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Society and Class
No rival gangs, only Socs. And you can't win against them no matter how hard you try, because they've got all the breaks and even whipping them isn't going to change that fact. (1.47)
At this point in the narrative, Ponyboy seems to believe that socioeconomic status is the deciding factor in every situation.
I'm not sure how you spell it, but [Socs] is the abbreviation for Socials, the West-side rich kids. It's like the term greaser that's used to class all us boys on the East Side. (1.4)
Money seems to be the main thing that divides the Greaser from the Socials, at least from Ponyboy's perspective. He sees his society, and maybe the world, as divided by those who have and those who don't. Do you agree with him?
We're poorer than the Socs and the middle class. (1.5)
Basically Pony is saying that he and the Greasers are the lowest income group in the city.
"Good behavior. Got off early." (1.54)
These are the words of Dallas Winston, of course. When the novel begins, he's just gotten out of jail. Dallas, like many of the characters in the novel, belongs to a criminal class. We see criminal behavior in both Greasers and Socials.
When you're thirteen in our neighborhood you know the score. I kept saving for a year, thinking that someday I could buy Mickey Mouse back for Soda. You're not so smart at ten. (3.14)
Mickey Mouse (the horse) becomes, for Pony, a symbol of his family's economic class. He doesn't understand why some boys can own horses and others can't. Plus, Mickey Mouse and Soda loved each other. Shouldn't love be enough?
"Well I won't. But I gotta do something. It seems like there's gotta be someplace without greasers or Socs, with just people. Plain, ordinary people." (3.83)
Johnny takes back his threat to commit suicide, but still showing the depths of his desperation. Like Pony, the constant threat of violence from the Socials is coloring his entire world. He dreams of a place where people get past such divisions. In a way, he found that place in the church on Jay Mountain.
"It ain't fair!" I cried passionately. "It ain't fair that we have all the rough breaks!" (3.43)
Ponyboy's actual situation isn't that awful, all things considered. He grew up in a loving family and has always had a warm bed. But the Socials are getting away with terrorizing him and the Greasers because they have money for lawyers, etc. This culture of fear intensifies all the economic issues that Pony's family and all of his friends face.
"Maybe the two different worlds we live in weren't so different. We saw the same sunset." (3.18)
Cherry Valance gets Pony thinking about nature – something he already loves – as a connecting factor that doesn't care about class or wealth.
I would, I would help her and Randy both if I could. "Hey," I said suddenly, "can you see the sunset real good from the West Side?" (8.101)
Pony realizes something important about himself – the desire to help others is another thing that cuts across social and class divisions.
"Do you think that your spying for us makes up for the fact that you're sitting there in a Corvette while my brother drops out of high school to get a job? Don't you ever try to give us handouts and then feel high and might about it." (8.98)
Pony is really bitter here, and still convinced that everything's about money. But, he has a point and maybe a message for his readers – there's a real problem here and he wants real help, not little gestures and pity. But are Cherry's gestures too small? Does she make a difference for him?
"Greaser… greaser… greaser… […] Oh victim of environment, underprivileged, rotten no-count hood." (9.40)
Steve Randle is mimicking some of the common ways boys like them are described in their society. We find "victim of environment" and "underprivileged" particularly intriguing. What do they mean to you? Are they fair? Helpful? Prejudicial?
It was too vast a problem to be just a personal thing. There should be some help, someone should tell them before it was too late. (12.65)
Pony wants to represent and reach out to other boys in his class – in this case, the class of boys who struggle against their economic situations, who are involved in violence and feel spurned by the rest of society.
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