Musings on West Side Story, the Lincolns & the Civil War

Tony & Maria

Abraham & Mary



I know it is a stretch-a big stretch-but I see parallels between 1961’s film West Side Story and the “story” of Abraham and Mary Lincoln in their times. First and foremost, I see the love between the couples- Tony and Maria-Abraham and Mary- a deep love. I can see William Herndon rolling over in his grave on that one (he claimed Mr. Lincoln and Mary had a “hellish” marriage). In spite of Herndon’s claim, I believe that the Lincolns were deeply in love. And when Mr. Lincoln was murdered, Mary spent her remaining days mourning for him. She kept her wedding ring with the inscription Love Is Eternal all the way to her grave. And there’s another parallel-Tony, like Lincoln, was murdered (by gunshot, no less). Consider further similarities: Maria was warned not to fall in love with Tony (cue the song A Boy Like That). Mary was told by Todd family members that Lincoln was not good enough for her. Mary, like Maria, chose to disregard what was said. Each of the couples had relationships during intense times of strive-the Lincolns had their Civil War and Tony and Maria had their rival gang war. Lincoln and Tony both tried to stop the violence. Lincoln stated in his first inaugural, “we must not be enemies.” Tony argued that if a fight had to take place that it would be a “fair” fight-meaning no weapons used. However, as the story shows, knives were produced as the fight was in progress and deaths occurred. One of the gang members made a comment afterward to the effect that it wasn’t supposed to turn out so bad. That comment brings Bull Run to mind-no one really expected all the blood and gore. Both Lincoln and Tony failed in their intentions to avoid the bloodshed. In the Civil War, Mary Todd lost family members who were in the Confederate military. She was considered by many to be married to the enemy. In West Side Story, Maria’s lover is Tony- who “caused” the death of Bernardo (Anita’s love). Tony was considered the enemy. At the end of the Civil War, the North & South begin the process of healing. At the end of West Side Story, the two rival gangs walk away from each other silently-the implication being that there will be no more fighting. Both endings followed the deaths of the leaders: Lincoln and Tony. Sadly, Mary and Maria are left to mourn. And finally, since I’ve gone out on a limb and taken it this far-isn’t the name Maria a variant for the name Mary?

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2 Responses to “Musings on West Side Story, the Lincolns & the Civil War”

  1. B. Nash says:

    And Merry Christmas to you Dave! Glad you enjoyed it :)

  2. DAve Wiegers says:

    Wow. I love a good stretch!

    Merry christmas, Bill.

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