The Outsiders by S E Hinton

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It amazes me that a sixteen year old girl could write with such perspicaciousness about youth her own age. Even more amazing is that she could show such insight into the thoughts and problems of a young boy, conflicts that one would not expect a girl to understand. Through 156 pages of description and action, the thread interweaving through the theme of coping with social conflict remained consistent, not allowing the reader to get sidetracked with inconsequential irrelevancies. The brilliance of interlocking the beginning with the ending brings to full circle the elements that the essence of the novel requires: that the protagonist undergo a change (for better or worse) as a result of his immersion into a conflict (or series of conflicts) that demands decisive action to climax in some resolution.

Character development of the Greasers is greatly enhanced in the first chapter by having the family relationship of Ponyboy and Darry solidified through the initial minor conflict that foreshadowed the greater one yet to come. The author, using the first person narrative form, does not have the benefit of third person omniscience to see into the minds of the other characters, but she reveals the nature of her characters superbly by illuminating them through their actions, which speak louder than descriptive words, and their dialogue, which reveals what they are thinking through their own words, thus giving the highest level of credibility to the story.

The important perception of Darry as the “lost” father figure flows flawlessly with constant comparisons to how a father is expected to act from the point of view of a “son” who feels antagonism for perceived inequities doled out by the older authority figure who treats other members of the “family” differently. No child could be expected to understand the logic behind the “inequities,” and neither does Ponyboy (true to reality), who plods through the relatively short indeterminate time the novel covers struggling to come to grips with his inexperience with life.

Greasers don’t just represent juvenile thugs; they could be any oppressed minority. The Socs are not just the social “Haves;” they could, likewise, represent any oppressive group. The individuals in each group are recognizable as universal protagonists (Greasers) and antagonists (Socs), but the conflict could just as easily have been reversed as in West Side Story. Every group has its positive and negative qualities.

Bob, a Soc, had everything — family, wealth, looks; but, he lacked compassion. His tragic flaw caused his death. Johnny, looked upon as a loner by both his “family” and the reader (the listener to the narrative), evoked sympathy because he had nothing but the devotion of those who cared for him. It was unpredictable that these two unlikely individuals would have formed the core of the major conflict that resulted in the forthcoming rumble (chapter nine); but the fire (chapter six) that made heroes of Ponyboy, Johnny, and Dally created the turning point after which all things would not otherwise have happened as they did. Society looked differently upon the Greasers after that. But, Dally was the proverbial “bad dude” who would rather die than switch. He did. Darry put up a tough front and had to change his attitude to survive. He did, too (chapter 8 and chapter 12).

Cherry, a Soc, represents all those who appear to be what they are not. She is the underlying truth that all that appears to be bad is not necessarily so. She lost the most, for a Soc; she lost the one she loved, Bob. But, so also did the Greasers who lost Johnny (a hero), and finally, Dally (who was worshiped as a hero). Soda is the middleman, the stabilizing element who made the impossible seem probable. Randy exemplifies the basic good in all youth who fall prey to the need to belong to a support group to rationalize reason for their existence outside of the basic family. The Socs and Greasers both change in their awareness that violence is not the only viable solution to rectify differences especially when they both realize that all people see the same sunset and all youth, rich and poor, are born “gold” and have the same opportunity to stay “gold” as Johnny pleaded with Ponyboy to do.

Any teenager who has every felt peer pressure and the need to belong, endured the travesty of a broken family, determined erroneously that violence demonstrates quality of social position should enjoy this moving story about the struggle young men feel as they experience the rites of passage. I thought about how my own life was paralleled by this adventure having experienced belonging to a gang and fighting my way out to become a meaningful part of society. I saw the familiar thread that flowed through Romeo and Juliet (Montagues and Capulets) and West Side Story (Sharks and Jets).

The circular structure of the novel tying the beginning to the ending was a stroke of genius, which left me, as a teacher, proud that English teachers were so depicted as caring, considerate, and creative.

Inadvertently related to The Outsiders surreptitiously, tangentially, obliquely, and off the wall.

“Silent Witness: What a Child Saw” USA Network, Wednesday, 9:00-11:00 P.M. February 7, 1996. Scenes as Remembered:

Darryl is the witness who saw his own brother with the young black boy, called Puppet, kill a young Korean couple and their uncle in an aborted robbery attempt. Darryl’s brother was involved in an attempt to illegally buy a six pack of beer. While the young newly-wed husband went into the store owned by the Koreans to pick up presents to take to the reception, Puppet and the older black boy were hasseling the young Korean bride as if they were INS agents just to exacerbate relations that were already strained by a weak truce between the black community and some of the Korean residents.

Ms.Carol Lee Rembrandt, a prosecutor suspected that Darryl was a witness. A black boy was picked up and charged with the crime. Sylvester is the brother of Darryl Crawford. He was there and Darryl saw him but did not want to implicate him. Darryl lied about his brother being the third person involved. Darryl confessed that T Bear (Tyrell Baines) and Little Puppet both shot the Koreans. Darryl doesn’t want to tell his father that the third boy was his brother.

The father of Darryl and Sylvester refused to let his son get on the stand.

Darryl first lied about seeing the killing.

Otis probation officer of over twenty years and 5000 clients came to rescue of Lee when she was confronted by the blacks who were not involved.

T Bear comes to visit Darryl but is warned by Puppet that the probation officer, Glen James, was near. When Darryl went to playground and was confronted by Puppet, the latter realized by Darryl’s behavior that he was the witness.

Lee, by the way, is also Korean. The non-related black gang took Lee’s file on Otis Patterson before he was later released. They destroyed her car just to emphasis their hatred.

Lee has young son, Gary. She brings Darryl over to her while James searches for Darry’ls father who has gone to work somewhere.

Killers go to Lee’s house.

Mr. Crawford finds Sylvester near lake and confronts son with problem. Sylvester pulls a gun on his father when prompted to turn himself in. Father walks away with son’s gun pointed at his back and screaming that he didn’t do it. Lee calls James to tell him that the father is coming over for Darryl.

T bear calls aping police to try to find addrress. When T Bear and Puppet shoot at house, Daryl leaves the scene.

T Bear forces Sylvester into trunk of car while Puppet chases Darryl. T Bear shoots car with Sylvester in it. Gas is leaking from car. T Bear shoots at car, again, with Sylvester still in trunk and Puppet in front of the car. Both are killed by the rage of T bear as the car explodes in a fireball incinerating Sylvester Crawford.

Darryl told the story as he saw it that T Bear killed the Korean boy. T Bear goes to jail till he’s 160.

Father tells how Sylvester at 16 didn’t know how to ask for help and father admitted he didn’t know how to give it.

Father takes Gary and Darryl fishing at end.


I watched this movie thinking about The Outsiders and could not help but jot quick notes (above) and express my feelings about the situation:

Children turn bad when there is no one there to show the care and concern the children are begging for. We, as parents, are sometimes blinded by our own interests to listen to, not just hear, the pleas of our children. They sometimes do wrong because thay want to be noticed and told what is right. It is their way of asking: Do you love me? Then, there are those who commit crimes for their personal agenda: pride, attention, power, hatred, apathy, etc. I see people like Darry and Dally and feel compassion; then comes T Bear and Puppet and reconsider the abortion issue.

I am personally trapped between the hope for all and the resignation that some people — yes, even teens — are so far gone there is no prayer for their salvation. It is a conflict with which I have lived for over half a century with no resolution. The tragedy is enough to make one question the existence of a good and just God. Sylvester did not have to die; nor did Dally. One chose it while the other had it thrust upon him. At the hands of so many T Bears and Puppets, too many Sylvesters die all too unnecessarily.

write by Myrna

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