April 14, 2003
"The Difference of Initial Inference of Identity"
S.E. Hinton's novel, The Outsiders, is at first a narrative of Ponyboy, a young outcast boy who later becomes a young man filled with identity. At the end of the novel, it is revealed that the narrative is actually Ponyboy's autobiographical account of his quest for a place in society. The symbols and motifs of The Outsiders contribute immensely to the novel's most prominent theme: Commonality between the rich and the poor is camouflaged by economics and socialism.
The greasers are limited to physical forms of identity, as their only significant symbol of identity is their hair. The greasers, unlike the Socs, cannot afford jewelry or cars like their opposing social group. Their greasy hair distinguishes them from all of their social groups and classes. In the beginning of the novel, the Socs and Ponyboy arrive at a confrontation and they promised, "We're gonna do you a favor greaser. We're gonna cut all that long greasy hair off" (Hinton 5). This symbolically reveals that the Socs were attempting to rob Ponyboy of his identity. Hinton also places heavy significance upon eye shape and color. The descriptions of each character's eyes are symbolic of their personalities. Johnny Cade's eyes are described as wide and brown, reflecting his nervous, gentle, yet vulnerable tendencies. In contrast, both Darry and Dally have eyes that are described as icy blue; this represents Ponyboy's chilly feelings of uneasiness towards them. Hinton also utilizes their eye shape and color to convey
their heartlessness, harshness and invulnerability. The symbols of hair and eyes assist in greater illumination the novel's central theme of identity and class. The reference to Robert Frost's poem, "Nothing Gold Can Stay" is introduced by Ponyboy, as he recites it to Johnny in the Windrixville Church.
"Nature's first green is gold,