Social classes are defined as a status hierarchy in which individuals and groups are classified on the basis of esteem, prestige, wealth, income, education, occupation, and social network. Social class, measured by socioeconomic status, affects all aspects of one’s life. Having a high socioeconomic status can bring a multitude of opportunities that people of lower status will probably never get. In ideal world, everyone would be of equal status and there would be no more poverty. However, according to the United States Census Bureau, there were over 40 million people that have been living in poverty in 2016.
Poverty is a reality and people have had to adapt to to their socioeconomic status. The Outsiders, by SE. Hinton, can be used to show how socioeconomic status affects the lives of teenager and how they adapt to their circumstances. In The Outsiders, Ponyboy, our 14 year old main character, narrates two weeks of his life with the purpose of telling the story of his best friend’s death. One of the main themes of the book is a class struggle. In this small rural town, there is a class rivalry between the greasers, the poor east side kids, and the Socs, the west side rich kids. This rivalry has had many consequences and both sides suffered. Although The Outsiders, was written decades ago, the class inequality and mistreatment of the poor still persists. The Outsiders can aid in our understanding the effects of being in low social class and how the characters have had to adapt to and rise above their circumstances and society’s injustices.
The story begins with Ponyboy walking out of the movie theaters with two things on his mind: Paul Newman and a ride home. It wasn’t safe for greasers to walk alone because they’ll get jumped, or someone will come by and scream “”Greaser!”” at them, which doesn’t make you feel too hot, … [Greasers] get jumped by the Socs. [Hinton 4] Although it was a long walk between his house and the theater, he decided to lone it because he enjoys going to the movies undisturbed by others. However this was not the greatest of ideas seeing that a red Corvair, which only Socs could afford, began to trail him. Five Socs got out the car and They walked around slowly, silently, smiling. ‘Hey, grease,’ one said in an over-friendly voice. ‘We’re gonna do you a favor, greaser. We’re gonna cut all that long greasy hair off.’ [Hinton] Eventually Ponyboy’s brothers and their group of friends scared the Socs off. This incident sets the tone for the rest of the story because it shows that the groups didn’t need any provocation to become aggressive towards each other.
In this town, being of a low socioeconomic status can put one in a very dangerous situation. Ponyboy was doing what any other teenager would do and went to enjoy a movie. However because he is a greaser, he got jumped on his walk home for no reason other than being poor. His older brother and guardian Darry then begun to scold him for walking alone without a switchblade as if it was Ponyboy’s fault for getting jumped. Then his other brother, Soda, pointed out It ain’t his fault he likes to go to the movies, and it ain’t his fault the Socs like to jump us, and if he had been carrying a blade it would have been a good excuse to cut him to ribbons. [Hinton] Greasers can’t walk alone too much because they will get jumped but they coped with their situation by carrying weapons and traveling in groups. If Ponyboy had thought about it, I could have called Darry and he would have come by on his way home and picked me up, or Two-Bit Mathews— one of our gang— would have come to get me in his car if I had asked him, but sometimes I just don’t use my head. Greasers are subjected to violence and aggression due to their social standing but they have adapted to their circumstances.
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