The Outsiders Book Review: Defining Society and the stark Divide. In his book, S E Hinton, narrates a story that still resonates 54 years later.
By Medha Setia | Opening Doorz Editorial | May 16, 2021
Book Review: The Outsiders
Author: S E Hinton
The Outsiders written by S E Hinton is a coming-of-age story of a tough, yet sympathetic boy, Ponyboy Curtis who struggles to understand the problems in society. He lives with his two elder brothers, Sodapop a 16-year-old school drop-out, who works as a mechanic to earn a living, and Darrel also known as Darry, a 20-year-old, who is an ox of a man. After their parents die in an auto wreck, Darry works hard to be a good guardian and prevent Sodapop and Ponyboy from ending in Foster Homes.
This book questions society about why have we divided ourselves into inferior and superior? Why discriminate against financial status? In this book, the children who live on the East Side and come from a poor background have classed themselves into ‘Greasers’ whereas the rich kids living on the West Side have classed themselves as the ‘Socs’, a short form for socials.
The Socs usually jump at the greasers as they think they are from the lower strata of society. Both groups have created a wall between them, accepted the injustice, and fight against each other as if it is the natural cycle of life. The only ones to question it are Ponyboy and Johnny, who wishes to live in a place where there are Greasers or Socs, just plain ordinary people.
The divide between the rich and poor
Hinton, through his book, shows us that though each of us is born different, we all face the same ups and downs in life. Dallas Winston a member of the Greasers also known as Dally is the real character in the gang according to Ponyboy, through whose eyes, the story unfolds. Dally had lived for three years in the wild side of New York and was arrested at the age of 10. Since then he has stopped seeing the good in people. Dally had lived for three years in the wild side of New York and was arrested at the age of ten. Since then has stopped seeing the good in people. Johnny Cade a 16-year-old who is practically the pet of the gang, on the other hand, cherishes every moment in life. Till his last breath, he never stops seeing the silver lining in the dark clouds.
Both characters are poles apart. The neglectful parents, however, string them together. Dally’s parents did not care for him, they were not concerned whether he was in jail or was dead. Similarly, Johnny too did not have a rosy life, his father would always thrash him for trivial things and his mother would yell at him for no reason. Even though they both did not have a loving family, they had the gang that had their backs whatever the circumstances.
Dallas and Johnny are not real brothers yet they deeply care for each other. After Johnny passes away as a result of burns and a spinal injury sustained while rescuing children from a burning Church, he asks Ponyboy through his last letter to help Dally learn to appreciate some innocence and good left in the world. When Ponyboy eventually reads his last letter, it is too late. Dally cannot accept Johnny’s death, so he robs a store and points a gun at the cops that was not even loaded. The cops open fire. Dally deliberately commits suicide as he had let the good inside of him fade.
Nothing gold can stay
Hinton tells the readers through the poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay” written by Robert Frost, that nothing is permanent in life. This poem beautifully relates to the lives of the story’s characters. Johnny’s life was full of innocence and vibrancy until the night he is jumped at by the Socs and beaten up badly. That incident changes him; he sheds his coat of innocence.
This book emphasizes the bond created amongst the characters owing to circumstantial similarities in their lives. The Greasers mess around with each other but never leave each other’s side when in need. They trust each other so much that Ponyboy’s brothers leave the front door of the house always unlocked so that their friends can stay over whenever they get into trouble.
Even though 54 years have passed since the book was first published (1967), S E Hinton‘s story is still relevant in recent times and one can relate to the characters portrayed in it. This book is highly recommended for young adults so that they can understand the intricacies of life.