets gang about what has just happened. The Jets give them smart-alecky comments rather than straight answers, even referring to Schrank as "buddy boy". After Krupke and Schrank forbid them to fight any further with the Sharks and leave the scene, various Jets boys mock the things that the two men had just told them. At last Riff, the leader of the Jets, gathers his gang together and incites them to plan what he hopes will be a decisive battle against the Sharks. This is in direct opposition to what Krupke and Schrank just told them to do.

Another example of an authority figure being ignored is in scene six at Doc's Drugstore. Doc tries to make all the kids leave, telling them that it is curfew time. Baby John, A-rab, and Snowboy explain that they are there to hold a war council with the Sharks to decide on weapons for their upcoming rumble. Doc starts to protest against this dangerous plan, but is repeatedly interrupted by Action, who explains why he thinks that Doc and all the other men in Action's life just do not understand what young people are like. Doc tries to make the point that their deadly desire to rumble with the Sharks is going to destroy them, but he is continually contradicted. In spite of his warnings, the war council is held and the rumble is planned. Later in the same scene Tony is alone with Doc, and Doc expresses his fear about Tony's involvement with Maria as well as the upcoming fight. But in spite of this Tony does not change his plans or behavior.