The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton, is a coming-of-age story that compels readers to question society’s stereotyping of people and expresses the need for people to always have hope. Based on two rival teenage gangs, the poor, east-side Greasers, and the rich, west-side Socials (Socs), The Outsiders is told through the eyes of sensitive, 14-year-old Greaser, Ponyboy Curtis. The novel explores the choices people make when faced with adversity, sending an important message to readers that everyone is an individual, regardless of their background. The characters of Ponyboy and Dallas ‘Dally’ Winston, a hardened and damaged Greaser, are vital to this message and they also play key roles in portraying the book’s fundamental theme that even the most hardened people need to retain some innocence and to have hope in their lives.
From the very beginning of the novel, Hinton discourages readers from stereotyping characters in The Outsiders. She does this by defining the characters according to their individual traits, not by the group society has deemed they belong to. Although Hinton introduces Ponyboy as a member of the Greaser gang, with his long, oiled hair and outfit of jeans and t-shirt, she challenges readers not to stereotype him as a Greaser by making it known that he is sensitive, loves books, movies and drawing, and gets good grades at school. Hinton also makes it clear through Ponyboy’s discussions with Soc Cherry Valance, that the rich and privileged should not be stereotyped either, for they too can suffer problems. Ponyboy ultimately realises that Greasers and Socs are not that different after all and this is particularly evident when he ponders:
“It seemed funny to me that the sunset she (Cherry) saw from her patio and the one I saw from the back steps was the same one. Maybe the two different worlds we lived in weren’t so different. We saw the same sunset” (p. 50).
In addition, through the character of Dally, Hinton communicates to readers...
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