“The Outsiders” was published in 1967 by S. E. Hinton. She started writing the book when she was fifteen years old and had it published when she was eighteen. The book is set in Tulsa, Oklahoma during the early 1960’s. It follows the life of Ponyboy as he maneuvers through life living on the poorer side of the city. He is a member of the Greasers, which is a gang that puts grease in their hair and wears it long. They wear leather and dress in the street tough way. On the other side of the city are the Socs (Socials). They are from a higher social class and have rich families. The two classes terrorize each other and engage in brawls.
Ponyboy is telling the story of a turning point in his and his friend’s lives. He meets some Soc girls and begins to see them as people with the same failings as the people on his side of the city. This meeting between his friends and these girls set off the rivalry that has been brewing. When one Soc boys attack Ponyboy and almost kills him, his friend, Johnny kills the boy to get him to stop.
The two boys run away, taking a train to a small town to hide out. There they save some children from a burning building and become heroes. This leads to the boys being captured after they are hurt in the rescue. Johnny’s back is broken when the building collapses and he die shortly after that. Ponyboy is hurt when the large rumble that was brewing happened. As his world settles down, Ponyboy is given the assignment to write an autobiographical theme for his English class and writes The Outsiders.
The Outsiders opens with Ponyboy Curtis walking home after watching a movie with Paul Newman. The book is told in his point of view. He thinks that although he likes his looks as a “greaser” are fine, he wonders how Newman became so handsome. Ponyboy is also thinking about how unsafe it is to walk home alone, and he wishes he had someone with him. As a Greaser is unsafe for him to be alone on the West side of the city where the Socials, or “Socs” live. Greasers live on the East side of town and wear their greasy hair long. Their clothes look tough, they steal and get into fights. The Greasers almost always carry switchblades, mostly to be used when the Socs harass them. The Socs may get bad press because of their wild parties, but they are also given praise for good citizenship because their parents are rich.
Ponyboy doesn’t get to hang with the Greasers while they are hunting for trouble too often, because of his oldest brother, Darrel, or Darry as he is known, makes him stay away from trouble. There are three boys in the Curtis family. Since their parents died in a car crash, twenty-year-old Darry has been taking care of them. Although Darry yells at Ponyboy a lot because of his lack of common sense, Ponyboy loves his oldest brother, and loves his sixteen-year-old brother, Sodapop. The younger boy is charming and cheerful which wins the heart of everyone. Sodapop is movie star handsome, and although he never drinks, he seems to get drunk on life. Although Ponyboy is fourteen, his brothers sometimes treat him like he is six years old.
Suddenly a red car comes upon Ponyboy and five Socs climb out. They begin to harass him, and one of them pulls a blade. When they start to beat him, he screams for help, and his brothers arrive with the rest of the Greasers. After they chase the Socs away, Darry scolds Ponyboy for walking home alone instead of calling for a ride. Sodapop calms him down.
While Ponyboy makes plans with some of the Greasers, Johnny, and Dally, to go to a double feature at the drive-in, he listens to Dally talk about his ex-girlfriend, Sylvia. He begins to wonder about what it would be like to date an upper-class girl from the West side of the city. That evening Ponyboy spends time reading “Great Expectations” and compares himself to the character, Pip. Since he is still a little shaky after his confrontation with the Socs, he climbs into bed with Sodapop. Ponyboy listens while his brother talks about his girlfriend, Sandy and that he plans to marry her someday.
The next night Ponyboy, Dally, and Johnny were at the drive-in when they noticed two Soc girls. Dally begins to use some foul language trying to embarrass the girls. One of them turns around and tells him to stop. Dally continues then goes to get some Cokes. While he is gone, Ponyboy talks to one of the girls, Cherry Valance. A pretty girl with red hair who wants to talk about Sodapop. She thinks Sodapop is cute and asks what happened to him. Ponyboy embarrassingly tells her that Sodapop dropped out of school and is working at a gas station. When Dally comes back, he offers one of the Cokes to Cherry and then throws it in his face. When he tries to put his arm around her, she protests, but Dally won’t stop. Then Johnny, who is usually quiet, tells him to leave the girls alone.
After Dally stomps away angrily, the girls ask Johnny and Ponyboy to watch the movie with them. Suddenly, Two-Bit, another Greaser friend, runs up to tell him that Dally slashed Tim Shepard, another Greaser’s tires, and there is going to be a fight. When a fight is between two Greasers, it is supposed to be one on one. “Our one rule, besides Stick together, is Don’t get caught.” Dally got caught, so he will have to fight. Cherry asks Ponyboy to go with her for popcorn. Ponyboy tells her about the time that the Socs beat up Johnny. The Socs wore rings. Cherry tries to tell him that not all the Socs are that violent, they have the same kind of problems the Greasers have. Ponyboy doesn’t believe her.
After the movie, Ponyboy, Two-Bit and Johnny walk Cherry and Marcia to Two-Bit’s house so they can give the girls a ride home. As they are walking, Ponyboy is amazed at how easy it is to talk to Cherry. She wants to know about his brothers. He tells her that he doesn’t think Darry likes him and would like to put him in a home somewhere. This surprises the other boys because they thought the brothers got along well. As the two make comparisons between their lives, they find out they have some things in common. Ponyboy and Cherry both like to read and watch the sunset.
Ponyboy tells her that he thinks the Socs just harass them out of boredom. She disagrees. The world of the Socs is not that black and white. They come to the conclusion that the Socs act so cool all the time because they suppress their emotions, while the Greasers feel everything too deeply. A car pulls up with Cherry and Marcia’s Soc boyfriends. The boys almost fight, but the girls calm them by agreeing to leave. Before she does, Cherry tells Ponyboy that she hopes never to see Dally again because she thinks she may fall in love with him.
When Ponyboy gets home late, Darry is furious. During their argument, Darry slaps him. Ponyboy is devastated because no one in his family has ever hit him. He leaves sure that Darry doesn’t want him around. Even though it is two a. m. Ponyboy finds Johnny in the park. Ponyboy tells him he wants to run away and Johnny, who lives with an abusive alcoholic father, agrees to go with him. First, the two boys walk around the park while they decide if they will go through with it.
Suddenly the blue car pulls up. The boys see that the girl’s boyfriends are there and they have brought three friends. Bob, one of the Socs, exchanges harsh words with Ponyboy, then holds his head under the water fountain. Ponyboy realizes he is drowning and passes out. When he regains consciousness, he sees that Bob’s bleeding body is next to him and Johnny is holding a bloody knife. Johnny says that he killed Bob. Ponyboy is panicky, but Johnny is calm. They go to Dally and ask him what they should do. He gets them some money, a change of clothes for Ponyboy and a loaded gun. He tells them to take a train to Windrixville, and hide in an abandoned church. After a harrowing ride on the train, the two boys collapse into sleep at the church.
The next morning Ponyboy wakes up and finds a note from Johnny saying that he went into town to get supplies. Johnny returns with lunch meat, cigarettes and a copy of “Gone With the Wind.” He wants Ponyboy to read it to him while they wait. Ponyboy comes back with a sarcastic remark and Johnny tells him he sounds like Two-Bit. Johnny tells him that they will cut their hair as a disguise and they should bleach Ponyboy’s hair.
About five days later, Dally shows up. He gives Ponyboy a letter from Sodapop. He tells them that the police asked him about them for Bob’s murder. He told them that they had run to Texas. While he takes them to Dairy Queen, he tells them about the war brewing between the Greasers and the Socs. Dally tells them that Cherry has been acting as a spy so she can give them information about the Socs. Then he tells them that the two groups are going to “have it out” the next night in a vacant lot.
Johnny tells Dally that he wants to go back to turn himself in. Even though no one cares whether he is home or not, he knows Ponyboy’s brothers are worried. Dally tries to talk him out of it but then starts to drive them. As they drive past the church, they see that it is on fire. Ponyboy thinks one of their cigarettes maybe started it.
When they get to the church, they see a group of school kids on a picnic. Suddenly they hear one of the adults watching them scream that some of the children is missing and has gone into the church. Ponyboy and Johnny climb through a window and find the children huddled in a corner. The two boys rescue the children. As the last child is going through the window, Dally yells at them that the roof is about to collapse. Johnny pushes Ponyboy out the window first and then the roof collapses. Ponyboy tries to go back when he hears Johnny scream, but Dally hits him on the back and knocks him out.
Ponyboy wakes up in an ambulance. The teacher who is with him tells Ponyboy that his jacket had caught on fire and while Dally was putting it out, he was burned but will be fine. Johnny is hurt and may have a broken back. When the teacher asks him if he and Johnny were professional heroes. He tells them they are Greasers. “Greasers. You know, like hoods, JD’s. Johnny is wanted for murder, and Dallas has a record with the fuzz a mile long.”
The teacher, Jerry tells Ponyboy they are taking him to the hospital, and Ponyboy asks about the kids. They are all fine, just frightened. He stays with Ponyboy while he waits for the boy’s brothers. Ponyboy tells Jerry about Bob’s murder. He says that it was self-defense. Then he tells him that he shouldn’t smoke. Ponyboy is surprised because no one ever told him that.
When his brothers arrive, Sodapop hugs him and Darry weeps. This surprises Ponyboy and he realize that Darry does love him and just wants the best for him. He thinks all will be fine when they get home. Reporters interview them and Sodapop charms them. The doctor tells Ponyboy that Dally is fine, but Johnny will be permanently crippled if he survives. Back at their house, Ponyboy sees the article in the paper that portrays them as heroes. Johnny will be charged with manslaughter and Dally, and Ponyboy will be going to juvenile court. He fears that he might be sent to a boy’s home.
Ponyboy and Two-bit take a walk to Tasty Freeze to get a Coke. The Socs pull up, and Two-bit reminds Ponyboy that even though he is furious, he is not allowed to fight before that night at their rumble. One of the boys says he just wants to talk to Ponyboy and asks him why he saved the kids. He didn’t think a Greaser would do that. Ponyboy said that had nothing to do with being a Greaser. Then the boy tells him that Bob was his best friend, but he is tired of the violence, and he won’t be at the fight. Ponyboy begins to see the Socs are human.
Ponyboy and Two-Bit go to visit Dally and Johnny at the hospital. Johnny looks terrible and asks Ponyboy to finish reading Gone With the Wind. Dally is doing better and asks to borrow Two-Bit’s switchblade. On the way home they see Cherry in her Corvette. She tells them that the Socs have agreed to not use any weapons in the fight. When Ponyboy asks her to visit Johnny she refuses because she blames him for killing Bob who was a good guy when he wasn’t drinking. He asks her if she can see the sunset on the West side and reminds her that the same sun sets on the East side.
That night the groups meet the fight is long, but the Greasers win. Afterward Ponyboy and Dally go to see Johnny at the hospital. He is dying, but before he does he tells them the fighting is useless and then says, “Stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold.” then he dies.
When he arrives back home, he tells the Greaser who are celebrating their victory that Johnny died. Also, Dally isn’t handling it well. Dally calls them to say that he robbed a grocery store and is on the run from the police. When they get to him, they see the police chasing him. Dally pulls out his empty gun and the police shoot him. Ponyboy thinks that Dally committed suicide. He is so overwhelmed that he passes out, When he wakes up he learns that he was hurt in the rumble and has a concussion. He’s been in bed delirious for three days.
Ponyboy spends the next few days in bed. Taking Sodapop’s high school year book, Ponyboy finds a picture of Bob. He begins to wonder if Bob’s parents hate him. Of course, he thinks that he prefers their hatred to their pity anyway. He thinks that Bob’s smile reminds him of Sodapop’s. As he is looking at the picture, he goes over the conversations he had with Cherry and Randy, the other Soc. He decides that Bob probably had a hot temper, was a bit cocky and frightened, like all of them. In other words, human. Randy stops in to talk to him. But his insensitivity sets Ponyboy off, and he tells him that he killed Bob and that Johnny is still alive. He is delirious and ill. Darry tells Randy to leave.
At the hearing the next day, Ponyboy doesn’t have to give a statement. His doctor told the judge about Ponyboy’s condition. The judge is kind and asks him a few gentle questions about his home life. Then he allows Ponyboy to go home with his brothers. He is acquitted. As time moves on Ponyboy becomes more depressed, and his grades suffer at school. His English teacher says that he can bring his grades up if he writes a terrific story with an autobiographical theme.
The next day Ponyboy, Steve, and Two-Bit go to the grocery store to buy candy bars and Cokes for lunch. Some Socs come up and start to harass them again. Ponyboy loses it and threatens them with a broken bottle. After the Socs leave, Steve and Two-Bit are worried about Ponyboy becoming hard like Dally was. But the relax when he picks up the glass, so no one gets a flat tire.
That night while Ponyboy and Darry are fighting about his grades, Sodapop runs out of the house upset. When they find him, he tells them that their constant fighting is too much for him and he wants them to try to get along better. They both promise to try. When the boys return home, Ponyboy takes a look at the copy of Johnny’s “Gone With the Wind.” He sees a note from Johnny telling him to stay gold. He says that the lives of the children they saved were worth his own. Ponyboy realizes he wants to tell the story of him and his friends so that other people can realize they need to let their anger go and notice the beauty in the world around them. He decides it will be his English theme homework, and begins it with the same lines that begin “The Outsiders.”
Ponyboy Curtis – the Outsiders, is written as his class autobiographical class project. He is fourteen years old and the youngest of the Greasers. He is different from the rest of the gang because he is more literary and performs well in school. Since his parents died in a car accident, he has been under the care of his oldest brother Darry. Darry is only twenty years old and taking on a lot of responsibility, so he is very hard on Ponyboy. He accuses him of being naive and missing in common sense, but he is very observant. His family is poor, so he sees the rich kids as evil. He feels like they are always trying to keep him down. He has trouble trying to fit in with his group because of his youth and intelligence but doesn’t fit into the other class either. He is trying to come to terms with the violence in his world. By the end of the novel he is more mature and begins to see the other side as human instead of evil.
Darrel Curtis – he is twenty years old and shouldered with the responsibility of raising his younger brothers. Although he is only a few years older than Ponyboy, who is fourteen, he is the primary disciplinarian of him. He was an athlete in school but had to quit so he could work two jobs and support his family. He makes a chocolate cake for breakfast. He has become the unofficial leader of the Greasers; they call him “Superman.”
Sodapop Curtis – he is the middle brother. He is handsome and charming. Everyone loves him, and Ponyboy envies him. He was hoping to marry his girlfriend when he found out she was pregnant. But, her parents send her to Florida, and then he finds out the baby isn’t his.
Johnny Cade – he is sixteen years old and has big eyes full of fear. His father is, and abusive alcoholic and his parents don’t love him. He doesn’t do well in school. He is very sensitive and shy, rarely speaks, buy when he does his words are worth listening to. He tells Ponyboy to stay Gold. Johnny sees the Greasers as his family, so when someone is trying to kill Ponyboy, he kills for him. He is the first through the window to save the children in the burning building and suffers a broken back that leads to his death.
Dallas Winston – known as Dally, he moved to the city after living in New York. He brings his experience with the gangs there. He has a police record that he takes pride in. Although he travels with the Greasers, he doesn’t use the product in his white blond hair. Dally has a violent temper and has been hardened by the violence he has seen and participated in.
Randy Anderson – he is a Soc and Bob, the boy who beat up Ponyboy and tried to drown him in the fountain, is his best friend. After Ponyboy and his friends save the children from the burning building he begins to see the Greasers in a different light. When he talks to Ponyboy, he says that he wants out of the upcoming rumble. His words of pain at the loss of his friend and the futility of fighting makes the Socs seem more human to Ponyboy.
S. E. Hinton Biography
S. E. Hinton was born Susan Eloise Hinton in 1948 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She is known for her young adult novels and most famous for “The Outsiders.” She wrote in during high school when she was attending Will Rogers High School in Tulsa. The book is about a conflict between two of the gangs from the city; The Socs and the Greasers. The Socs are said to live on the West side of the city and the Greasers on the East side. Writing through the perspective of the Greasers and making them sympathetic was unique.
She is a very private person but has revealed her love of literature and writing. She also loves to take a variety of classes at the universities in Tulsa and horseback riding. Hinton competes in dressage and jumping. She married David Inhofe in 1970; they have a son, Nicolas David Inhofe. He was a sound effects recordist on “Ice Age: the Meltdown.”
She began writing her best-selling debut novel, “The Outsiders” when she was seventeen years old, which means she reached a peak of writing at a very young age. It was published in 1967, during her freshmen year in college. Her teacher suggested she use her initials because her feminine first name would make male publishers turn away from it. She continued writing using her initials to keep some her public and private lives separate.
In 1983 two movies were made by Francis Ford Coppola based on her book, “The Outsiders.” She co-wrote the script for “Rumble Fish.” She also worked as a location scout and had cameo appearances in three of the four movies based on her book. Hinton played a nurse in “The Outsiders,” a typing teacher in “Tex” and a propositioning prostitute in “Rumble Fish.” Hinton played a school principal in “The Legend of Billy Fail.”
Hinton won the Margaret A. Edwards Award in 1988 for her first four young adult novels, “The Outsiders,” “That Was Then, This is Now,” “Rumble Fish” and “Tex.” She was inducted into the Oklahoma Writers Hall of Fame at the Oklahoma Center for Poets and Writers of Oklahoma State University in Tulsa.
After writing “The Outsiders” Hinton’s fame shot up so fast that she became known as the voice of the youth of America. The pressure was too high. Therefore she suffered from a three-year writer’s block. Finally, her boyfriend at the time, who later became her husband, broke her writer’s block by telling her that she had to write two pages before she could go out. This lead to “That Was Then, This is Now.” The writing was much more meticulous because she was studying writing at the time in college. She finished it in 1970 and was married a few months later.
She released “Taming the Star Runner” in 1985 and then in 1995 she changed her genre from young adult to younger children’s fiction, “Big David, Little David” and “The Puppy Sister.” She has also written adult fiction such as “Hawkes Harbor.” S. E. Hinton now lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma with her husband, dogs, and horses.