Essays For The Outsiders

PaWe first meet our narrator, fourteen-year-old Ponyboy, as he’s walking home from the movies ‘ alone, which is something we know he’s not supposed to be doing. Ponyboy lives in a dangerous area. His East Side neighborhood is patrolled by bullying Socials, rich kids from the West Side of town. Pony’s a Greaser and defenseless Greasers are the Socials’ favorite targets. Sure enough, Ponyboy is attacked by a carload of Socials when he’s in a vacant lot, just minutes from his home. Luckily his older brothers ‘ Darry and Sodapop ‘ and the rest of his gang ‘ Steve, Two-Bit, Johnny, and Dallas ‘ come to his rescue and chase away the Socials. We learn that Ponyboy and his brothers lost their parents recently in a car accident.

The next night (Saturday), Pony and Johnny go to the drive-in with Dallas. Two Socials girls are there watching the movie too. Dallas begins harassing them, but Johnny tells him to stop. Dallas does, but leaves in a huff. So the girls, Cherry Valance and Marcia, ask Pony and Johnny to sit with them and watch the movie. The girls are sitting alone because their boyfriends were drinking, and Cherry didn’t want to be around drunk guys. Soon Two-Bit shows up and seems to hit it off with Marcia. Meanwhile, Pony tells Cherry about the horrific beating Johnny got from a gang of Socials last spring, a beating that’s left him in a constant state of fear.

After the movies, Pony, Johnny, and Two-Bit begin walking with the girls to Two-Bit’s house. He plans to drive the girls home but their boyfriends, Bob and Randy, intervene and the girls leave with them instead.

Later, Ponyboy and Johnny fall asleep in the vacant lot. When they wake up, it’s two in the morning. Uh-oh. Darry is furious when Pony gets home, and they argue. Darry slaps Pony, who then runs back to Johnny. They walk to the park and a gang of Socials, including Randy and Bob, attack them. One of the Socials, a guy named David, tries to drown Pony in the fountain, and Pony passes out. When he wakes up, he learns that Johnny stabbed Bob (remember, one of the girls’ boyfriends), and Bob is dead.

Pony and Johnny go see Dallas, who tells them to jump a train out of town and hide out in an abandoned church. He gives them some money. The two boys follow his instructions and spend five days in the church. Dallas shows up on the fifth day, and takes them out to eat. When they get back to the church, it’s on fire, and a bunch of school children are trapped inside. Pony and Johnny rush in and save all the little kids. But a piece of burning timber falls on Johnny, and Pony is knocked unconscious by Dallas (who was putting out the fire on his back).

When Pony wakes up, he’s on the way to the hospital. At the hospital, he’s reunited with his brothers. He also gets the scoop on his friends: Dallas is OK, but Johnny is in critical condition and might die.

The next day is a big Greasers vs. Socials rumble. Cherry Valance has helped ensure that both gangs will fight fairly, and that neither will bring weapons. The Greasers win, and Pony and Dallas (who got out of the hospital in time for the fight) rush to the hospital to tell Johnny.

While they’re with Johnny, though, their feelings of triumph quickly fade ‘ Johnny dies. Dallas runs off, and Pony wanders the streets in a daze until a kind man offers him a ride and takes him home. Back at home, Pony and the rest of the gang learn that Dallas has robbed a grocery store, that the cops are chasing him, and that he wants the gang to meet him at the vacant lot. The cops come to the lot and Dallas shows them his gun. They shoot and kill Dallas.

Soon after, a hearing is held on whether Pony will faces charges for running away, and whether he and Soda will be able to stay with their big brother Darry. The judge acts in the Curtis boys’ favor, and life goes back to usual.

Except that it doesn’t. Pony seems to be losing his mind, his balance, and his good grades. When his English teacher tells him to write an essay ‘ one from the heart, about something meaningful to him ‘ he realizes that he can share the story of the three dead boys with the world, and maybe make a difference in the lives of others. So, turns out, the story we’ve been reading is really Ponyboy’s English homework.ste your text in here…

S. E. Hinton broke new ground in young adult fiction with the publication of The Outsiders. The novel’s gritty, realist portrayal of teenage life was striking, as was the fact that it was written by a teenaged woman. Hinton has stated that she wrote The Outsiders because it was the kind of story that she wanted to read. Tired of books filled with clichés and obligatory happy endings, she longed to write stories about real people with real problems, hoping to earn the respect of her audience by giving them stories to which they could relate.

Hinton started a trend in young adult writing, which became a battleground for readers, parents, teachers, and librarians. Debate raged over whether The Outsiders and the books that followed in its footsteps were too realistic for their own good. Such books portrayed issues such as drug and alcohol abuse, teen pregnancy, death, and divorce. Parents, educators, and critics of realism worried that they could encourage bad behavior in their readers. These criticisms tended to be based on simplistic analyses of books’ content, so that The Outsiders was seen as a story about teenage violence, rather than a story about the characters and how they dealt with such violence. Instead of focusing on what Ponyboy learned as a result of being both a victim and an aggressor, some critics deemed the book to be without merit for glorifying violence, missing Hinton’s message entirely.

Hinton explores many themes over the course of the novel, such as bridging the gap between rich and poor, honor among the lawless, and the retention of innocence. In Ponyboy’s first meeting with Cherry Valance, she tells him “Things are rough all over.” Later in the story, Ponyboy asks her if she can see the sunset on the West Side of town. When she says yes, he tells her that he can see it on the East Side, too. When Ponyboy first meets Cherry, he thinks of her as just another Soc, wondering how a cheerleader who drives a Corvette could possibly have problems. By the end of the story, Ponyboy’s question about the sunset is an acknowledgment that, while the worlds they live in are very different, there are still things in each that are the same and that provide common ground.

The Greasers are honorable, even though society at large might not see them that way. They stick up for one another and will stand together to defeat enemies or authority figures. Hinton’s characters perform acts of honorable sacrifice. Dally takes the blame for a crime he did not commit instead of turning in his friend, Two-Bit. Johnny kills Bob in order to save Ponyboy. Ponyboy and Johnny go into a burning building to save children in peril. Dally goes in to save them. Their devotion and loyalty to one another is admirable.

Perhaps the most important of the themes Hinton explores is that of the retention of innocence. When Johnny explains to Ponyboy what Robert Frost’s poem means by “staying gold,” he is trying to tell Ponyboy not to give up his innocence and become jaded by the world, as Dally has. Johnny hopes that if Ponyboy passes this lesson on to Dally, it might help Dally recapture some of his lost innocence, too. The message comes too late for Dally, but it is not too late for readers.

Despite its critics, The Outsiders became a commercial success and won numerous awards. In 1967, it was named one of the best teen books by the New York Herald Tribune and was also a Chicago Tribune Book World Spring Book Festival Honor Book. In 1983, a film adaptation directed by Francis Ford Coppola was released. With more than fourteen million copies in print, The Outsiders is among the best-selling young adult novels of all time.

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