Essay on Prejudices in "The West Side Story" by Arthur Laurents

Essay on Prejudices in "The West Side Story" by Arthur Laurents

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The book West Side Story written by Arthur Laurents is set in the mid 1950’s, created as modern version of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. West Side Story is a romantic tragedy about two characters that are supposedly completely different and aren’t accepted when they fall in love. The “difference’s” between these characters is centered on the prejudice’s they had against each other. Prejudice is a harsh opinion or feeling formed previously without any knowledge or reason. The Jets and the Sharks used many prejudices against other races, sex, and age. What they didn’t realize is that they have more similarities than differences.

One of the most common prejudices used in West Side Story is about race. They majority of the racist comments comes from the Jets. They even used derogatory words throughout their own gang. The Jets were all together, excluding Tony, and Action says, “Stop looking for the Polack, Tony doesn’t want any part of us” (Laurents 9). Polack is a highly offensive word for a polish person, or someone of polish decent. At another point in the novel the Sharks call Tony a Polack too. The Jets were also calling the Puerto Ricans “PR’s” and are making rude remarks about their hygiene and their violence, “Some thinking persons wondered what would happen if the PR’s fled or were driven out of the city. It was best not to delve to deeply or project too far. As things were, the gangs warred against the PR’s, the PR’s retaliated in kind. Optimistically, they might exterminate each other; and with this happy hope for the future, the city continued to conduct business as usual – and die” (Laurents 13). Both the Sharks and the Jets were prejudice against each other but that never stopped them. It only led to more violence...


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...hey automatically fell in love. Bernardo becomes all protective and starts yelling at Maria, “You have to yell at babies” (Laurents 77). Bernardo doesn’t exactly care for his sister the way he should considering their parents aren’t there. The prejudice that Bernardo has against Marias age is destroying the relationship they possess.

The prejudices in West Side Story were centered on race, sex, and age and continued throughout the whole book. These elements created society today and still are amongst us, but most rise above and chose to cease prejudicing. The Sharks and the Jets have equally discriminated against each other, but never seem to learn the effect it has on them until the killing begins. The differences between them soon become similarities without them entirely realizing it. These prejudices cause hate and only produce violence or misunderstanding.

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