Tony co-founded the Jets with with his best friend Riff but has since left the gang having outgrown their street culture, and began working for Doc at his drug store serving customers, stocking shelves and also making deliveries.
Tony is shown to be an idealist and an optimist, but his idealism invariably clashes with reality and in those cases he either has a hard time dealing with reality or simply ignores it; the most significant of these is when Doc informs him (via Anita's lie) that Maria was killed by Chino. Unable to handle the reality of living without her, he busts out and screams for Chino to come and kill him too.
Friendship with Riff
Tony and Riff were friends when Riff moved out of his uncle's apartment and moved in with Tony and his family. Riff has lived with Tony for nearly five years, during which time the two formed a strong brotherly bond and eventually co-founded the Jets.
"He always came through for us Jets...."
After a brawl in the neighborhood playground (which is Jets' turf), Riff decides to challenge Bernardo and the Sharks to a rumble at a dance later that night, and wants Tony to stand up with him. Action and some of the other Jets dislike Riff's idea, saying that Tony is no longer a Jet, but when Riff and Ice remind them of how he came through for them in the past, Riff declares that Tony will always be a Jet. When Riff visits Tony while working at Doc's, Tony is uninterested in going to the dance, but agrees to anyway.
At the dance, Tony becomes love-struck when he first lays eyes on Maria, Bernardo's sister. The two meet face-to-face, and Maria becomes equally smitten with Tony. Just as the two share their first kiss, Bernardo breaks them up and sends Maria home. Bernardo is about to go after Tony when Riff intercepts him and calls for a war council between their two gangs; Bernardo agrees to meet with him at Doc's at midnight.
At Doc's, the two gangs debate over logistics for their planned rumble; they agree to meet under the highway the following night, and are discussing what to use for weapons when Tony arrives and chides them for wanting to use weapons instead of their fists; he points out to all of them that a rumble can be settled by a fair fight and suggests that the best man from each gang slug it out to decide. Expecting to go up against Tony, Bernardo puts himself on the line and agrees to a fair fight, but Riff, knowing that Tony is not a current active member of the Jets, turns the tables and puts forth Ice as their champion.
The following night, the Jets and Sharks start their rumble as planned, but Tony (with prompting from Maria) arrives and attempts to stop it saying that they have no rumble, only to be taunted and called "chicken" by Bernardo and the other Sharks. Unwilling to see his best friend be humiliated, Riff steps in and punches Bernardo, and the two gang leaders whip out their switchblades and go at it. Riff overpowers Bernardo and is about to stab him in his back when Tony pulls Riff back, but Riff breaks away from Tony and again charges Bernardo only to be stabbed in the stomach and falls dead. In a sudden fit of vengeful rage, Tony grabs Riff's blade and stabs Bernardo in the stomach killing him. A free-for-all breaks out among both gangs until sirens blare, and the Jets and Sharks both scatter leaving Tony and the dead bodies of Riff and Bernardo behind. Realizing what he has done, Tony drops to his knees wailing for Maria until Anybody's arrives and attempts to spirit him away. He scampers away just as the cops arrive at the rumble scene.
Tony runs to see Maria, who was informed by Chino only that he had killed Bernardo. Upon seeing him, Maria initially beats on Tony's chest calling him a killer, but her love for him is stronger and she dissolves in sobs into Tony's arms as he explains that he tried to stop the fight and that everything happened too fast. He then asks for Maria's forgiveness before he goes to the police, but Maria refuses to let Tony turn himself in and begs him to stay with her. The two agree that they need to get out of town, so Tony runs to Doc's to ask for getaway money; Maria agrees to follow him there, and Tony makes his way out just as Anita comes back; she tells Maria that Chino is now gunning for Tony. When Lieutenant Schrank arrives, Maria sends Anita to Doc's to tell Tony that she's been detained.
Tony is hiding in the cellar at Doc's with the Jets standing guard when Anita arrives with the message, but the Jets relentlessly harass her and very nearly rape her until Doc arrives and breaks it up; Anita angrily tells them to tell Tony that Chino found out about them and shot her dead. Doc kicks the Jets out of his store and then quietly gives Tony the "message". Heartbroken, Tony bursts into the street and screams for Chino to come and get him too. He keeps shouting until Maria shows up, unaware of what Anita told Tony. The two run to each other on the playground, but just before the two can embrace, Chino appears and shoots Tony, and he falls into Maria's arms. Mortally wounded, Tony admits to Maria that he didn't believe hard enough. Maria promises they will get away, and the two start singing a reprise of "Somewhere", but Tony dies before they can finish the song.
"Every single night for the last month, I wake up and I'm reachin' out.. It's right outside the door, just around the corner, but it's comin'.. It's like the kick I used to get from bein' a Jet, y'know?" - Tony confiding in Riff