The Jets and the Sharks may be dueling over their particular little piece of turf, but in point of fact they're all losers in that game. They're all poor. They're powerless. And while they fight over ownership of those streets, the real forces of power—the cops and the higher-ups represented by said cops—remind them that they can get squashed like bugs anytime the Man feels like it. The two gangs in West Side Story are essentially fighting against that as much as they're fighting against each other, and all of them secretly know how it's going to turn out.
Questions About Society and Class
How does living in a lower class neighborhood make the battle between the gangs worse?
What are the gangs really battling over? How much of that it limited by the fact that they're poor?
Who are the only figures in the film not from the lower classes? What role do they play and what are their common features (if any)?
Is there any real hope for the characters to improve their social standing? Why or why not?
Chew on This
The conflict between the gangs comes down to the fact that they're both have nothing going for them and no hope for change.
The battle between the gangs is largely fueled by ethnic conflict.