Much of the action in The Outsiders is driven by class conflict. Fourteen-year-old narrator Ponyboy's gang, the Greasers, hail from the economically struggling East Side, while the rival gang, the Socials, come from the wealthy West Side. And, boy, these two groups are locked in a battle with no winners.
As author S.E. Hinton tells us that the "Soc vs. Greaser conflict" was inspired by similar rivalries in her own high school (source). The Outsiders is concerned with internal conflict and with its characters' inner lives, but most of the action and conflict is framed by interactions within and between groups.
Questions About Society and Class
From Pony's perspective, what advantages do the wealthier Socials have that he doesn't? Why are these important?
At the rumble, Ponyboy thinks that Darry would be a Social if he didn't have Pony, Soda, and the gang holding him back. What do you think Pony means by this? Is it a compliment, or an insult?
Have you experienced, seen, or heard about gang conflicts like the ones depicted in The Outsiders? Does the novel contribute to your understanding of these situations? Why or why not?
What's the difference between a gang and a social club?
What might motivate Bob and his friends to beat up kids who have less money? What would the story be like if it was told by Bob's point of view, or by one of Bob's friends?
Chew on This
The Outsiders makes an argument for a society in which wealth is more evenly distributed among society's members.
The Outsiders argues that violence and criminal activity aren't isolated to people in the lower economic classes, but that people in the lower economic classes are punished more often and more severely for any crimes they commit.