The Outsiders Book summary
S. E. Hinton
The Outsiders is a young adult literary novel by S.E. Hinton which was published in 1967. The book deals with themes of class conflict, the struggle to find one’s place in the world, and the importance of family and friendship. The novel was well-received and is considered a classic of young adult literature. Literary scholars agree that The Outsiders was a landmark book in the development of the Young Adult genre, along with other classics like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. These books underscore the importance of adolescent experiences in our life. They establish the importance of transformations that take place in a young adult’s life, especially those that occur outside the watchful eyes of adults. The Outsiders is a powerful and moving story that captures the struggles of growing up.
The story is set in the fictional town of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and it features the members of two local gangs, the Greasers and the Socs. The protagonist, Ponyboy Curtis, is a member of the Greasers gang, and the story follows his struggle to navigate the tension between the two groups. The Greasers are constantly at odds with a rival group of wealthy teens known as the Socs, who live on the other side of the town.
The story begins with Ponyboy and his brothers, Soda and Darry, who are left to fend for themselves after their parent’s death. Soda is the middle brother, and he is closest to Ponyboy, while Darry is the eldest brother, and he acts as the guardian for the Curtis brothers. Darry is strict and he often clashes with Ponyboy for not being obedient, and Ponyboy mistakes his attitude to mean that Darry sees him as a burden. One evening, Ponyboy is ambushed by a group of Socs while he's returning home after watching a movie alone. The Greasers including his elder brothers, come to his rescue before the rivals can hurt him too seriously. The following night, Ponyboy and his friends, Johnny and Dally go to a drive-in movie theatre, where they come across Cherry and Marcia, Ponyboy’s Soc schoolmates. Cherry shuns Dally’s advances, but she takes a liking to Ponyboy, and they spend the whole evening discussing their likes and dislikes. The boys are confronted by a group of Socs as they are walking in the city with the girls. The Socs who stop them is led by Bob and Randy, who are the boyfriends of the two Soc girls. The girls leave with the Socs, but that night, the Socs return to beat Ponyboy and Johnny for being with their girlfriends. Johnny has previously suffered a terrible beating at Bob’s hands, and he ends up killing Bob with a knife in self-defense. The teenagers begin to panic as the reality of the situation dawns on them, and they turn to Dally for aid. Dally is another member of the greaser gang, who has a reputation for being the toughest, due to his several run-ins with the law. He gives them directions to an abandoned church and advises them to remain hidden for the next week. He gives them money for supplies and promises to come to see them soon with more information about the situation.
While hiding, they read Gone with the Wind and start to see the similarities between the book and their own lives. They also begin to see that there are more important things than the differences between the Greasers and the Socs. Meanwhile, back in town, Darry, Soda, and the rest of the Greasers are trying to find Ponyboy and Johnny. They are also dealing with the aftermath of the killing as the policemen are looking for the boys.
Dally visits them and takes them out to eat. He tells them about the aftermath of the murder, and that Cherry has started spying for them out of guilt. When they return to the church, they find it ablaze with children trapped inside it. Ponyboy and Johnny rush into the building even as people stand outside the burning church, paralyzed with fear. They manage to rescue the trapped children, however, they are both injured. Ponyboy suffers some minor burns, while Johnny is hurt quite badly as a piece of burned timber falls on him. Dally aids the two in rescuing the children, and he suffers some minor injuries as well. All three of them are then rushed to the hospital. Ponyboy is interviewed by the police and reporters after he recovers, while Johnny and Dally continue to remain hospitalized. A gang fight has been organized between the Socs and Greasers to settle the score for Ben’s death. Ponyboy and Dally participate in the rumble despite their deteriorated health. The Greasers win the rumble. Right afterward, Ponyboy and Dally visit the hospital to tell Johnny the news, and he dies right in front of their eyes. Dally storms out of the hospital in a rage, leaving Ponyboy, who somehow finds his way home with a concussion from the fight. Ponyboy feels shattered and numb. He gives the news to the Greasers who are gathered at his home.
Dally calls Darry to ask for a hideout as he has robbed a grocery store and the policemen are chasing him. When the Greasers reach to rescue Dally, he points his unloaded gun at the police and is killed by them. Ponyboy is shocked and wakes up four days after the incident. Ponyboy begins his slow path to recovery, and he soon has to face a judicial trial for Ben’s death. Cherry and Randy testify in Ponyboy’s defense. The judge doesn’t ask any more than gentle questions from Ponyboy as the doctor tells him about his compromised mental condition. The judge ultimately finds the boys not guilty, but the experience has changed Ponyboy forever. He returns to school soon afterward, but his grades suffer because of his emotional and mental health. While writing an essay that his English teacher had asked him to do, He lays his hands on Johnny’s copy of Gone with the Wind and finds a letter inside. Johnny asks Ponyboy to retain his childlike innocence and tells him that he did not regret his death because he had managed to rescue the innocent children. The novel ends with Ponyboy realizing that he has grown up and can’t return to his old life. He has learned that there is more to life than just fighting and that people are not always what they seem. He also learned the value of family and friends.
Author(s)S. E. Hinton
April 24, 1967
Viking Press, Dell Publishing