“Things were rough all over, but it was better that way. That way you could tell the other guy was human too.”
Title: The Outsiders
Author: S.E Hinton
Publication: April 24th 1967 by Viking Books for Young Readers
Summary from Goodreads:
According to Ponyboy, there are two kinds of people in the world: greasers and socs. A soc (short for “social”) has money, can get away with just about anything, and has an attitude longer than a limousine. A greaser, on the other hand, always lives on the outside and needs to watch his back. Ponyboy is a greaser, and he’s always been proud of it, even willing to rumble against a gang of socs for the sake of his fellow greasers–until one terrible night when his friend Johnny kills a soc. The murder gets under Ponyboy’s skin, causing his bifurcated world to crumble and teaching him that pain feels the same whether a soc or a greaser.
The Outsiders by S.E Hinton deals with major themes such as belonging, discrimination, and family. The story follows Ponyboy, the youngest member of the Greaser gang at fourteen, as he deals with the hardships in his everyday life. Readers watch as Ponyboy, Darrel, Sodapop, Dallas, Johnny, Two-Bit, and Steve struggle over the prejudice the Socs and society hold over their heads for being less than they are. The Outsiders takes a long look at the stigmas surrounding the less fortunate in a gritty, no-nonsense and take no prisoners voice.
The characters in this story are troublemakers, and they are treated as such. After all, what else are teenagers good for? In the world of The Outsiders, young adults fall into two categories: socs and greasers. Montague and Capulet. West side and East side. The teens are struggling; they fight tooth and nail only to be told they are worthless because of where they come from and what they wear. S.E Hinton handles her characters delicately with a brash note of fearless intention. The characters are wild, unruly, and utterly human.
S.E Hinton focuses explicitly on two types of characters: those who fit in and those who don’t. Even within the gangs themselves there are those who don’t fit in. Ponyboy wants to and likes to read. Darry is smart, too smart and too serious. Compare them with Two-Bit and Dally who love being in the gang and believe that is all there is in life for them, and there is an unbalance. I don’t see how Hinton addresses issues in youth culture. Ultimately, there are consequences for bad behavior and stereotypes are rewarded. While there is a small diversity to the characters themselves, the book as a whole was lacking a variety. It was like having to choose between vanilla ice cream and rainbow sherbet. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing considering when this was written, but that aspect didn’t quite live up to the hype.
The language of the greasers and the socs is innovative and clever. They have their own codes, and those codes vary between different gangs of the same group. The language is where the magic is. Ponyboy speaks to the reader in a way that is entirely his own. His voice is important here, and it demands to be heard. His thoughts and feelings about everything going on around him: the life of the gang, his brothers, schoolwork, Johnny – it’s so unbelievably important and honest.
“It seemed funny to me that the sunset she saw from her patio and the one I saw from the back steps was the same one. Maybe the two different worlds we lived in weren’t so different. We saw the same sunset.”
This story is easy to fall into and even easier to fall in love with. It’s like being transported to another world that steal deals with some of the same issues we handle everyday, but now it’s in the voice of a young boy who sees things just a bit differently than we do.