The Outsiders is a youth novel by S. E. Hinton published in 1967. Ponyboy Curtis and his gang of greasers regularly fight with another gang, the upper-class Socs. Ponyboy learns valuable lessons about family, unity, friendship, goodness, and is affiliated to a group when a Greaser kills a Soc.
The Outsiders is one of the books that made people believe and start reading juvenile fiction, or what the publishing industry refers to as young adult fiction. People learned that juvenile fiction could go beyond dating and courtesy topics and move to address real issues with depth and nuance. Hinton’s work has proved to people that teenagers can write about significant issues, such as gender, sexuality, and violence.
‘Spoiler free’ Summary
Walking home after seeing a Paul Newman movie, the narrator Ponyboy Curtis is jumped by members of a rival gang, the Socs, but his gang members arrive in time to scare them off. Dally Winston invites them to see a movie the next night, and Ponyboy and Johnny agree to go. At the movies, they make friends with two Soc girls, Cherry Valance and Marcia. Cherry and Ponyboy head to the concession stand. When they get there, Ponyboy talks about Johnny’s experience of being beaten by Socs, which explains Johnny’s decision to carry a knife.
Two-Bit Mathews, a member of the greasers, shows up at the movies and offers to drive the Soc girls home. Cherry and Ponyboy talk about why Socs and greasers are different and discover they have some things in common. Ponyboy tells Cherry that his oldest brother, Darry, doesn’t like him. Darry took over the responsibility for him after the death of their parents in a car accident.
The boyfriends of the Soc girls and other Socs arrive in a blue Mustang. Cherry and Marcia rode home with the Socs boys to prevent a fight. Ponyboy and Johnny stay out and sleep in a vacant lot which makes Ponyboy get home late. His brother, Darry, slaps him for coming home late, which made Ponyboy run away with Johnny.
The Outsiders Plot Summary
Spoiler alert: important details of the novel are revealed below.
The book starts when Ponyboy Curtis, a greaser, (the gang of poor East Side kids in Tulsa), leaves a movie theatre after watching a Paul Newman movie and begins to walk home alone. A car trails him, and he suspects that it is filled with many Socs, their rival gang in that city. Socs are members of an affluent West Side gang who recently beat up Johnny and constantly fight them. The car stops, and as he suspected, it was filled with their rival gang members. They came out and started beating him up, trying to cut off his hair.
Ponyboy cries out for help, and his cries alert his brothers and fellow greasers, and the Socs flee. Later, Ponyboy’s guardian, his older brother Darry, scolds him for walking alone.
Johnny and Ponyboy go to the drive-in the next night with fellow greaser Dally who had invited them for a movie night. Ponyboy becomes friends with one of the Soc girls named Cherry Valance even though Dally was annoying the girls. Cherry says not all Socs are bad when Ponyboy tells her about the Socs’ attack on Johnny. Cherry discusses some of the Socs problems with him, and they discover that they share a shared love of watching sunsets.
They all walk out of the drive-in together and are confronted by some Socs. One of the Socs is Bob, Cherry’s boyfriend, and they almost start fighting, but Cherry stops the confrontation by going home with Bob. Instead of going home immediately, Ponyboy talks with Johnny in the vacant lot and falls asleep. He returns home late, and his brother Darry was so pissed that he hit him. Ponyboy didn’t like that and runs from the house and goes with his friend Johnny to the park. It was there that they ran into Bob and his Soc friends. The Socs attack them, dunking Ponyboy’s head into the fountain. Johnny stabs Bob, killing him in the process. Dally helps them escape town.
The boys hide in an abandoned church near their countryside. When they got there, they shaved their hair to disguise themselves. They spent five days talking, smoking cigarettes, and reading from Gone with the Wind while Dally visits them regularly.
One day, on the way back from a restaurant, they find the church in flames. The boys run inside to save a group of schoolchildren who have gone there for a picnic. The three of them could protect the children but got injured in the process and were rushed to the hospital. It was there that Ponyboy recognizes for the first time how much Darry truly cares for him at the hospital. He also learns that Dally will recover, but Johnny was in a critical condition.
The next night was scheduled for a big fight between the greasers and the Socs. Ponyboy was able to talk to Bob’s best friend, Randy, who says that he has decided not to fight because, after Bob’s death, he has realized it won’t accomplish anything. Though Ponyboy is sick and skeptical about the purpose of fighting, he participates in the fight, and the greasers win.
After that, Dally and Ponyboy went to the hospital to visit Johnny, where they heard his last words: “Stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold.” With a heavy heart over Johnny’s death, Dally flees the hospital, robs a grocery store, threatens the police with his unloaded gun, and is killed. Ponyboy got worse after joining the fight with his injuries from the fire. This made him unconscious and delirious for several days.
After his recovery, all the gang members from both sides attend a court hearing where All witnesses absolve johnny as having acted in self-defense. However, Ponyboy is depressed by all that has happened, and his grades begin to suffer, plus he almost slips into violence. His English teacher tries to help him by asking him to write a final essay on any topic of his choice in order for him to pass his exam. Ponyboy couldn’t find a topic for his English paper, which leads to a fight between him and Darry about his lack of motivation. Sodapop becomes angry and pleads with the brothers to stop fighting because it is tearing him apart, and they agree not to fight anymore.
Later that night, Ponyboy examines a copy of Gone with the Wind that Johnny left him. A note drops from the book where Johnny has written to Ponyboy, spurring him to keep his idealism and never give up hope for a better life. Ponyboy decides to write his essay about all the happenings in his life in the last few weeks. With this book, he hopes to bring the world’s attention to the plight of boys like himself and honor the memory of those who died. And he wrote the first sentence of the essay, which is also the novel’s first sentence.
What does Ponyboy realize about his brother Darry when he comes back home?
Ponyboy realizes that his brother Darry loves and cares for him. He saw him cry at the hospital and he was shocked. He now realized that his brother was strong enough to shape his life in the right way, not out of hatred.
What is the one rule besides sticking together in ‘The Outsiders‘?
The one rule of the greasers, besides sticking together, is not to get caught. Among the greasers, those living in the west side of town, where it is considered poor environs and so lower-class people, have a rule of always being there for each other -stick together as their number one rule.
Why did Ponyboy assume responsibility for Bob’s death?
Ponyboy went into depression after just witnessing the deaths of his two close friends – Johnny and Dally. He has had a hard time accepting reality, starting he is suffering from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and attempts to repress his memories. This made him assume responsibility for Bob Sheldon’s death.
What does Ponyboy do after Darry hits him?
Darry the elder brother Ponyboy was very angry with him when ponyboy came home around 2 am. They argue and Darry slaps him for staying out so late. This action angered the ponyboy that he leaves their house in a fury and goes to meet his friend Johnny in the lot where greasers hang out.
Why was Dally upset when Johnny told him to leave Cherry alone?
Dally is a member of the greasers who was tough and someone that Johnny admires a lot. When Johnny and ponyboy went to the movies and befriended the Socs girls, dally came there and started disturbing the girls. He put his legs on Chery’s chair and tried telling her things but she wasn’t interested. Johnny told him to stop disturbing her and this upset him. As ponyboy remarked. “You just didn’t tell Dally Winston what to do.”