Book Report: The Outsiders by Susan Eloise Hinton

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Susan Eloise Hinton is an American writer, born on July 22, 1950, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. At the age of fifteen, she began writing her first novel, The Outsiders, which was published in 1967 by Viking Press. Hinton was only seventeen. The novel sold more than four million copies in the United States. The success of the novel allowed her to attend the University of Tulsa in 1970, where she met and married her husband. Hinton also wrote three more novels, which earned her the 1988 Margaret A. Edwards Award to honor her lifetime contribution to honoring young adults. A few of her books, such as The Outsiders and Rumble Fish, were adapted to film. She also published two children’s books, Big David, Little David and Puppy Sister, as well as the adult fiction novels, Hawks Harbor and Some of Tim’s stories. In 1988, she was inducted into the Oklahoma Writers Hall of Fame at the Oklahoma Center for Poets and Writers at the Oklahoma State University in Tulsa (S.E. Hinton Biography).

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton was written in 1964-65. Hinton wrote The Outsiders to Express her dissatisfaction with the literature being written for young adults. She had a desire to write something realistic that young adolescents were actually experiencing instead of the traditional warm and fuzzy lifestyle most novels revealed. The young journalist depicts “the survival and maturation of her adolescent male protagonists, tough yet tender lower-class boys who live in and around Tulsa and who grow by making difficult decisions.” She helps her readers achieve a realistic description of the character’s lives in her novels and has been regarded as, “A representative writer in new realist young adult literature (Biography).”

The literary period of the novel is called the Contemporary Period, which started in 1945 until present day. Literature from this time period includes stories that are reality-based and believable. The characters often find themselves in harsh environments and frustration. The irony is commonly found and may reflect personal and social issues. The Outsiders is a great example of many of these characteristics of the contemporary period (Semantic Scholar).

Ponyboy Curtis is the main character and narrator. In the novel, he tells of the experiences and conflict between the lower-class gang (the greasers) and the upper-class gang (the Socs). Ponyboy is the youngest of the three brothers. Their parents died in a car accident, and the two older brothers both dropped out of school to support the family. Ponyboy is smart and educated. He does well in school and doesn’t seem to fit into either of the two groups. Thus he is more of an outsider. He reveals his independence when he disapproves of some of the greasers’ behaviors realizing that the two groups can share similar interests. He begins to see the whole picture and stops separating the world into good and bad, black and white, greasers and Socs (S.E. Hinton Biography).

Hinton uses several literary devices in her novel. One literary device the author uses is foreshadowing. Foreshadowing is hinting to the reader about something that is about to happen. When Ponyboy narrates ‘If that old church ever caught fire there’d be no stopping it ‘(68), he is hinting around that the church is going to burn. Another literary device found in the novel is an allusion. Allusion occurs when the author vaguely mentions or alludes to, something, and the reader is left to interpret its meaning. An example of an allusion can be seen in Johnny’s last words, ‘Stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold’. The quote comes from Robert Frost’s poem ‘Nothing gold can stay.’ Johnny and Ponyboy talked about this poem as they hid out in a church. In the quote, Johnny is trying to tell Ponyboy to remain gold, or innocent. With innocence can come hope. Johnny feels that there is no hope for himself but lots of hope for the future for Ponyboy (Jessicahogans. “The Outsiders by: S.E. Hinton.”).

Hinton also uses metaphors and similes in the novel to help the reader better understand by use of things the reader can relate to. Ponyboy uses a metaphor when he says Dally is like an animal, by saying ‘he grinned wolfishly’ as he lied to the police about the whereabouts of Johnny and Ponyboy. Another metaphor Hinton writes is when Ponyboy and Cherry try to describe how nice looking Sodapop is. Soda is a greaser who works in a gas station, yet Ponyboy says, ‘Soda’s movie-star kind of handsome,'(21)while Cherry says Ponyboys brother is a doll. One simile in the novel is when Ponyboy compares, his brother’s good looks to a god by saying “he looked like some Greek god come to earth” (Jessicahogans. “The Outsiders by S.E Hinton).

The predominant theme of the novel deals with social and class conflict. Class conflict fuels most of the action in the novel. During the course of the novel, Ponyboy starts to change his thinking when it comes to taking sides. He learns it this possible to discover similarities and therefore form a bond with a perceived rival as he did with Cherry, one of the Soc girls. Another theme from the novel is that of self-sacrifice and honor. This is evident that the fact that almost all of that the greasers do is done to defend their friends. “You take up for your buddies, no matter what they do”. An example of this is seen when Darry gives up his college scholarship to work a job to support his brothers. Darry also helps Ponyboy and Johnny escape from and to another town after Bob, one of the Socs is stabbed by Johnny. They live by a code of friendship that show great loyalty to those in need (study.com).

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton is a realistic narration of the conflict between the social classes and the struggles to discover identity apart from society’s perceptions. The plural title The Outsiders suggests Ponyboy’s concern throughout the novel with the groups of outsiders, the rules of the different groups and their interactions, and the opportunities of those like himself who are victims of poverty. The same things that isolate groups can also connect them (“The Outsiders: Characters and Analysis.”).


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Book Report: The Outsiders by Susan Eloise Hinton. (2020, Sep 21). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/book-report-the-outsiders-by-susan-eloise-hinton/

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