The Outsiders

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 10th grade September 2001

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Opposite Worlds" a book review of The Outsiders I recently finished reading The Outsiders, a novel written by S.E. Hinton. The Outsiders was Hinton's first novel, which she wrote when she was only sixteen. Her other books include That Was Then, This is Now, Rumble Fish, Tex and Taming the Star Runner. She received the American Library Association's first annual Margaret A. Edwards Award, honoring authors whose novels have influenced young adults and have helped them "grow and to understand themselves and their role in society." S.E. Hinton now lives with her family in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Outsiders was an interesting novel to read because it dealt with the everyday life of three young brothers trying to carry on after their parents' death. The main conflicts of the plot were based upon rivalries between the Greasers, a gang from the poorer section of town, and the Socs, a gang of rich teenagers from the more affluent neighborhood.

I found this book to be very exciting, and more realistic than other fiction novels I have read. The story begins with Ponyboy, a tough, yet sensitive, fourteen-year-old trying to continue with his life after his parents' untimely death with the support of his two brothers, Darry and Soda, and his gang of Greasers from the wrong side of town. Life is hard for Darry, Soda and Ponyboy. Although Darry and Soda are only a few years older than Ponyboy, Darry is forced to get a job and provide for the two other boys, even though he could have had more potential if he had been able to attend college. The long-haired, rough Greaser gang the boys belong to are constantly armed and ready to rumble with any member of the Socs for the sake of their fellow Greasers. Ponyboy is proud to be a Greaser and loyal to his gang, until his best friend Johnny ends up murdering a Soc in self-defense. The two boys must leave town to avoid being caught by the police and end up hiding out in an old abandoned church in a nearby neighborhood. One day after going out to buy groceries, the two fugitives return to the church ablaze. Ponyboy and Johnny are quick to go back into the burning building to retrieve some school children who had wandered inside. Both boys are named as heroes for saving the children and Ponyboy escapes the fire with few injuries, but Johnny is hurt badly and could possibly be paralyzed for the rest of his life, if he survives at all. Meanwhile, a huge battle between the Socs and the Greasers is set to take place in an abandoned parking lot near Ponyboy's house. Although he wants to join in the rumble against the Socs to support his gang, the murder has given Ponyboy second thoughts about whether fighting will help solve anything between the two groups. He continues in the rumble as planned, thinking it might bring Johnny new hope and strength if he hears of the Greasers' victory against the Socs, but Johnny dies that same day. The death of his best friend causes Johnny's divided world to crumble beneath him and teaches him that pain feels the same to a Soc as it does to a Greaser. I fully enjoyed The Outsiders, which has quickly become one of the best books I have ever read. Although the ending was sad and somewhat emotional, I found the plot to be fast-paced and the characters to be quirky, yet believable. The descriptions of the gangs and its members were very realistic, even though the book was published over thirty years ago. I was also amazed that S.E. Hinton could have had such an excellent talent for writing at age sixteen. This book will remain a classic and one of my favorite novels for a long time.