How The Outsiders Relates to a Modern Audience

Priscilla Senger, staff writer

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S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders is a coming-of-age novel set in 1965. It tells the story of a 14-year old boy named Ponyboy Curtis who struggles with his place in society as a “greaser” while fighting the rival gang, the wealthy “socs’. When Ponyboy and his friend Johnny get caught up in the feud and end up committing a crime, they have to run away and rely on each other to survive while they struggle with discovering what is considered right and wrong in society.

This novel touches on the themes of the importance of friendship and family, as Ponyboy’s brother, Darry, has to mature at a young age to take care of his brothers after being orphaned, and as Dally, a tough looking greaser, feels responsible for Johnny almost as if they were brothers. All the greasers come from broken homes, yet they are all still loyal to each other and form an almost makeshift family as they struggle with moral dilemmas.

Social class divide is addressed as the greasers and socs fight each other without knowing why. People judge the greasers just because of their long slicked back hair and worn-out clothes when at the end of the day they are all just teenagers trying to survive and not all that different from each other.  Ponyboy realizes as he looks past stereotypes that “maybe the two worlds we lived in weren’t so different. We saw the same sunset”  (Hinton 82).

While some may think that the setting may make the story harder to relate to a modern audience, in reality the authenticity of these characters makes this story timeless, and everyone can learn something from it. The reader sees these characters grow and mature as they learn from each other and the world around them; all characters are fighting personal battles. Ponyboy starts out the youngest and most innocent member of the greasers, and throughout the novel he grows into more of an adult as he deals with his life being turned upside down and facing the consequences of being categorized as a greaser.

This story was written when S.E. Hinton was a teenager, because she felt that she needed a book that accurately reflects how being a teenager actually feels like without watering down the story for a younger audience. She succeeded in this goal and created a story in which the characters feel real and the emotions have a great impact on the audience, the reader can connect to the characters who are forced to live in an unjust world, and she tells a deep story that leaves a significant message. The fact that this book is still highly regarded by many today shows how ahead of the time this book was, as teenagers today can still relate to being an outsider.