The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton
THE OUTISDERS has been one of the most popular book among teens and preteens since it came out in 1967. Ponyboy and his Greaser gang fight rival gang the Socs (short for “Socials,” the wealthier, more preppie kids) and try to make a place for themselves in the world. The juvenile delinquent characters are fully and humanely developed in this realistic look at life, death, and growing up, told from a teen’s point of view. The book was based on the author’s high school experience in Tulsa, OK, in 1965, but the time and setting are not specified in the text.
Ponyboy is just a normal kid. All he wants is to be accepted by society. At least he has his brothers there to have his back when things get out of hand. That is, until the Socs, a vicious gang of rich kids whose idea of a good time is beating up “Greasers”, take it too far. In this novel, a heroic tale of friendship, belonging, and family, S. E. Hinton takes on the issue faced by children and teens everywhere, fitting-in. Set in 1966 Oklahoma, The Outsiders is a timeless classic facing an issue that will never disappear. Though I enjoyed the entire novel, the three things I most enjoyed were the plot, theme, and vocabulary.
The plot was a very life-like look at the constant struggle of being an “Outsider”. This story may be set in 1966 Oklahoma, but that doesn’t mean that this plot could not apply to any state and any year. Ponyboy Curtis and his brothers Darry and Sodapop belong to a poor gang known as “The Greasers”. Many of them have lead hard lives which have made them the tough and unforgiving young men they are today. “The Socs” (a group of wealthy, upper class teens) often jump The Greasers for no apparent reason. One night when Ponyboy came home late after being at the movies with Cherry and Marcia (two beautiful Socs) Darry and Ponyboy get into such a fight that Ponyboy runs away with Johnny, one of Ponyboy’s friends and a member of The Greasers. When Johnny and Ponyboy get to the park they meet with Cherry and Marcia’s boyfriends. Bob (Cherry’s boyfriend) and some of his friends beat up Ponyboy and almost drown him in a fountain until Johnny stabs Bob to death, saving Ponyboy’s life. Once they realize what they’ve done, Ponyboy and Johnny go on the run.
The theme was the second point of the book I enjoyed. The theme deals with issues faced by real teens in real life. Ponyboy comes from a broken family, both of his parents died in a car crash. Darry, Ponyboy’s oldest brother, realizes that a family can not go on without a leader. Darry becomes like a father to Ponyboy and a leader to The Greasers. As a Greaser, Ponyboy doesn’t know what it is like to fit in. Many teens face the same issue as Ponyboy. What does it really mean to fit in? To be accepted by the self-proclaimed “Cool Kids”? All teens really care about in today’s society is fitting-in. I think that in this day in time we could be a little more civilized and like people for their character, not what they look like or how much money they have.
The third and last element I enjoyed was the vocabulary. The vocabulary in the book was obviously not correct grammar. This writing technique was employed in this book because of the point of view, which was first person. This story was told from Ponyboy’s point of view. Ponyboy was a greaser who did not have the best English. S. E. Hinton used many slang words such as “Socs”, “Greasers”, “Tuff”, and so on. All of the Greasers use this type of slang which adds to the vocabulary in the novel.
Overall I really enjoyed The Outsiders. Of all the summer reading choices this book was by far my favorite. I loved the note that Ponyboy found from Johnny. The note that Johnny left was so touching it was nearly enough to move a grown man to tears. Ponyboy is definitely a good role model when it comes to his priorities. He knew what was really important, friends and family. S. E. Hinton really hit a home run with her book The Outsiders.