The Outsiders

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The Outsiders
Written by: S. E. Hinton
Central Theme:
Genre(s): Coming of Age Story
First published: April 24, 1967
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A Coming of Age Story from The Sixties told by the youngest member of a Troubled but Cute greaser group of True Companions. Written by S. E. Hinton, then a sixteen-year-old girl.

Ponyboy (yes, that's his real name) lives with his brothers Darrel and Sodapop (yes, it "even says so on his birth certificate"). Darrel (but everyone calls him Darry) is the leader of a gang of boys, all in various degrees of poverty and Parental Abandonment: Steve, Sodapop's best friend; the nonstop joker Two-Bit (for once, not his real name); Dallas, who served his first jail sentence when he was ten years old; and Johnny, a quiet, sweet kid from an abusive home whom everybody protects like a puppy.

The greasers' rival gang is the Socs (short for "Socials," pronounced "Soashes"), rich "white trash with Mustangs and madras." Getting jumped and defending himself is a fact of life for Ponyboy, one made evident in the first pages of the book. The trouble really starts, however, when Johnny and Ponyboy pick up two girls from the Socs' side of the tracks (Cherry and Marcia) at the movies. Cherry's boyfriend, Bob, and his friends come after them later in a nearby park, and Bob nearly drowns Ponyboy. Johnny comes to his rescue with a blade, and Ponyboy survives... but Bob doesn't. Realizing there's no way greasers like themselves are going to get away with killing a Soc, even in self-defense, the boys run to their friend with the most experience in crime, Dallas. Dallas gives them some money and directions on where to run and hide (an abandoned church in Windrixville) until things die down.

We won't give away the rest, but it involves more deaths, a fire, the ultimate gang rumble to end all rumbles, the pain and sorrow of love and friendship, a complete emotional and mental breakdown for Ponyboy, and a poem by Robert Frost.

Unexpectedly, given the genre, very light on the angst. The Outsiders have it rough, but nobody's Emo about it.

Was followed by several sequels, of which Rumble Fish is the best known, and, of course, a rather faithful film adaptation by Francis Ford Coppola (with some awesome music) in which S. E. Hinton herself was directly involved.

Not to be confused with The Outsiders, a superhero team in The DCU, or the tag team of Kevin Nash and Scott Hall. Also not to be confused with The Stranger, whose title is often translated as The Outsider. Very different from H.P. Lovecraft's short story "The Outsider".

Tropes used in The Outsiders include:
  • Abusive Parents: Johnny.
    • As well as Steve's father.
    • Also the Soc who beat up Johnny before the story began. Bob's parents were very indulgent and never disciplined their son.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Cherry has stated that she better not see Dallas Winston again or else she might fall in love with him.
    • Not to mention the fact that her boyfriend Bob isn't exactly a law-abiding first-rate citizen.
  • Aloof Big Brother: Ponyboy feels that his oldest brother Darry is this, being the unofficial leader of their group and always criticizing Ponyboy. But Ponyboy eventually realizes that Darry actually cares very much for him and only wants the best for him.
  • And This Is For: When Two-Bit and Ponyboy visit Dallas in the hospital, Dallas asks two bit to hand him his knife. As he holds the knife he makes a vow to get even with the Socs in the rumble for what they did to Johnny and the events that followed.

Dallas: You know we gotta win that fight tonight. We gotta get EVEN with those Socs. Let's do it for Johnny man. WE'LL DO IT FOR JOHNNY!!

  • Arc Words: "Stay gold."
  • Asshole Victim: Bob.
  • Beware the Nice Ones or Beware the Quiet Ones: Johnny may be the quietest, most law-abiding of the greasers, but push him too far and as Bob found out, you could get killed.
  • Beware the Silly Ones: Two-Bit Mathews is the practical joker of the group. He loves Mickey Mouse, is a fun drunk and gets into funny and perverted antics that earn him a slap in the face which he takes in stride. Yet if a Soc wants to fight him and threaten his friends, he's the first to pull out a knife. Johnny's mother wasn't spared his wrath either, since he tells her off when she calls him and Ponyboy scum.
  • Big Brother Instinct: The whole gang towards Johnny, since his family couldn't care less. Also Darry and Soda toward Ponyboy, though Darry shows his concern for his brother mostly by yelling at him when he does something stupid.
  • Bishonen: Sodapop.
  • Book Ends: "When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home..."
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Frustratingly averted with Johnny's parents.
    • Though it was played straight in the movie where Two-Bit angrily calls out Johnny's mother for being a lousy mother.
  • Chekhov's Gun: A literal version in Dallas's unloaded gun.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Ponyboy, to a degree.
  • Cool Car: Dally's car in the movie.
  • Despair Event Horizon: After Johnny dies in the hospital Dallas loses it and robs a nearby store, and after the cops catch up to him, Points his Unloaded gun at them.
  • Don't Split Us Up: This was the primary concern for Darry, who feared that if he was deemed an unfit guardian for his brothers, they would be taken away and put in foster care.
  • Dye or Die: Ponyboy had to cut and bleach his hair since descriptions of him were printed. He doesn't like it.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Almost all the greasers fit here. Ponyboy and his brothers lost their parents to a car accident. Steve has an abusive father. Both of Johnny's parents are abusive and don't care about him. Dally had a growing criminal record which started when he was ten and used to run with gangs in New York. So far, Two-Bit seems to be immune.
  • Famous Last Words: Johnny Cade: "Stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold."
  • Fascinating Eyebrow: Most notably Two-Bit.
  • Fiery Redhead: Cherry.
  • The Film of the Book: Almost entirely faithful to the original novel, with some great music. S. E. Hinton was actually the location scout; she even took out all of the non-dialogue parts of the novel to create the movie's script!
  • Five-Man Band: More like six, but it still applies.
    • The Leader: Darry.
    • The Lancer: Dallas and Soda.
    • The Smart Guy: Steve.
    • The Big Guy: Two-Bit.
    • The Chick: Johnny.
    • Tagalong Kid: Ponyboy.
      • Soda's The Chick--it specifically describes him as the sympathetic intermediary when there's tension between gang members.
        • Perhaps, but remember that Soda's also described as been very reckless and out-going. He is known to have been arrested and constantly flirts with girls at the DX gas station, despite already having a girlfriend (or did until she got pregnant with another man and was sent away to Florida with her grandparents). Ponyboy also specifically describes Sodapop as "no innocent".
    • The Sixth Ranger: Tim Shepard, leader of the eponymous Shepard Gang, serves as an ally to the Curtis gang every now and again.
  • A Friend in Need
  • Gang of Hats: Socs and greasers.
    • The greasers aren't so much a gang as a social class--Ponyboy says himself that they're mostly groups of friends who stick together. The same could be argued for the Socs, though some of them are said to belong to social clubs.
  • Go Out with a Smile: Dallas does this when he dies, falling to the ground.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck: The lack of cursing generally isn't that conspicuous, but in the beginning of the book, when one of the Socs mugging Ponyboy says, "For Pete's sake!", suspension of disbelief is stretched a bit.
    • Justified in that Ponyboy is writing the book as a paper for school, and probably wouldn't be too keen on dropping f-bombs in something his teacher would be grading him on.
  • Grease Monkey: Steve.
  • Hair of Gold: After Ponyboy bleaches his hair, he fits the trope pretty well.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: One troper has heard "ponyboy" used as slang for a young man with an unusually large penis and wonders whether the author knew this.
    • This troper knows the author didn't know this. A teenage girl in 1965 probably wouldn't be that crude as to name the most innocent character in the novel Bigpenis.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Cherry.
  • Heterosexual Life Partners: Soda and Steve have been best friends since childhood and remain very close.
  • Improperly Placed Firearms: In the movie Dallas have a civilian S&W Model 10, and a military Model 39 or a MK22. In 1966 it would be hard to get the latter.
  • In-Series Nickname: Johnnycake. Which only serves to make Johnny sound even sweeter.
  • Ironic Echo: When Ponyboy comes back from the drive-in late, Darrel yells at him for saying that he didn't mean to. On the exact same page, after he hits Ponyboy, who runs away, he says, "I didn't mean to!"
  • I Should Write a Book About This
  • Jerkass: Most of the Socs, minus Cherry and Randy.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Dallas and Darry.
  • Karmic Death: Bob.
  • Kill the Cutie: Johnny, always the gang's pet and the only thing Dally ever loved.
  • Large Ham: Dallas is this at times in the movie, mainly with "Let's do it for Johnny! moment, which is also kinda Narm-y.
  • Literary Agent Hypothesis
  • Lonely Rich Kid: All of the Socs.
  • Lovable Rogue: Dallas, again.
  • Middle Child Syndrome: Averted with Sodapop. But another problem springs forth with him being the middleman between Darry and Ponyboy's arguments.
  • Morality Pet: Johnny for Dallas, which Dallas can't stand and is why he kills himself when Johnny dies.
  • Moustache De Plume: S. E. Hinton, thinking no one would read a gang novel by a woman named Susan.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Pretty much everyone in the film adaptation.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Many characters have their own version of this trope.
    • When Darry hits Ponyboy in the heat of their argument. Which Ponyboy has mentioned, that despite their many arguments; this was the first time Darry has ever done that, he immediately regrets it. However Ponyboy is long gone before, Darry even has a chance to apologize.
    • When Johnny kills Bob, his immediate reaction is after rescuing Ponyboy from the fountain.
    • Randy is stuck in this trope the next time he talks to Ponyboy. Which makes sense, because he never expected the small Johnny to do what he did and it made him regret what he and Bob did to them.
  • Not So Stoic: Dally doesn't seem to care about anything or anyone, and doesn't express much emotion besides anger -- until Johnny dies.
  • Panty Shot: In The Film of the Book, Two-Bit pulls up a female Soc's skirt, revealing her white panties.
  • Papa Wolf: Darry, Sodapop, Dally, and even Johnny have shades of this, mostly towards Ponyboy.
  • Poor Communication Kills: The thing that kickstarted the events that made Ponyboy and Johnny wanted fugitives, was the result of lack of communication between the Curtis brothers. Ponyboy and Johnny spent the night out at a park, because Johnny couldn't stand hearing his parents fight. They lose track of time and Ponyboy sleeps. When he returns, Darry is understandably mad at him for being out so late. What Ponyboy should have done, was explain that he didn't want to leave Johnny alone while his parents were fighting. However it can be slightly forgiven as both brothers are so used to arguing with each other, that an explanation would eventually happen once cooled off. However this particular argument was so heated, that Darry hit Ponyboy unintentionally. Which in turn caused him to run away with Johnny and in turn caused the conflict that killed Bob and forced them on the run. which in turn lead to Johnny and Dallas' deaths.
  • Promotion to Parent: Darry.
  • Rare Guns: In the movie version, every gun the protagonists use is made by Smith & Wesson.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money: The Socs.
  • Shirtless Scene: Dallas in The Film of the Book; a nurse (played by S. E. Hinton herself) even comments he should be wearing a hospital gown, but he casually responds, "I threw it away."
    • Not to mention a gratuitous Fan Service moment of Sodapop getting out of the shower and just barely getting a Modesty Towel on.
  • The Sixties: The book was written in 1965, published in 1967, and The Film of the Book was done as a period piece set in 1966.
  • Slobs Versus Snobs
  • Spoiled Brat: Bob. Randy even states that if his parents had disciplined him once in awhile, he'd probably still be alive.
  • Spoiled Sweet: Cherry Valance. She is a cheerleader at her high school, as well as being a Soc. But she is friendly to Ponyboy and Johnny and generally likes them as individuals.
  • Suicide by Cop: Dallas.
  • There Are No Therapists: Probably all the boys would have needed one. Especially Johnny.
  • Troubled but Cute: The entire main cast.
  • True Companions
  • The Unfavourite: Ponyboy feels that older brother Darry cares only for Sodapop and that he is only another mouth to feed. However, he is proven wrong and Darry was strict on Ponyboy because he wants the best for Ponyboy and for him to succeed in life.
  • Watching the Sunset: Both Cherry and Ponyboy do.
  • Weapon for Intimidation: Dally's revolver. It's not actually loaded, and he states that he uses it to scare people and that's all. This comes back to him when he raises the unloaded gun at the police after Johnny dies to get a Suicide by Cop.
  • What Do You Mean Its Not Symbolic: Johnny Cade dying to save children in a burning building. Not symbolic? Look again at his initials.
    • In a church no less.
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: Again, Ponyboy and Sodapop are their actual names. Cherry remarks how 'original' they are.
  • Wrong Side of the Tracks
  • Your Cheating Heart: Sodapop's girlfriend was pregnant with another man's child.
  • Your Door Was Open: Justified, as at least two members of the gang frequently need a place to stay. When one character worries about the house being robbed, Darrel states that he would rather risk robbery than have one of the gang members go crazy and do something that earned them serious jail time. Besides, they have nothing to steal.