Inside “The Outsiders”

“The Outsiders” by S.E. Hinton explores the trepidation a group of teenage greasers faces in day-to-day life.


Photo Courtesy of Zach Asato

“The Outsiders” is a book written by S.E. Hinton. The book was adapted as a movie in 1993.

In an act to revisit some of my old books, I came across “The Outsiders” by S.E. Hinton. I remember reading the book as a class in seventh grade and not being able to put it down. “The Outsiders” is the first book I ever loved. It was the first time I had read such a heart-wrenching yet exhilarating story. This is one of those special books that shows the real life of being a teenager. Not a normal, modern teenager, but a teen from the sixties that faces the angst of being a Greaser. However, “The Outsiders” was written so well that it can still be relatable to kids in highschool now.

The story begins with the narrator, who we learn later is Ponyboy Curtis, walking home from the movie thinking about “Paul Newman and a ride home.” Ponyboy is a Greaser and all the Greasers hate the Socs (pronounced like social), and vice versa. The Socs are the wealthier kids that formed live on the West-side of town, while the Greasers are “poorer than the Socs and the middle class.” As he walks home, he is jumped by a gang of Socs that don’t hurt him too much because a group of Greasers protect him. The group consists of his two brothers, Darry and Sodapop Curtis, Steve Randle, Two-Bit Matthews, Dallas (Dally) Winston, and “last and least,” Johnny Cade. Of all the characters, I fell in love with Johnny the most.

Hinton does an amazing job at describing the characters’ personalities and appearances, creating vivid imagery. The reader can clearly see the little movie that we all know we make in our head as we read. Darry is tough, cool, and smart with “blue-green ice” eyes. Sodapop is a “movie-star kind of handsome” with dark brown, lively eyes. The trio of Curtis brothers all have different colored hair; Ponyboy has “light-brown, almost-red,” Soda has dark gold, and Darry has dark brown hair. Steve Randle is cocky and smart, belittles Ponyboy, and has thick, greasy hair. Two-Bit Mathews’ real name is Keith, but got his nickname because he always gets his “two-bits worth.” Two-Bit treasures his switchblade, has “rusty-colored sideburns,” and gray eyes. Dally Winston is known for being the bad guy with run-ins with the police. He has blue eyes that hold hatred for the world and hair so blonde, it’s almost white. Then there’s Johnny Cade. Johnny comes from an abusive family, was jumped and hurt when he was only sixteen, and is “scared of his own shadow.” Johnny’s jet-black hair matches his big black eyes.

So many things happen in this book that it really does take the full book to describe it all. In short, some of the Greasers fall for a couple of Soc girls, which causes a big dispute between the gangs. Ponyboy and Johnny do something terrible that causes them to go into hiding with the help of Dally. They disguise themselves by changing their hair color, read “Gone with the Wind” out loud, and talk about other things. The entire time they were hiding, I felt like I was really there. I was on the edge of my seat, flipping the pages like there was no tomorrow. Dally goes by the church they are hiding in to tell Ponyboy and Johnny that the Greasers and Socs have been in a rising conflict and there is to be a rumble. Dally agrees to drive the boys home but, as they are leaving, they notice the church is on fire and there are children on a fieldtrip inside. They go in, trying to rescue as many as they can. The roof caves in, but one of the Greasers is still inside.

By the end of the end of the book, no one’s life is the same. Somehow they keep moving forward.

“The Outsiders” has the best ending, wrapping up the book in the most perfect little bow. Although the last couple chapters send you on a rollercoaster of emotions for the fictional characters you formed bonds with, Hinton does an outstanding job at referencing back to earlier in the book and alluding to “Nothing Gold Can Stay” by Robert Frost all at the same time. Oh, and did I mention Hinton started writing the book when she was fifteen after one of her friends was jumped because he was a greaser? That’s one more reason to the long list of reasons I would recommend “The Outsiders” to everyone – even if you don’t enjoy reading.