Analysis of “The Outsiders” by S.E Hinton
The Outsiders is a novel that was first published by S.E Hinton in 1967. Hinton began to write the book when she was 16 years. She completed the monograph and published it when she was 18 years. The book is mainly revealing a conflict between two rival groups known as the Greasers and the Socs (short form for the socials) (Wilson 12).
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The story represents events that occur in a time span of approximately two weeks that a fourteen year old Ponyboy Curtis encounters. The novel reveals his struggles between right and wrong in the society. Although he lives in the society, Ponyboy believes that he is a total outsider. The story happens at a time when Ponyboy and his two brothers namely Darrel (Darry) and Sodapop (Soda) have lost their parents in an automobile accident. At this time, Darry is 20 years of age while Soda is 16. Soda and Pony are, therefore, allowed to stay under the guardianship of their elder brother, Darry on condition that they show good behavior. Their family is considered as a member of the social class that is referred to greasers. This name is used in reference to the middle class individuals living in the Eastern zone of the town.
The greasers rivals are socials that comprise of a wealthier people and occupy the Western side of the town. The story starts with a scene when Pony walks home alone from a movie and he is obstructed by a gang of Socs who beat him up without any justification. Besides the injuries that he nursed, the Socs proceeded to threaten to kill him. Another gang appears and scares the Socs away, hence, rescuing the victim (Hinton 3).
In another scene that takes place on a different night, Pony and two other gang members, Dallas and Johnny went to movie drive. In the trip, they met another group that comprised of Sherry, Valance and Marcia. These girls had left their boyfriends in the movie drive because the boys were drinking. After Dally had given the girls a very hard time, Ponny and Jonny offers to walk the girls home. Despite this act of favor, they meet the girls boyfriends on the way who threatened to fight the greaser boys. Cherry stopped the intended fight and the girls leave in company of their boyfriends (Hinton 8).
In the next night, Ponny and Jonny went to a vacant lot to hang around before they got home. Accidentally, they fell asleep and when Jonny woke up, he realized it was 2.00 am. This posed him to the danger of being punished by his elder brother for it was far past the curfew time. Ponny decided to run home and on his arrival, he found his brother Darry very hungry and worried as he waited for him. After being beaten by the furious upset Darry, Ponny runs back to the field and joins Jonny. Although Ponny intends to run away and escape from home, they decide to go to the park to cool off before returning home (Hinton 10-13).
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While still at the park, Marcia and Cheerrys boyfriends reappear and another conflict arises between the socs and the greasers. In this contention, Ponny and Jonny are outweighed and as a result of this, Ponny was grabbed and held by the Socs on the neck with his head under the water. When his colleague noticed that he was drowning, Jonny pulled his switched blade and kills one of the socs called Bob (Hinton 46).
In response to this scene, Ponny and Jonny seeks for help from Dally. Dally then gives them $ 50 and directs them to a hideout so that they escape arrest associated with the murder. The boys took a freight train into their hide outs with the plan of remaining there until Dally picks them. They went to hide themselves in an abandoned rural church building where they felt lonely and considered themselves as outsiders especially bases on their greased long hair and general body appearance. They passed tome in the church by reading a monograph known as Gone with the wind. They also cut their hair while in the church and Ponny colors his for the disguise (Hinton 113).
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Dally appeared after a week and leads the two young men into the Dairy Queen. He also brings them the news that Valance and Cherry are now laboring hard to help the greasers against the socs and that they are being used as spies in support of the greasers. In addition, he affirms to them that the two ladies had testified that the death of Bob was as a result of drunkenness and that the accused had to kill him just for self-defense (Hinton 128). At this moment, Jonny acknowledged that he had a chance to transform himself. The same day in the evening upon arriving in the church, they discovered that the church was burning. Painfully, there were some littles kids that were already trapped inside. Ponny and Jonny ran inside in order to rescue the children. On the process of handing over the children to Dally who stood outside the fire, the burning roof collapsed.
A piece of burning timber fell on Jonny, making him to break his back and nurse serious burns. They were then returned to the town that they had escaped from in an ambulance and Ponny had to reunite with his brothers. At the end of the story, Jonny dies of his injuries, but Dally robs a grocery and flees from the police. He then calls the gang to pick him from a vacant lot and take him to a hiding place. However, before the gang hides Dally, the police catch up, with him at the lot and shot him to death (Hinton 140).
Ponnyboy is the main character in this novel. Unlike other greasers, Ponny is portrayed as a very sensitive and outstanding character. For instance, he likes going to movie alone and his brother Darry often complains of him being outside the house despite the danger of socs attacks. He is also very conscious of his underprivileged and scorned status. The socs as well as fellow greasers despised and treated him as a hood. He is also bitter of the fact that the society cannot hold the socs responsible for the troubles they cause in.
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Moreover, Ponny is very fearful, hence, screams for so long when attacked by the socs. This also makes him to be paralyzed with shock and fear when he sees Bob dead. He is very social and friendly. This trait makes him a fiend to Cherry despite her belonging to socs class. This makes him discover that not all socs are alike because Cherry was very kind. The story ends as Cherry emerges a better person. He has discovered more about himself and hence looks into the future with optimism rather than self-pity (Gillespie 45).
Jonny is portrayed in the story a very meek teenager. After being beaten by the socs for no reason, he tends to avoid violence for fear of being beaten again. He is also very courageous, hence, is willing to surrender himself to the police. Moreover, he is heroic hence decides to jump into the burning fire in a bid and personal resolve to save the lives of the kids. Besides these, Jonny is decisive and influential. For instance, he is the one who decides that they cut their hair, seek Dally for help and take the train to a hiding trip. He is also very thirsty for love especially from parents, but they are not there for him (Gillespie 47).
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Dallas is revealed as a very mean and cynical member of the greasers. He is also an excessive drunkard, a liar and a thief. His life in crime begun from very early stage, hence, it was jailed at age ten. The only positive role he plays in the story is to show concern for his fellow gangs by giving them old clothes, money, loaded gun and instruction on where and how to hide from the police (Gillespie 47).
Themes in the Story
Pain and violence is one of the main themes in this story. For instance, Jonny who is the meekest boy is beaten without reason. Ponny is also attacked by the socs on his way home despite his kindness to the soc ladies. These conflicts lead to the death of Bob, Jonny and Dally making the story a tragedy. Class consciousness, segregation and discrimination are other major themes in the story. This exists between the western socs and the Eastern greasers. This class consciousness makes every interaction between the two groups very hostile. The westerners are seen as superior based on their economic value while the easterners are inferior.
Family dysfunction is also a significant theme in this story. This makes children very vulnerable to several dangers and hardships. For instance, Jonny is often beaten by his father and ignored by his mother. Darry had to drop out of school following the demise of his parents. He does this in order to be able to take care of his siblings while Steve hates his father for neglecting him. As a result of this family dysfunction, children join gang in order to seek for love and sense of belonging. The theme of injustice is also revealed in the novel. People are judged by their appearance and the class of society to which they belong. For instance, socs are getting along with their evils just because they occupy the right side of the city.
Dialogue is one of the styles in the book that is successfully used to portray the reality of youthful talks. For instance, Pony says about his brother, Soda is handsomer than anyone else…. The author also uses vivid descriptions that connect the characters and the actions in the story. For instance, she describes Dally as one with selfish face, high cheekbones, pointed chins and small sharp animal teeth. These describe how the appearances of the characters relate to their traits and their activities. Other analysts have also observed that the text has certain features that seem unrealistic hence connected to immaturity of the author. For instance, the sudden appearance of children for a picnic in an abandoned church building cannot be comprehended. The teachers who stand by as children perish in the fire are also not practical (The Best Notes 1).
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The Outsiders is a novel written by S.E Hinton to communicate how family dysfunctions can make teenagers feel disserted hence seeks for satisfaction, love, acceptance and a sense of belonging in gang groups. It also reveals the conflict between the rich and the poor that are represented by the western and the eastern gangs.