Ponyboy can count on his brothers and his friends, but not on much else besides trouble with the Socs, a vicious gang of rich kids who get away with everything, including beating up greasers like Ponyboy. At least he knows what to expect--until the night someone takes things too far. Written forty-five years ago, S. E. Hinton's classic story of a boy who finds himself on the outskirts of regular society remains as powerful today as it was the day it was written.
I've just finished reading The Outsiders and I'm pretty speechless. This is one of those novels where everything I'll say has probably been said before, but it's universal resonance makes me feel more connected with you. With that in mind...
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton is about two groups of boys, The Greasers, from the working class, and The Socs, from the upper class. It's about Ponyboy, his two brothers, Dally and Sodapop, and their entire crew--how they deal with vicious ridicule from the Socs. Ponyboy is a fourteen year old dreamer, fitting himself into the mold of the Greaser because he was born into it, but he has a mind un-tethered by the chains that often keep other Greasers running the streets. In a conversational style, S.E. Hinton showcases bullying and what it means to rise above, through Ponyboy's point of view, and I loved every second of it. Each word stuck to me, each joy, and unfortunate growing pain.
Firstly, The Outsiders surprised me for a novel birthed in the sixties. S.E. Hinton showcases bullying in such a tremendously raw way that I was totally not expecting. I think there are novels of present that lack this kind of naked exploration, and I really appreciated it. The way Hinton explores what it means to be in a brotherhood through Pony, his brothers and their friends is priceless. It was one of the best parts of this novel. It reminded me that sometimes I don't appreciate my own friends and family the way that they should be. Their relationships were so emotional, and I loved that Hinton is unafraid of depicting masculinity so vulnerably.
Secondly, I loved that each character seemed fully fleshed, and adequate personifications of conflict, courage, youth, strength, and innocence. There isn't a single character that I couldn't sympathize with, and the end is well...too much to handle.
I remember being ridiculed in middle school and high school. How hopeless you feel when you can't change the thing that they've chosen to highlight because it's a part of you. But the beauty hidden in the shadows of high school, is if you're paying attention, there's always a kid who's forced to fit their small feet into the loafers of an adult. A kid who almost seems immune to the childishness of bullying because the world, the real world, is above it all. The best parts of the novel are the bits where kids from each side of the fence start to question their reasoning for hating the other, and open up about the catch 22's of each sides. How each side can eventually add up to the same sum= a person void of wonder and humanity. If you lose your childlike wonder for life and people, what else is there? This novel holds the best parts of what it means to be young, to be passionate, and to stick close by your family (which has nothing to do with blood).
Bare in Mind: The Outsiders contains violence and bullying.
I can't tell you how ecstatic I am not to have been forced to read this in school. I think that sometimes there's a nugget of awesomeness that we miss when something profound is forced on us. The Outsiders is a beautiful novel, and it deserves all of the praise it's received over the years. I haven't seen the film yet, but I already hope they make a remake. I'd love to see how our generation would spin this story.
Let's head to Johnny Rockets and talk this over over Oreo Milkshakes.
P.S.- Oh My Gosh, Johnny. *Wails and sits in a dark corner for a while*
P.S.S.- The fact that Ponyboy and Sodapop's real names are Ponyboy and Sodapop makes me seriously want to name my own sons (God Willing) these epic names. Maybe I'll just start with my Tumblr moniker.