Saturday, September 3, 2011
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
Hinton, S.E. The Outsiders. New York: Speak, 2003. ISBN 0-14-038572-X.
The narrator of this book is fourteen year old Ponyboy. He lives with his two older brothers Darry and Sodapop. They have been allowed to live on their own since their parents died as long as they do not get into any trouble. The story begins when Ponyboy is walking home from the movies alone. This is something he should not do since he lives on the East side of town, which is a very dangerous neighborhood for him. He is proud to call himself, his brothers and friends Greasers. While walking home he is jumped by a gang called the Socs which is a gang of rich kids. They are attempting to give him a haircut when his brothers and friends save him and chase the Socs off. Later in the book Ponyboy meets the Socs again. This time they try to drown him in a fountain at the park when he is with his friend Johnny who has been beaten by his father numerous times at home and has also been beaten by the Socs once before. Johnny stabs one of the Socs named Bob and he dies. The boys run to their friend Dallas who gives them money and tells them to jump a train to hide in an abandoned church until he can get there. Dallas arrives days later and takes them out to eat. On their way back to the church they see it is in flames. School children are trapped inside and Johnny and Ponyboy never hesitate to go inside the burning church and rescue the children. They are injured on the way out and Johnny is seriously injured with a broken back from a beam falling on him. After Johnny dies, Dallas runs away and robs a store. He is shot dead by the police while robbing the store. Ponyboy has to go to court but is allowed to remain living with his brothers.
This book falls under the title of Awards and Classics. This story is told in first person by Ponyboy Curtis. Ponyboy is orphan archetype. Teenagers can identify with Ponyboy and the need to belong. The reader gets to experience what life in a gang would be like through Ponyboy's eyes. The Greasers become a family to one another. Loyalty holds this gang together in this book. Teenagers are familiar with conflict in their own families or conflict between groups at school. The setting is very important to the story. The rough neighborhood makes the story between two gangs believable. The characters in this story have conflict in their families. Johnny comes from an abused home and no one seems to care about Dallas. The conflict between groups is solved by fighting. Ponyboy goes through a dynamic character change by the end of the book. At the end of the book Ponyboy is asked to write an English paper that is an essay from the heart. This is where the theme of the book shines through. Self vs. society. Ponyboy tells his story about his brothers and friends in hope that it will help others. He realizes that fighting has been senseless. Johnny tells Ponyboy while he is dying to "stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold" (p.148). It was Johnny's hope that Ponyboy would stay innocent and end all of this fighting against the Socs. The author writes with clear style and that is why this book remains a classic today.
Strengths and Weaknesses:
One strength was the tone of this book was written with tension. When the blue mustang appears the reader has a feeling of apprehension knowing there will be trouble. The tone keeps the reader on the edge of their seat.
Hornbook states "we meet powerful characters in a book with a powerful message."
My daughter Kristin read this book when she was 13 and her quote is " S.E. Hinton was so realistic in showing me what life was like in a gang."