Themes of The Outsiders by S.E Hinton Reflective Essay

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The Outsiders by S.E Hinton is a novel that looks at the social class between the Greasers and the Socials (Soc’s). The Outsiders follows the journey of Ponyboy and his gang, which is alternatively his family, as they go on a journey that they could never forget. Hinton mainly uses the themes of stereotypes, violence and identity in the novel to portray the life of an adolescent living during this time frame.

Hinton uses the theme of stereotypes to show the difference between the Soc’s and the Greasers. As the novel gets towards the end, the characters start showing that they are not as stereotypical as the group they are in. When Johnny comes up with the plan to bleach Ponyboy’s hair, Pony reacts in a way that shows he does follow the stereotype for a Greaser. ‘Oh, no!” My hand flew to my hair… It was my pride… Our hair was tuff…Our hair labeled us greasers’ (Page 61). This quote from the book is Ponyboy talking about his hair before he bleaches it; he is saying how the hair and appearance is what makes the Greasers, Greasers. They do not have to necessarily be poor, or not be smart just to be a Greaser. Hinton also uses the technique of contrasting to show the difference between the Greasers and the Soc’s. She shows that even though Ponyboy and the Greasers live on the poorer side of the town than the Soc’s, some of the Soc’s like Cherry and Randy. Cherry was in a relationship with Bob (also a Soc) but she still had respect for Ponyboy’s group and tried to help them when she could. Randy did not like the Greasers at first, but Bob’s death made him realize he did not like the fighting going on between the two, so he decided to skip the rumble. This leads stereotypes to be a main theme throughout The Outsiders, as well as violence.

The theme of violence in the novel also shows how Hinton used the theme to separate the Soc’s and Greasers. The violence is mainly between the Greasers and Soc’s. Violence is an important part of the novel as it causes most of the drama between the two gangs, and in the end leads to the killing of Bob. Near the end of the book, a rumble between the two gangs shows just how important the fighting is to each group, and how badly each want to outdo the other to be the top or better group, even though the Greaser will always be seen lower than the Soc’s even if they win. Hinton uses foreshadowing in the novel when Johnny says ‘And Johnny … now carried in his back pocket a six-inch switchblade. He would use it, too, if he ever got jumped again. They had scared him that much. He would kill the next person who jumped him’ (Page 31). This foreshadows that some drama might happen which will cause Johnny to use his switchblade to kill someone who might jump him. These few reasons show that violence is a main theme throughout the book, which leads to identity.

Hinton uses the theme of identity to show how the identity to each character is important. She uses symbolism with the phrase ‘nothing gold can stay’ towards Ponyboy mainly. This is an important part of the novel because Ponyboy struggles to understand the meaning behind the phrase, which was in a poem that he had read, until the near end of the novel. He realizes that the line means that all good things have to come to an end at some point and in the letter from Johnny, Johnny tells Ponyboy to stay himself and not change to become the stereotypical Greaser that Johnny knows he is not. Identity is also important in the book as it shows how different each of the characters are, and how different each of them reacts to changes in their life. When Darry hits Ponyboy, he does not know how to react, he had been telling Sodapop that he felt that Darry did not love him and he thought that he hit him was the seal that meant he did not. ‘I was running away. It was plain to me that Darry did not want me around. And I wouldn’t stay if he did’ (Page 44). This shows that Ponyboy as a person feels things a lot more than most of the other Greasers, which is why him, Johnny, and Cherry had gotten along so well. Ponyboy liked sunsets and he did not really like fighting which shows how his identity was different than most of the others within the novel.

Hinton widely used the three themes of stereotypes, violence and identity. She used many techniques such as symbolism and foreshadowing to show the reader how each of the themes affect the characters’ lives. Each theme of stereotype, violence and identity shows how Hinton explored the different themes throughout the novel to show what had happened to Ponyboy.


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Themes of The Outsiders by S.E Hinton Reflective Essay. (2020, Sep 21). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/themes-of-the-outsiders-by-s-e-hinton/

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