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Themes

The Outsiders is a very violent book. Gang violence, child abuse, stabbings, shootings – these drive the action. The novel explores the impact of living in a place where a teenager can't even walk home by himself and where fear is the predominant emotion, as is the case for recently orphaned Ponyboy Curtis and his friends. While Ponyboy hates the violence and bullying in his neighborhood, he recognizes the positive benefits of friendly sparring between boys, and even "rumbles," so long as weapons aren't used and everybody plays fair. Such activities, he claims, help guys release their endless supplies of energy and pent-up aggression.

Questions About Violence

  1. Randy suggests that Bob is violent because his parents never told him "no" or gave him any boundaries. Do you agree or disagree? Why?
  2. How does it make you feel when Darry slaps Ponyboy? Would you consider him abusive? Johnny gets hit at home – does that make Darry like Johnny's parents?
  3. What are some of the reasons Dallas is violent, according to Ponyboy?
  4. Will the Socials still terrorize Greasers after the story ends? Why or why not?
  5. Did Bob deserve to die for the bad things he did?
  6. Was it right or wrong for Johnny to kill Bob, considering the circumstances? Why or why not?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

According to The Outsiders, fair fights (ones without weapons) aren't really violent; they're healthy avenues for the boys' physical energy, and an opportunity to showcase their physical talents.

Even though Darry slaps Ponyboy, he's not an abusive "parent."

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