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The Outsiders : A Book With A Meaning

Acceptance and security. These are the two things that every human being wants. How they gain those two things varies from person to person.But most of us are privileged enough to not worry about these two very important necessities.

However there are people in the world who are not so lucky. Those are the people who are failed to be understood by the rest of the world. However a lot of us are blinded to those people and their problems.

Sometimes it takes a piece of art or literature to wake us up to those problems and a piece of literature that can do that is the novel written by S.E. Hinton, The Outsiders.In her novel Hinton, writes about two socioeconomic classes, the greasers and the Socs, who live their lives on the two ends of social status, near-poverty and super rich, respectively.

The novel is also a good eye-opener to how social,emotional,and economic forces can shape a person’s life and how if one can truly understand a person for what they are the world might just be a better place.

On the lower end of the social spectrum in Hinton’s novel is the populace known as the greasers. The “greasers”, a term which arises from their overuse of hair grease, are a community of people who are thought to be “victims of the environment” and underprivileged people. The community is made up of many different people, but The Outsiders, focuses on a small group of boys living in the harsh lifestyle of a greaser.

The gang is made up of 7 boys, Two-Bit,Ponyboy(main character),Johnny,Darry(leader),Sodapop,Steve, and Dallas.Each boy shares a common bond with the rest of the gang and this bond is most likely caused by characteristic backgrounds.

For example all of the boys come from low-end families who are barely able to make ends meet.In the novel Hinton acknowledges this fact when Ponyboy thinks to himself “He never let on to Mom and Dad how he felt, though, because we never had enough money and usually we had a hard time making ends meet.”(Hinton 40). 

This thought reflects how Ponyboy and the other greasers had the constant worry of money and food. He and the other greasers never had the opportunity to express themselves to the world and show the society that their is something beautiful underneath all the hair grease.

The greasers were always striving to have a substantial amount of food and a feeling of security. This ladder of satisfying physical needs to climb up to the rung of self- esteem needs supports Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Abraham Maslow, an optimistic anthropologist and psychologist, created his Hierarchy of Need in order to express his thoughts on the order of priority of human needs and how they can change in correspondence to circumstances. 

“Now in keeping in theory with his theory up to this point, if you want to be truly self-actualizing , you need to have your lower(physical needs) needs taken care of, at least to a considerable extent.”(Maslow Article). This theory holds true in The Outsiders, especially in the case of the greasers.

Throughout their life food and money have been a constant stress on the lives of the greasers.With this constant stress acting as a burden upon them, the greasers are hardly given time to think about the other aspects of life.

Their security is also not 100% guaranteed as they are constantly in danger from being jumped by the Socs.Their life is like one of a king sitting on his throne while knowing that a knife is dangling above it. 

Trauma can be a life-changing event.The effects of it can drastically change an individual’s personality.The greasers have had more than their share of trauma.The entire group suffered two deaths in less than a week and those two deaths were those of two very loyal gang members. 

But the deaths also served as a reminder of the distinct thought process and personalities found in the greaser community; the thought process of a hoodlum and the thought process of a gallant young man.”Nobody would write editorials praising Dally. Two friends of mine had died that night;one a hero the other a hoodlum.”(Hinton 154). 

In her presentation, Ms.Carroll had a slide on what are symptoms of trauma and these were her words “Traumatized children remain in persistent alarm.They have a rarely obtained state of internal calm.”(Ms.Carroll Trauma). These symptoms were seen in Ponyboy who would continually resort to a surrealistic world for comfort in where Dally and Johnny were alive.

But as soon as reality washed over him, he would go through the constant agony of being reminded of his friends and the lives they lived. The lives of the greasers may seem like a life where luxury was a forgotten word and this is true, but the Socs, as you may be surprised to find out, had an equally tough life as well. 

The desire to gain materialistic objects is in the nature of mankind, and if people had the opportunity to gain these objects with no fear of losing or wasting money the desire would be perfectly understandable.But to let these objects create a sense of false pride would be pure arrogance.

This bad quality is one that is displayed by the Socs.Their economical status is used by them to bolster their own status among their friends.Their belief is that power is gained by wealth and that that power is maintained by constantly reinforcing the thought that you are number one by jumping greasers or wrecking houses.

Hinton points out at these qualities “Socs were always behind a wall of aloofness,careful not to let their real selves show. … The Socs even fought coldly and practically and impersonally.”(Hinton 38). But if their dignity is shaken in the least they will threaten their friend or whoever dared to overthrow them.

This ungenuine friendship creates a sense of unreliability and dishonesty between the Socs which contrasts to the strong bond that the greasers share.But are the Socs entirely at fault? One might say that the blame is entirely theirs to take but would that view change if an individual gained a little bit more insight on the life of the Socs? This circumstance was exactly where Ponyboy found himself at the beginning of the novel. His view on the Socs was “I really couldn’t see what Socs would have to sweat about-good grades,good cars,good girls,madras and Mustangs and Corvairs.”(Hinton 36).

Bob,the main Soc in the book, is the leader of the gang and the most significant. His life outside of home is carefree and easygoing.He has good friends, good grades, and a lot of money. But at home his identity changes.

He is constantly trying to get his parents to notice his wrongdoings.He tries to gain their attention by committing crimes and gaining the negative qualities of a rich gangster.Although his approach may sound counterintuitive his personal sense of wrong and right justifies his actions.

All he was trying to do was for someone to lay the behaviour parameters.But at his age, the age of a teenager, children have very malleable minds, and when these minds are influenced by alcohol or any other intoxicating substance they tend to go out of control. 

When Bob jumped the he greasers it was his drunken personality that did it and not his usual character. However,this is the type of story that the society sees and notices. The society tends to forget all the positive strong points in a person and focus on their negative impressions. 

The society makes a label of them that fits those wrongdoings.This label that then gets associated with that individual or group can leave an everlasting stereotype of them and restrain them from the opportunity to change their life. 

Thus the wealth that is commonly misinterpreted to be a shield for the Socs is more like one-way glass. The Socs, who have been labeled with this term can see outside of the glass and notice the environment’s pessimistic vibes and the community itself is unable to see through this glass and recognize that the Socs are human too.

Growing up in a difficult lifestyle surrounded by a combination of negative vibes and constant threats from a harsh environment can cause people to isolate themselves from the world. However there are 2 possible approaches to the situation, an optimistic approach or a pessimistic approach.

The individual might choose to create a hard shell of defiance from the world or create their future.They might take the world’s taunts and use them to fuel their anger or use them to fuel their aspirations. People who find themselves in such situations may have the choice to define their lives in their own two hands. 

But for some people this burden might be too much too handle.A kind act to someone who can’t handle such a responsibility would be to help them instead of labeling them. The greasers and the Socs were both victims of their surroundings but they were unable to see that they were all affected and it was this diversitythat kept them apart.

As a whole society, we should try to steer the community away from segregating people based upon their social ranking and focus more on helping people to sort out their lives.This change has to start from the goodness present in every individual 's heart so why don’t you, reader, try to delve into your own heart for the graciousness hiding inside of you.



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