What is the Theme of “The Outsiders”?

The Outsiders is a novel written by S.E. Hinton. Hinton wrote this story for many reasons and has won many awards for it. This novel has affected the readers greatly. It is told from the view of a young boy named Ponyboy Curtis. It follows the troubles of him and his best friend Johnny Cade. Ponyboy lives in the poor neighborhood of their town with his two brothers. They are known as greasers. On the other side of town are the Socials or Socs. They are the rich kids. These two groups do not get along well and when a fight begins, Ponyboy and Johnny get in a lot of trouble with the Socs. They are forced to leave their town and run away. The readers learn from all the challenges they face living on their own. With that said, this coming of age novel truly shows the value of friendship, the trials and tribulations of finding yourself, and the conflicts between social classes.

The author of The Outsiders, S.E. Hinton was born in 1950 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Her full name was Susan Eloise Hinton. As a child she loved to read and write. However, when she was a teen she couldn’t find any books that she was interested in. In an interview Hinton said, I’d wanted to read books that showed teen-angers outside the life of ‘Mary Jane went to the prom’. When I couldn’t find any, I decided to write one myself. (Hinton and Ehrichs) She then created her own story about teens that was more realistic and exciting. Hinton wrote two novels and finally came up with the idea to make The Outsiders. She began writing this story at just sixteen years old and got the inspiration for her characters from real events that happened in her high school years. In fact, she believed that Ponyboy reflected her the most. She also wanted to write this story to create a different world where there were no adult figures to rule over the kids.

This novel was worked on for a year and a half and had four rewrites. After all of this she let her friend’s mother read it. The mother loved the book and referred her to an agent named Marilyn Marlow of the Curtis Brown Agency. During her graduation ceremony, Hinton received a contract offering publication. The Outsiders was then published in 1967. Hinton was only 17 at the time. The novel won several awards and was critically acclaimed. Since the book was such a success, Hinton was able to go to the University of Tulsa. Here she earned a B.S in Education in 1970 and met her husband, David Inhofe. He encouraged her to write her second novel. Over the next ten years, she published a new novel every four years. Writing kept Hinton busy, but when she wasn’t writing she was tending to her son, Nicholas David. She still writes to this day and has remained in Tulsa. Hinton is best known for her choice of characters, Her characters are frequently larger than life, almost mythic, and are social outcasts (Chaston). One of her biggest achievements was winning the Margaret Edwards Young Adult Author Achievement Ward in 1988 from the American Library Association. The Outsiders really started her career and it has helped her grow.

This novel is told from the perspective of 14 year old Ponyboy Curtis. Ponyboy lives in the poorer side of town and is part of a group known as the Greasers. The kids on the other side of town are wealthy and social. They’re known as the Socs. The Socs and the Greasers are not big fans of each other. Once, Ponyboy’s best friend Johnny Cade was brutally injured in a fight with a Soc. Ponyboy and Johnny go to the movies with some of their friends, including a boy named Dallas Winston. After the movie, Johnny and Ponyboy get into a quarrel with a group of drunk Soc boys. When Johnny accidentally kills one of them, trouble strikes. Ponyboy and Johnny run away with the help of Dallas. They move into an abandoned church and must now fend for themselves.

One day Dallas stops by the church and takes the boys out for lunch. When they come back they see that that the church is up in flames and there are some kids inside. Ponyboy and Johnny rescue the kids, but Johnny is extremely injured and taken to the hospital. When the boys visit Johnny in the hospital they realize he is dying. Meanwhile, there is to be a rumble between the Socs and the Greasers. The boys fight and afterwards Dally takes Pony to see Johnny in the hospital. Johnny dies and Dally is in distress. The one thing he loved is now gone. Out of anger he robs a store and when the police find him, he is shot. After recovering Ponyboy begins to write his English essay. He bases it around the events that have happened and decides he wants it to spread the message that there is good and the world and it is possible to stay gold.

This novel has many themes. It has taught the readers about loyalty and the struggles of growing up. It also displays how class conflict is an issue and the importance of finding yourself. The novel pulls us in with its exciting and problematic characters. From the first start of the story the readers are hooked into knowing what happens to these young boys. Through their story, the readers learn how important friendship is. The whole gang of Greasers is always there for one another. They are also shown the loss of innocence.

Ponyboy and Johnny were hurt at such a young age and had to grow up fast. They were living on their own, doing their best to survive, all by themselves. They learned how there is violence and hate in the world, but Ponyboy also realizes that there is some good too. The readers are also exposed to the problem of social class conflict. The novel gives a good example of how people are treated and labeled based on how much money they earn. They realize that money isn’t everything and the personalities of these outsiders is what matters most. By the end of the novel, Ponyboy has learned a lot and so have the readers. They go through this adventure with him and see how he has found himself through these adventures. The readers learn that is is important to stay gold and be true to yourself.

In conclusion, The Outsiders is an outstanding novel written by S.E. Hinton. It has not only changed her life, but it has inspired others. The readers can take home many lessons from this piece. They learn that love is greater than hate and about the importance of loyalty. They see the trials and tribulations of life and how even though bad things happen, there is always something good we can take away. The readers also learn about the importance of innocence and staying true to yourself. As Johnny Cade said, Stay gold.

Works Cited:

  1. Hinton, S. E., and Lisa Ehrichs. “Advice from a Penwoman.” Contemporary Literary Criticism, edited by Jeffrey W. Hunter and Deborah A. Schmitt, vol. 111, Gale, 1999. Literature Resource Center, Accessed 28 Nov. 2018. Originally published in Seventeen, vol. 40, Nov. 1981, p. 32.
  2. Hinton, S. E.The Outsiders. New York: Viking, 1967.
  3. Moss, Joyce, and George Wilson. “Overview: The Outsiders.” Literature and Its Times: Profiles of 300 Notable Literary Works and the Historical Events that Influenced Them, vol. 5: Civil Rights Movements to Future Times (1960-2000), Gale, 1997. Literature Resource Center, Accessed 28 Nov. 2018.
  4. “Susan Eloise Hinton.” Contemporary Literary Criticism Select, Gale, 2008. Literature Resource Center, Accessed 28 Nov. 2018.
  5. “The Outsiders.” Novels for Students, edited by Marie Rose Napierkowski, vol. 5, Gale, 1999, pp. 281-304. Gale Virtual Reference Library, Accessed 28 Nov. 2018.
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