by S.E. Hinton
Analysis: Narrator Point of View
Who is the narrator, can she or he read minds, and, more importantly, can we trust her or him?
First Person (Central Narrator)
The Outsiders is told by fourteen-year-old Ponyboy Curtis. So, everything we learn in the story comes from his point of view, through his eyes. As a narrator, Ponyboy strikes us a pretty honest and observant. He doesn't hesitate to show us his own flaws, and he tries to truthfully describe the social environment in which he exists – violence, booze, crime, and all. Plus, he presents a balanced picture of his brothers and friends, even showing us how his feelings for them change over time as he becomes more mature.
But, there are still a few issues. For example, what are we to make of this statement from Ponyboy, "I lie to myself all the time. But I never believe me" (1.101)? Pony seems to be saying that although he pretends to not know the truth about some things, he really does know it. Hmm. This makes sense more sense when we consider Pony's recent loss of his parents. Of course he knows they're gone, but it brings him some cold comfort to pretend they are alive from time to time.
Similarly, after Johnny and Dallas die, Pony pretends, to himself and to others, that he's the killer of Bob and that Johnny isn't dead. Pony seems to do this as a defense against the hard truth of all that just happened. He constructs a fiction in his mind to buffer himself from shocks until he's ready to face them. Have you ever done anything like this? What do you think of Pony doing it? Is this a helpful strategy for dealing with grief and trauma, or not? Did you feel misled by Pony when he reveals that he hasn't actually been delusional all this time? Why or why not?