by S.E. Hinton
The Outsiders Theme of Choices
In the The Outsiders many factors limit the choices of Ponyboy and his friends, including lack of money and fear of violence. For example, Ponyboy wants to spend more time alone, in quiet contemplation and artistic musings. But that's not exactly an option – he has to stay with his gang for protection. Also, even though Darrel did great in school and sports, and even earned a scholarship, college was outside of his financial range. However, over the course of the novel, Ponyboy starts feeling less trapped as he learns more about the choices that he does have – including choices of violence vs. nonviolence – and begins exercising them.
Questions About Choices
- Why does Pony boy walk home alone, even though he knows it's not safe? Is he just making a stupid decision? Is he trying to assert his right to walk home alone? Does he secretly want to get into a fight? Have you ever done something, even though you knew it wasn't safe?
- Does Johnny make the right decision when he fatally stabs Bob? If he hadn't stabbed Bob, do you think Ponyboy would have died? Did Johnny have any other options besides violence?
- Why does Darry choose to raise his brothers, rather than pursue his own dream of going to college?
- Do you agree with Ponyboy that Dallas committed suicide? Why or why not? If so, why do you think he made that choice?
- Randy tells Pony that he wouldn't have gone into the burning church to save the children. Do you believe him? Why doesn't Dallas? Would most people risk their lives to save people in a burning building?
- What's the worst decision Pony makes in the book? Not to get all personal, but what's the worst decision you ever made, and why do you consider it to be the worst? What, if anything , did the experience teach you?
Chew on This
Although Pony doesn't mention it, his choices on the night of Johnny's death make the tragedy possible, but this still doesn't mean it's his fault.
Darrel's choice to raise his brothers after their parents' death is out of love, not obligation.