The Outsiders Introduction
In A Nutshell
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Back in the 1960s, kids still went to school like they do now. They had relationships, friendships, enemies, homework, fun, and even danger.
Yeah, yeah, we know—Shmoop found that pretty hard to believe, too. But it's true.
The Outsiders is narrated by a young man called Ponyboy Curtis (weird name, but a cool kid). Ponyboy is pretty smart and has a lot of opportunity in front of him, but he comes from the "wrong side of town" and hangs out with a bunch of similarly weirdly-named friends who drop out, smoke cigarettes, and get busted for robbing stores and stealing cars.
The biggest ordeal in Ponyboy's life is the war waging between his friends and family (called greasers), and the "Socs," or wealthy kids who live on the other side of town. Such diverse people obviously not going to get along, and Ponyboy's world spirals quickly out of control.
Violence? Anger? The Outsiders has got it.
S.E. Hinton wrote The Outsiders in 1965, and it was published in 1967. Did we mention Hinton was born in 1948? For all you non-mathletes out there, that means she was in high school when she wrote it. Not bad.
Also not bad? The movie version. Can't go wrong with Rob Lowe, Patrick Swayze, Tom Cruise, Emilio Estevez, Diane Lane, Matt Dillon, and The Karate Kid. Yeah, it's fun.
Way more fun than the 1960s gang drama activity that Ponyboy is into, at least.
Why Should I Care?
One quick look around your school cafeteria will confirm it: people are cliquey creatures. They move in small packs, kind of like meerkats, only taller and generally less hairy. Once formed, these cliques can be very hard to break into.
In a way, we can see why cliques exist. After all, there's safety in numbers, and folks naturally gravitate toward people who may have similar interests or experiences. But, because by definition they have to exclude most folks to include a few, cliques can also cause a lot of hard feelings, loneliness, and tension. We, naturally, were beloved by everyone, being so charming and witty and all… but you get the point.
The Outsiders deals with this same phenomenon. Sure, we get two rival gangs, but they're grouped as the rich kids (the Socials) and the poor kids (the Greasers). Since we get the perspective of Sodapop, Ponyboy, and the Greasers, we really get a feel for what it's like to be—that's right—an outsider.
More than likely, though, that's not exactly news to you. Everyone, at some point in their life, has been on the outside looking in. It's one of the sad facts of life. But that also means, despite all these cliques, we're all in the same gang.