The Outsiders 4 Essay, Research Paper
Critical Review “The Outsiders” by S.E. Hinton
S.E. Hinton wrote this novel while she was in high school, at the young age of sixteen. It was completed in 1967. She has written other novels such as That Was Then This is Now, Rumble Fish, and Taming the Star Runner.
The novel, The Outsiders, was written about living in the sixties amid gang rivalries. It is told through the personal thoughts of Ponyboy, a fourteen-year-old who belongs to a gang known as the Greasers, who despise the upper-class Socs (pronounced SO-ches), the West Side Rich Kids. Hinton does an excellent job of describing mild-mannered gang members, society war, and living with violence. Once I began to read this book, it became difficult to put it down.
The Outsiders, basically, is about the tough, hard life of Pony Curtis, who lives only with his two brothers, Sodapop and Darry. Their parents were killed in an auto wreck that left Pony in trust of his brothers and fellow gang members. When his best pal, Johnny, kills a member of the Socs, they must take refuge inside an abandoned church in another town to escape the police. After that, a long chain of violent and dramatic events ensues and puts the boys in the most dreadful situation of their lives.
The characters in this book are fairly realistic and believable. They may seem a tad different to a kid nowadays, but keep in mind that this takes place in the 1960’s.
S.E. Hinton’s plot is not very difficult to understand, since the story rarely gets complicated. It is suitable for readers of all ages, from adolescents to adults.
The setting of this book is not only believable, but interesting as well. Upon reading it, you probably wouldn’t know that it takes place specifically in Oklahoma since the description could relate to any American suburb: the characters go to drive-in movies, Dairy Queen restaurants, and grocery stores.
As you may have guessed, The Outsiders is written entirely in the first person (Ponyboy). The character uses descriptive language which makes it easier to understand the gang member if you don’t know what he looks like. Here’s an example of how she describes Johnny, a Greaser:
Johnny Cade was last and least. If you can picture a little dark puppy that has been kicked too many times and is lost in a crowd of strangers, you’ll have Johnny He had big black eyes in a dark-tanned face; his hair was jet-black and heavily greased and combed to the side, but it was so long that it fell in shaggy bangs across his forehead.
The author uses description very well. She uses metaphors, similes, quotes that help the reader these people, where they live, and what they do. The reader is made to feell as if he were living right there with them.
The level of vocabulary is not very difficult. You may come across a word that’s new to you (especially if you are a young reader) otherwise, it is very simple and easy. Hinton, of course, also uses slang for realism when she describes the conversations of the gang members. The use of slang also shows you more of the personality of the Greasers and the Socs. They refer to cigarettes as ‘weed’, and ‘cancer stick’, and are always worried about getting “busted by the fuzz”.
The author’s tone changes throughout the story. For example, when Ponyboy is thinking of the Socs, he may be angy and enraged. He is bitterly thinking of his parent’s passing and is devastated when he learns that his friends become severely hurt.
I think the author’s purpose in writing this book was to show young people the devastation of violence and gangs. It gives us a spectrum of emotion, showing us how sad things in life can really be.
In conclusion, The Outsiders is a very good novel to read. I liked everything in this book- the characters, the confrontations with the rival gang, the setting, the dialogue, the events. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys fictional novels based on realistic events, or for students who are looking for a fun book to read for a report.