The two books, Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story, are similar in many ways and different in many others. The most obvious differences are the facts that Romeo and Tony die in different ways and that Juliet dies while Maria lives. Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story are both powerful, tragic stories, yet West Side Story has less deaths in it than Romeo and Juliet has. This doesn’t make it any less of a tragedy, but it makes one ponder over the differences between them. To ponder for a moment, there are many cultural differences in each of their lives.
To start with, both Romeo and Tony die tragically. However, they both die in very different ways. In Romeo and Juliet, Romeo poisons himself over Juliet’s “dead body.” In West Side Story, Tony does not commit suicide. He actually is murdered by someone else. This is very confusing, but makes a good plot twist that surprises the reader.
Secondly, there are two characters in Romeo and Juliet that die where, in West Side Story, they live. In Romeo and Juliet, Paris is killed by Romeo in a duel while Juliet stabs herself when she finds out that Romeo is dead. This is not the case in West Side Story. In this book, Chino, who is the equivalent of Paris, is the one who kills Tony, not vice versa, and Maria, when she finds that Tony is dead, does not kill herself. She takes Chino’s gun and begins to wave it around threatening people.
Another important point is the difference between the cultures that these characters grew up in. They are vast. Romeo grew up in medieval Verona, where people are taught, even at a young age, to fight and die for their families and that dying in honorable combat is preferable to defeat. Tony had a far different childhood. He is raised in a crime ridden modern city, were gangs run amok and fought each other in the streets. He was raised to survive and make something of his life. These cultural differences may have a profound effect on the way that each of them die.