“Stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold . . .”S.E Hinton – The Outsiders
Ponyboy is vital to the text as he is our main protagonist. We experience all the action and tragedy through Ponyboy’s eyes, which gives us insight into how he interprets the world. Ponyboy is a Greaser from a poor family of orphaned brothers. While Greasers are generally tough and rough around the edges, Ponyboy illustrates to the reader that the Greaser stereotype isn’t a catch-all category. Ponyboy represents the more sensitive side to the Greasers through his love of knowledge and curiosity for the beauty in the world. Furthermore, we learn through Ponyboy that the stereotypes of Soc’s aren’t necessarily true either. We see this as Ponyboy learns more about the Soc’s himself.
Like Ponyboy, Johnny is another character that helps us to see that not all stereotypes are true. Skittish and a gentle soul, Johnny illustrates to us the real cost of violence after he stabs Bob in self-defence. From Johnny, we learn what makes a real hero when he heroically saves school children from a roaring fire. Furthermore, his death at the end of the novel is a catalyst for the death of Dally.
The lovable rogue that he is, Dally teaches us about honour amongst the lawless and shows us once more how sometimes stereotypes are not always true. Aggressive, violent and reckless, at first glance, Dally appears to fit the Greaser stereotype well. However, his later heroic actions at the burning church and his protective tendencies towards Pony and Johnny reveal a softer, warmer side to Dally. His grief for Johnny’s death at the end of the novel reveals this to us even further.
While she is a Soc, she loves Sunsets just as much as Ponyboy, and it is through Cherry that Ponyboy learns that the Soc’s and Greasers aren’t as different as he once thought. Cherry, the pretty red-headed Soc is an essential teacher for Ponyboy. She shows him what life is like on the other side of town and allows Pony to see past the labels that plague their society. She teaches us as a reader to be careful about how we judge others and that not all Soc’s are Greaser jumping thugs.
Central Ideas (Themes)
The Futility of Violence
In The Outsiders, violence is a reoccurring theme that serves little other than to make more problems for the characters in the book. Every violent action in the novel fails to resolve or end conflicts and only lead on to more violent acts later in the book. At the end of the day, both the Soc’s and The Greasers lose close friends and family to violence and yet reap nothing in reward. S.E Hinton wants to teach us the dangers and pointlessness of violence and conflict.
Don’t Judge a Book By its Cover / Stereotypes
At the very start of the novel, several stereotypes are revealed to us as the reader. The greasers are viewed by society as petty criminals and thugs who are generally up to no good. Also, we see that the Soc’s are considered society’s angels who can put no foot wrong. However, as the novel progresses, we soon find that these stereotypes aren’t as accurate as we once thought. The Soc’s are more thuggish than they are perceived, and the Greasers are much more heroic than people give them credit for. Furthermore, Pony comes to learn that the labels that rule society don’t actually mean a thing at all and the Soc’s and Greasers are just people all the same.
Throughout the novel, we are often reminded how different the Soc’s and Greasers are from one and other; however, by the end of the book, Pony realises that actually, this is not the case. S.E Hinton does this to teach us that class warfare and discrimination between each other for our differences is pointless. S.E Hinton wants to show us that we have more in common than we realise and that disputing our differences only leads to heartache and tragedy.