Study Guide

Ponyboy Curtis in The Outsiders

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Ponyboy Curtis

Ponyboy: The Writer

Ponyboy not only has just about the best name we've ever heard of (we dare you to start calling yourself Kittenlad or Rottweilergal), but also has a real flair for the written word.

Ponyboy is fourteen, is our narrator, and has a ton to say about himself and his world. Writing his story becomes a way for Pony to deal with the generous portions of grief that keep coming his way. When we meet Pony, both of his parents have already died in a car accident and he's being raised by his brothers.

We understand Ponyboy's moodiness, forgetfulness, and confusion intimately (being fourteen sucks), but, given his biography, these character traits are even more understandable... even if we can't all relate to his trials and tribulations.

And these attitudes and behaviors only increase after Johnny and Dallas die. Ponyboy barely knows where he is or what he's doing:

I wasn't scared. It was the oddest feeling in the world. I didn't feel anything – scared, mad, or anything. Just zero. (12.13)

The world is a hostile place he can't cope with. He's slipping away, and he's doing things that aren't in his best interest, almost against his will.

That's part of why the ending of this novel is so awesome: Pony finds a way to live in the world again through writing, self expression, and reaching out to his teachers and peers:

Suddenly it wasn't only a personal thing to me. I could picture hundreds and hundreds of boys living on the wrong sides of cities. […] Hundreds of boys who maybe watched sunsets and looked at stars and ached for something better. (12.65)

Super-Talented Pony

In case you didn't notice, Ponyboy is good at just about everything. We'd hate him... if we didn't love him so much:

I'm supposed to be smart; I make good grades and have a high IQ and everything, but I don't use my head. Besides, I like walking. (1.6)

He gets straight A's, excels at both sports and art, and is an ace writer. He can even turn a mean back flip in the air and can hold his own in a rumble. Pony's interested in everything from books and movies to the intricacies of nature. In the right situation, he can even recite you a poem from memory.

Pony's interests isolate him from his friends and family. Check out the number of times he tells us he's "different" and misunderstood? He also implies that Greasers are unfairly judged by teachers and other authority figures because of their financial status and their distinctive way of styling their hair, dressing, speaking, and acting. Pony is basically always trying to prove himself, but still maintain his uniqueness and express pride in who he is.

Luckily, Mr. Syme, Pony's English teacher, understands what Pony's going through... and encourages Pony to write about his life. When Pony asks what his writing assignment is, Mr. Syme says,

"Anything you think is important enough to write about. And this isn't a reference theme [research paper]; I want your own ideas and your own experiences" (12.10).

Mr. Syme is the English teacher we all wish we had at age fourteen—instead of a drone (*cough* Ms. O'Keefe *cough cough*) who monologued on about how Romeo and Juliet was proof positive that we shouldn't date until we were at least twenty-one.

So, by the end of the book, Pony's interests are not longer isolating. Part of Pony's coming-of-age happens because he sees that his talents and interest can actually connect him with people everywhere:

And I decided I could tell people, beginning with my English teacher. (12.71)

When he meets Cherry and feels connected with the Socials for the first time (through the sunset), he runs with the idea and begins applying it to his daily living and later to his writing.

Judge Pony

Ponyboy isn't perfect, though. After all, admire Pony not because he's an angel, but because he's a human who makes mistakes but also tries to do the right thing.

So, what seems to be Pony's biggest flaw? We can't say vanity. He's really, really into his hair, but he does give it up when he has to. We can't say he's selfish, because he's willing to do anything for the people he cares about. And falling asleep all the time isn't really a flaw, especially if you're as active as Ponyboy.

So, we'll say that his biggest flaw might be that he can be a bit judgmental. At the beginning of the novel, he doesn't really like anybody except Johnny, Soda, and Two-Bit. It takes him a long time to understand that Darry actually loves him. And while he is loyal to the rest of the gang, he often doesn't approve of their behavior... or approve of the girls that they date:

They were the only kind of girls that would look at us, I thought. Tough, loud girls who wore too much eye makeup and giggled and swore too much. (1.76)

Hmm. Do you detect a teensy bit of a double standard at play here?

But in some ways, this tendency to judfe speaks well of Pony. He's defining his ideas about right and wrong. He's learning to judge character, and is using judgment to just help make sense of the world. But, he also makes lots of hasty generalizations—some of which are resolved at the end of the book. For example, he realized that all Socials are not the same, and that they're all people. He learns to separate group identity from personal identity.

What do you think Pony's greatest weakness is? Do you think he's too judgmental? Is he a believable, well-rounded character?

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