Study Guide

The Outsiders

By S.E. Hinton

The Outsiders Introduction


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A lot of things were different in the 1960's. Beehive hairdos were trendy. Cigarettes were acceptable accessories. Essays were typed on typewriters. Flying was way more expensive... but also way more luxurious. Music was—according to your grandpa, at least—way better.

But some things haven't changed at all. As The Outsiders shows us, the world has always been split along class lines. There have always been straight-laced girls interested in daring bad boys. Buddies have always looked out for each other.

And being fourteen has always been the pits.

The Outsiders is narrated by a fourteen-year-old 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. These gangs go at it like the Capulets and Montagues, 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 too shabby.

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.

What is The Outsiders About and 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—or out of.

In a way, we can see why cliques exist. After all, there's safety in numbers, and people naturally gravitate toward others who may have similar interests: this is why all drama kids congregate together, the entire rugby team inexplicably has the same haircut, and the phrase "one time at band camp" is still being thrown around... even though it's from a movie that came out in 1999.

And this phenomenon doesn't go away, even in adulthood. Corporate lawyers hang out together. Artists form cooperatives. Expats sit in cafes and pretend to be Hemingway. Yup: cliques are for life.

But, because by definition cliques have to exclude most people to include a few, they can also cause a lot of hard feelings, loneliness, and tension.

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. We're all outsiders.

The Outsiders Resources

Websites

S.E. Hinton's Website
Hinton's website is full of info on The Outsiders and Hinton's other books. Definitely check out the FAQ section!

Spotlight on S.E. Hinton
This is Random House's S.E. Hinton page, and it features a bio, Q & A, and a booklist.

Nathan Bransford, Literary Agent
Hinton recommends Bransford's blog as a great resource for young writers who are trying to break into publication. The blog also features an interview with Hinton.

Movie or TV Productions

The 1983 Film
This classic film massively increased the popularity of The Outsiders. It stars C. Thomas Howell, Matt Dillon, Patrick Swayze, Ralph Macchio, Rob Low, and Tom Cruise.

The Outsiders TV Show
The show only lasted one season, and featured Billy Bob Thornton as Buck Merrill, Dallas's friend, and David Arquette as Two-Bit. Francis Ford Coppola served as executive producer. The show picks up where the novel leaves off.

Documents

"An Outsider, Out of the Shadows"
This New York Times article features lots of fun information, along with quotes from Hinton.

"Staying Golden"
New York Press discusses Hinton's move to writing for adults.

"The Outsiders: Forty Years Later"
This 2007 essay discusses the novel's 40th anniversary, and why we still love it after all those years.

Review – The Outsiders TV Show
Here's an NY Times review of the TV show, which picks up where the book left off.

Videos

Hinton at the LA Times Festival of Books
Watch and listen as she discusses getting a little too caught up in the writing process.

"Stay Gold"
This is a lyric video for Stevie Wonder's song, part of the movie soundtrack.

Audios

Audio Interview with S.E. Hinton
A 1987 interview with the author.

The Outsiders Audiobook
Purchase and download the Audiobook from Random House Audio

Images

Young Hinton
This is Hinton in 1968, a year after the publication of The Outsiders.

The Outsiders Movie Cast
Check out those stars!

Hinton in Tulsa
Hinton is inside the pay booth at the Admiral Twin Drive-In, her model for the Nightly Double, the drive-in in the novel.