“The outsiders”: meaning and analysis of the book by S.E. Hinton

“The outsiders”: meaning and analysis of the book by S.E. Hinton Literature

The Outsiders is a teen novel by Susan Hinton published in 1967. It is important to notice this word – teenage. It was written by a teenager just when there were heated discussions in society about what kind of literature should be for the younger generation. The novel is really scandalous – an honorable, thirty-eighth place in the list of “100 most frequently contested books of the 90s” from the American Library Association. But why does such an “uncivilized” book deserve our attention (and twenty million copies sold)? Let’s talk about how it is relevant today.

Outsiders tells the story of the difficult life of a fourteen-year-old Ponyboy, one of the members of the Gryazers gang – poor people living in the eastern part of the city and smearing their long hair with grease. Their rivals – Wobs (short for “High Society”) – at first glance, the complete opposite of Gryazers. These are the rich cream of society, dressed in plaid shirts and cutting through the city in expensive Mustangs. Sometimes small but rather violent skirmishes occur between the parties. The book just begins with one of them – the main character is almost beaten by a small group of Wobs.

Ponyboy’s environment is not the most prosperous. Each of the gang members committed any crimes or even went to jail. At least, the habits of all are characteristic of marginals – drinking alcohol, cigarettes, foul language. But behind the screen of such problems, quite classical motives are hidden – the conflict between fathers and children, questions of morality and, of course, social inequality.

The novel is also distinguished by the fact that it conveys the look of a teenager, his attitude as realistically as possible.

“If you are an adult, and not just an adult, but consider yourself as such – a mature, mature, serious person who is not up to trifles and who has already passed all these teenage worries, doubts and insecurities, then you probably better close this book right away. and don’t waste your time on it. Because the lion’s share of the incredible and enduring charm of the novel The outsiders lies precisely in the fact that it was written by a teenager and for teenagers,”  writes Anastasia Zavozova, Editor-in-Chief of Storytell, translator of The outsiders.

Susan Hinton began writing the book at the age of fifteen, when one of her friends was beaten up by a gang that became the prototype for those same Wobs. This also explains the vivacity of the described events. The way Ponyboy jumps into the fray, the way he runs away from home, the way each member of the gang feels connected to the others, it all looks very convincing.

I’m a dirt man, Gaz shouted, I’m a punk and a bully! I will dishonor our beautiful city! I hurt people! I’m robbing gas stations! I am a threat to society! And I have fun!

It is noteworthy that at first the critics did not appreciate the expression.

“The author of the book was clearly boiling over <…>, and she did not keep in herself resentment, disappointment and causticity towards the world of adults. Such outbursts of creative energy are more likely to interest psychotherapists than literary critics … ”  – says the phrase from an article in Business Class magazine , 2007.

But just in  a“ splash of creative energy ”is the originality of the book. This is the “cry” of a generation rebellious against the world, deliberately emotional, which does not allow us to keep silent about a lot of things that it is customary to keep silent about. The excitement of Ponyboy, his animal fear of mortal danger, his perception of the underworld as the norm – everything is transmitted firsthand as if we ourselves are taking part in the fight and we are pulled by the hair by an impudent major.

Moral – what is the best thing to be when you meet the dregs of society in a dark alley? – A judo master? I suggested. – No, the same dregs of society!

The effect of presence is largely due to the speech of the characters, who are not at all shy about using slang:

Keifovo and kayfovo are two different words. <…> a record can be high, or a wheelbarrow.

It is important to note the study of a considerable number of characters. Members of the Gryazers gang are not just “hooligans, because hooligans.” Behind each is a personal drama, which leads to such a “family”.

Yes, everyone has problems. Everyone who lives in the eastern quarters. And I thought it was unfair.

The gryazers and the Vobs were on opposite sides of the barricades. But at the same time, all their enmity is a pure formality. Each of the parties is unhappy and dreams of finding their own happiness. Only their understanding of happiness is different. For the Gryazers, in whose gang almost everyone has a dysfunctional family or none at all, unity and friendship are the most valuable things. Without it, such a harsh life in poor neighborhoods is simply impossible. And Wobs are oversaturated with the small joys of life so much that they have lost sight of the big goals.

“It’s as if we are always looking for something to be happy about, and we don’t find it,” “if we don’t have each other, then we won’t have anything” – this is how their theses sound briefly. Two worlds that, in their struggle, forget what they really need to fight for. Perhaps the main thing that the heroes go to throughout the story and for which they grow throughout the book is contained in the words of Ponyboy at the end, after a frank conversation with one of the Wobs: “Everyone has a hard time, but it’s even better . So at least you know that there, on the other side, are also people .

The very history of writing The outsiders is a cry for injustice, the real underside of a growing mind. First we see chaos, even horror, the inner world of teenagers, whom those same “adults” consider “touchy, disappointed and caustic”. And then we understand that sincere love stands behind everything: for the world, even when it is scary, love for people who have become relatives, for life, no matter what it is. Love is the same as that of the Gryazers gang, which has survived even in the not childishly scary eastern quarters.

Analysis of the work “The outsiders”

There are many different branches and currents in art and literature. One of them is symbolism. In the era of Hellenism and the Middle Ages, the concept of the cognitive principles of art gained popularity, according to which artistic creativity “ascends” to semantic essences. This concept was laid by Plato, who in his teaching attributed the symbol to the religious and philosophical category. In medieval philosophy, the symbol was perceived as the basis and core, if not all, then many works of art. The features of symbolism are the significance of meaning, its incompleteness, the duality of the worldview, uncertainty and ambiguity .

For many centuries, the symbols had a mystical character, and later they began to denote large-scale phenomena of earthly existence. Modern literary criticism considers symbolism as a direction and school, an offshoot and the beginning of a powerful philosophical aesthetic movement of the 20th century – modernism. Symbolism was popular in bourgeois circles because of its anti-democratic nature and anti-realist orientation . The followers of this decadent trend divide life into real, that is, everyday life in all its manifestations, and ideal, that is, that which lies beyond the boundaries of human consciousness. The purpose of symbolism is the awakening of indefinite sensations and the disposition to perceive the mystical mysteries of nature. The works of the Symbolists have a double meaning. The hidden meaning is especially important, because it contains the ideological load of the artistic image.

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Symbolism was popular in bourgeois circles because of its anti-democratic nature and anti-realist orientation . The followers of this decadent trend divide life into real, that is, everyday life in all its manifestations, and ideal, that is, that which lies beyond the boundaries of human consciousness. The purpose of symbolism is the awakening of indefinite sensations and the disposition to perceive the mystical mysteries of nature. The works of the Symbolists have a double meaning. The hidden meaning is especially important, because it contains the ideological load of the artistic image. Symbolism was popular in bourgeois circles because of its anti-democratic nature and anti-realist orientation . The followers of this decadent trend divide life into real, that is, everyday life in all its manifestations, and ideal, that is, that which lies beyond the boundaries of human consciousness. The purpose of symbolism is the awakening of indefinite sensations and the disposition to perceive the mystical mysteries of nature. The works of the Symbolists have a double meaning.

The hidden meaning is especially important, because it contains the ideological load of the artistic image. The purpose of symbolism is the awakening of indefinite sensations and the disposition to perceive the mystical mysteries of nature. The works of the Symbolists have a double meaning. The hidden meaning is especially important, because it contains the ideological load of the artistic image. The purpose of symbolism is the awakening of indefinite sensations and the disposition to perceive the mystical mysteries of nature. The works of the Symbolists have a double meaning. The hidden meaning is especially important, because it contains the ideological load of the artistic image. It should be noted that the 20th century in American literature is full of drama. The literary process over the past century has been stormy and uneven. American literature is an important element of the modern struggle of ideologies, requiring study, which is based on a detailed Marxist-Leninist approach . Any literary conflict is a reflection of social conflicts.

Gradually began to gain popularity teenage literature. It is actively developing in such directions as dystopia, cyberpunk, romance, etc. Usually such literature is written with humor and understandable for teenagers, has an intriguing beginning and no less exciting ending. Many works about young people, reflecting on the futility of their existence and feeling spiritual dissatisfaction, appeared in the 60s of the last century. For starters, it’s worth telling a little about this American writer and her most famous literary work. Susan Eloise Hinton was born in 1948 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where her novels were written and where she continues to live with her husband. She was only 17 years old when her first book, Outcasts, was published, launching not only her career, but also the teen novel as a genre of her writing. This coming-of-age story was inspired by Hinton’s own experience witnessing local gang rivalries in her hometown. Outcasts touches on themes of violence, brotherly love, family, masculinity and belonging, all of which the writer witnessed firsthand with her childhood friends.

In 1988, the American Library Association awarded her the Margaret A. Edwards Award, which celebrates the work of authors whose books have proven that they speak on behalf of teenagers and for teenagers. The Outcasts reflects the growing disillusionment and social stratification of Americans in the 1960s. And although Hinton does not refer to any historical or political events, the purpose of her book is to draw public attention to marginalized groups, to people who have fallen into the social bottom due to life circumstances. She wanted to write about the experiences of herself and her peers at school, so that others would be aware of some of the real problems teenagers faced during her time. And although Hinton does not refer to any historical or political events, the purpose of her book is to draw public attention to marginalized groups, to people who have fallen into the social bottom due to life circumstances. She wanted to write about the experiences of herself and her peers at school, so that others would be aware of some of the real problems teenagers faced during her time. And although Hinton does not refer to any historical or political events, the purpose of her book is to draw public attention to marginalized groups, to people who have fallen into the social bottom due to life circumstances. She wanted to write about the experiences of herself and her peers at school, so that others would be aware of some of the real problems teenagers faced during her time.

The novel is narrated from the perspective of Ponyboy Curtis, a fourteen-year-old teenager who is a junior member of the Greasers, a gang of underprivileged teenagers who live on the east side of the town. Aside from conflict with the Wobs, wealthy teenagers living on the west side of Oklahoma City, and a tense relationship with his older brother Darry, the hero’s life is ordinary: he loves literature and films, which distinguishes him from other “greasers”, communicates with friends, goes to school. However, going to the cinema and another conflict with representatives of the “golden youth” in an instant change not only the life of the gang. Both his life and his own worldview are changing. In just a week, two of Ponyboy’s best friends die. With all the trouble Ponyboy has gotten himself into lately, the question is: would the judge allow him to remain in the care of his brothers? Or will the younger Curtis lose the only family he has left? The social significance of the problems of Hinton’s novel is determined by the presence of certain symbols in it. Perhaps one of the examples by which you can talk about the symbolism in the “Outcasts” are cars. Rich “wobs” and poor “greasers” despise each other for belonging to different social classes. Their mutual enmity is superficial, it is built on stereotypes and prejudices regarding appearance and position in society. Cars symbolize the attitude that money can buy everything, including superiority over a person.

Thanks to them, “wobs” can quickly and safely move around the city, while “greasers” walk. The most striking evidence for the theory of symbolism is the Mustang, which is mentioned several times in Hinton’s novel. It symbolizes both the security of the “wobs” and the lack of need for money, and the danger to the “greasers”. Because when one of the poor gang sees this car, he has a bad premonition, a feeling of impending trouble. However, the Mustang later loses its intimidating context at the end of the novel, as shown by the dialogue between Ponyboy and Randy, one of the Wobs, before a big fight between the gangs. Teenagers in the car talk heart to heart, they do not look at each other as enemies. The heroes doubt the reasons for the prolonged conflict between the youth gangs and are not eager to take part in the fight. Ponyboy finally understands that social inequality does not make “Greasers” and “Wobs” different people, Randy refuses revenge for his dead friend. It follows that both teenagers understand the pointlessness of hostility between the gangs.

An equally significant symbol in Hinton’s novel is hair. They symbolize the freedom of “greasers” from the expectations and restrictions of society. In the 1950s, a brioling subculture was born in the United States, consisting mainly of retired soldiers, the unemployed, and members of the working class. They did their hair with the help of various lotions and a special hair pomade – bryolin, which created the visual effect of dirty hair. Therefore, the long and smooth hair of the Greasers is a sign of their gang and a challenge to a conservative society. Greasers can’t afford the same luxury as Wobs. This means that they must look for other ways to assert their identity. When Ponyboy and Johnny cut and dye each other’s hair while on the run and hiding in an abandoned church, they take a symbolic step outside of their gang. They did their hair with the help of various lotions and a special hair pomade – bryolin, which created the visual effect of dirty hair. Therefore, the long and smooth hair of the Greasers is a sign of their gang and a challenge to a conservative society. Greasers can’t afford the same luxury as Wobs. This means that they must look for other ways to assert their identity. When Ponyboy and Johnny cut and dye each other’s hair while on the run and hiding in an abandoned church, they take a symbolic step outside of their gang. They did their hair with the help of various lotions and a special hair pomade – bryolin, which created the visual effect of dirty hair. Therefore, the long and smooth hair of the Greasers is a sign of their gang and a challenge to a conservative society. Greasers can’t afford the same luxury as Wobs.

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This means that they must look for other ways to assert their identity. When Ponyboy and Johnny cut and dye each other’s hair while on the run and hiding in an abandoned church, they take a symbolic step outside of their gang. that they should look for other ways to assert their identity. When Ponyboy and Johnny cut and dye each other’s hair while on the run and hiding in an abandoned church, they take a symbolic step outside of their gang. that they should look for other ways to assert their identity. When Ponyboy and Johnny cut and dye each other’s hair while on the run and hiding in an abandoned church, they take a symbolic step outside of their gang. An equally remarkable symbol in the novel “The Outcasts” is a weapon. It indicates the status of the group. The greasers themselves follow a kind of code, which includes two main rules: stick together and not catch the eye. A folding knife was repeatedly mentioned in the work. This symbol is ambiguous and multifaceted. Firstly, like hair, it symbolizes a disdain for public morality. Secondly, greasers use it for self-defense, and having it with them, they feel safe. He represents the feeling of power that comes with being able to commit violence. This is prominently shown when Dally borrows a blade from Mushroom and uses it to get out of the hospital and join his gang in a big brawl. It’s fitting that Mishmash eventually loses the blade, when the police confiscate it from Dally’s corpse.

The loss of a weapon at this moment becomes inextricably linked with the loss of Dally, a figure in the work who embodies individual strength and power. Symbols in literature are sometimes natural phenomena. Sunset and sunrise represent humanity, regardless of gang affiliation. Ponyboy and Cherry find a common language while talking at the cinema, enjoying the same natural wonders in different parts of the town. The protagonist begins to realize that “wobs” are the same people as he and his friends, that they feel the same way. His passion for sunset and sunrise is a sign of the development of his character, he ceases to divide everything into black and white. Sunsets and sunrises symbolize the spirituality of the world, its kindness. Before his death, Johnny asks Ponyboy to “remain golden”, that is, not to lose humanity, hope for the best and optimism no matter what . This is more clearly visible when Johnny compares the golden color in Robert Frost’s poem “Nothing remains golden” to the sunsets and sunrises that Ponyboy admires. The words from the poem that “gold cannot remain” speak of innocence, youth and human joy. Indeed, due to the inevitability of time, beauty inexorably disappears, and the most valuable things are short-lived. It is worth noting that the color carries a symbolic meaning. He personifies some trait of a person’s character. As noted earlier, gold represents purity and innocence. The same goes for green. It is no coincidence that Ponyboy’s eyes are of this color in the novel. Due to his youth, the hero is sensitive, he still lacks worldly wisdom and common sense. Blue means coldness and indifference of its owner.

These character traits are inherent in both Ponyboy’s older brother Darry and their mutual friend Dally. Both “greasers” had a partially hardened soul due to life circumstances. But each of them has those who are dear to them: Darry Curtis has younger brothers for whom he had to leave college after the death of his parents, and Dally Winston has Johnny, whom he especially cared for when the boys were on the run, and whose death he is very much worried about. It is noteworthy that Hinton uses cold shades of colors when describing the members of the Greasers gang. However, white is an exception, as it contains all the rays of the color spectrum. This color very often appeared in Hinton’s novel when describing a fright: “white as a ghost”. Also, white color represents the absence of any specific boundaries, because in life there is no absolutely good and absolutely bad, right and wrong. Dally’s hair color is proof of this. On the surface, he is a cold, cynical, embittered teenager with a criminal past and a risk-taker. The hero grew up on the streets of New York and very early learned to rely only on himself. However, he also has a bright side, which is shown in taking care of Johnny and Ponyboy when they were on the run. It was Dally who gave his jacket to the younger Curtis so that he would not catch a cold. It was he who helped the boys hide and visited them in an abandoned church. He also helped Ponyboy and Johnny in rescuing children during a fire.

This suggests that Dally is not without compassion, he can be a true friend. The hero is very devoted to Johnny Cade, as he sees himself lost in him many years ago and tries with all his might to protect him from falling into the abyss of crime. And he needed Johnny in the same way that Johnny, who saw Dally as an ideal and an example that one could survive without a family, needed him. Color is also associated with a person’s worldview. Teenagers tend to see things in black and white and ignore the middle. He also helped Ponyboy and Johnny in rescuing children during a fire. This suggests that Dally is not without compassion, he can be a true friend. The hero is very devoted to Johnny Cade, as he sees himself lost in him many years ago and tries with all his might to protect him from falling into the abyss of crime. And he needed Johnny in the same way that Johnny, who saw Dally as an ideal and an example that one could survive without a family, needed him. Color is also associated with a person’s worldview. Teenagers tend to see things in black and white and ignore the middle. He also helped Ponyboy and Johnny in rescuing children during a fire. This suggests that Dally is not without compassion, he can be a true friend.

The hero is very devoted to Johnny Cade, as he sees himself lost in him many years ago and tries with all his might to protect him from falling into the abyss of crime. And he needed Johnny in the same way that Johnny, who saw Dally as an ideal and an example that one could survive without a family, needed him. Color is also associated with a person’s worldview. Teenagers tend to see things in black and white and ignore the middle. how Johnny, who saw in Dally an ideal and an example that one can survive without a family, needed him. Color is also associated with a person’s worldview. Teenagers tend to see things in black and white and ignore the middle. how Johnny, who saw in Dally an ideal and an example that one can survive without a family, needed him. Color is also associated with a person’s worldview. Teenagers tend to see things in black and white and ignore the middle. It is worth noting that the number “three” appears several times in Susan Eloise Hinton’s novel. The Trinity is one of the doctrines of the Christian faith. In religion, it means three stages of human life: the birth of a person, life itself and death. It also symbolizes the structure of the world: Paradise, Earth and Hell. It is no coincidence that Christians often use the proverb “God loves a trinity” and perform ritual rites three times . The principle of the triad exists in other religions as well. This number is considered lucky in various myths and legends.

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Many superstitions and omens are associated with it. The meaning of the number “three” is common in modern life. It also has a peculiar sacredness in the novel “Outcasts”. The Curtis family consists of three brothers, they interact with each other and struggle with life’s difficulties so that this stronghold does not fall apart, and to save each other. ponyboy, Johnny and Dally work as a team and save children from a burning church at the cost of their own lives and health. The three rings on the hand of the “wob” who beat Johnny badly change the life of the young “greaser” and become the starting point of the conflict that led to three deaths.

Thus, the symbolism in the novel “Outcasts” plays a key role in understanding the themes of the plot and the social background of the work. The presence of symbols exposes the problems of the novel by the American writer and helps readers to understand not only the subculture of the “greasers”, the peculiar code of the gang members and their external conflict with teenagers from wealthy families, but also the internal conflict, the characters and thoughts of the main characters. The symbolism in the novel “Outcasts” allows you to follow the spiritual quest of Ponyboy and his personal development. She also shows individual characters from the other side. For example, Darry’s strictness and his high expectations of the narrator are a sign of strong brotherly love and a desire to provide him with a better life than himself and Sodapop, and behind Dally’s toughness and risk-taking are compassion and devotion to friends. Susan Eloise Hinton’s novel “Outcasts” still touches the hearts of readers to this day, as the problems raised in the work do not lose their relevance.

11 Fascinating Facts About S.E. Hinton “Outcasts”

1. Hinton wrote The Outcasts when she was in high school.

Susan Eloise Hinton was only 15 years old when she began writing the novel and she was only 17 when she first published it. Hinton felt she should dedicate herself to writing books because she sadly realized that in her time, pop culture was not capable of producing a quality product for young people. “I wanted to read books that showed teenage lives other than Mary Jane’s First Ball,” Hinton explained in an interview with Seventeen. — When I could not find any such book, I decided to write it myself. I created a world without adult authority figures, where children lived by their own rules.

2. Rival gangs at Hinton’s high school inspired her to create dirtiers and wobs.

The division between the upper class “Wobs” and the lower class “Gruzzers” at Hinton was so strong that the gangs entered the school through separate doors. Although Hinton was neither a Greaser nor a Wob, the book is written from the point of view of a Greaser Ponyboy to somehow humanize the gang. However, Hinton also refrains from insulting the Wobs, a choice that reflected her belief that “life is hard.”

3. Hinton didn’t plan to publish the novel.

Hinton originally wrote The Outcasts primarily for herself, but the mother of one of her friends read the draft and thought the book deserved a wider audience. The friend’s mother contacted an agent in New York, and soon the Viking Press signed a contract with Hinton for $1,000.

4. Hinton only used her initials to avoid gender discrimination.

Viking Press suggested that Hinton use her initials instead of her full name, out of concern that readers and reviewers would automatically reject a book about teenagers written by a teenage girl. The strategy worked, and as Hinton explains on his website, “I found myself enjoying the fact that the pseudonym and the proper name were separated.”

5. It was no coincidence that she wrote from a male perspective.

What made Hinton write from a male point of view in the first place? As she explains on her website, the initial choice reflected her own sensibilities, but the choice was strategic. “I started using male characters simply because it’s the easiest. [I] was a tomboy, most of my close friends were boys, and I figured that no one would believe that a girl could understand something like that. I kept writing as male characters because (1) boys have fewer books than girls, (2) girls read boyish books, boys usually don’t read girls’ books, and (3) it’s the easiest for me.”

6. Hinton’s first fee was only $10.

While The Outsiders was ultimately a resounding success, it was not an overnight success. The publishing house was almost put on hold before teachers and librarians realized how much this book resonates with young readers. To date, the book has sold over 14 million copies.

7. Outcasts helped change the approach to teaching literature.

The emergence of an authentic, meaningful novel has helped teachers reach students who have become bored with traditional textbooks in their English classes. “I remember attending American Library Association conferences and they were asking for something different. We realized there was a real market for books like The Outcasts,” Hinton’s longtime friend Ron Buehl said in 2007.

8. It was hard for Hinton to continue writing after such success.

The success of The Outcasts put a lot of pressure on Hinton, and the stress initially hindered her progress in the subsequent book. To counter “writer’s block”, her then friend (now husband) suggested to Hinton that she only write two pages a day. If she agrees, then he will ask her out on a date that evening. It worked because her next novel, That Was Then, This Is Now, was released in 1971.

9. Hinton fans persuaded Francis Ford Coppola to film the novel.

Francis Ford Coppola’s 1983 film adaptation spurred the creation of the 1980s Brother Pack genre and spurred the careers of up-and-comers like Thomas Howell, Rob Lowe, Tom Cruise, Emilio Estevez, Matt Dillon, Patrick Swayze, Diane Lane. But without Hinton’s passionate fans, the director might not have found the project at all. Coppola began thinking about filming The Outcasts after California schoolchildren sent him a petition calling him the perfect director to adapt their favorite novel.

The meeting with Hinton confirmed Coppola’s confidence. “When I met Susie, I realized that she was not just a writer of teen fiction, but a real American writer,” the director said in a 1983 interview.

10. Hinton has a cameo in the film.

Although Hinton did not write the script, she still took an active part in the production, acting as a scout and even making a small cameo as a nurse. Coppola was so enamored with Hinton’s work that during the filming of The Outcasts, he and Hinton collaborated on an adapted script for one of her other books. Rumble Fish. In the aforementioned 1983 interview, Coppola praised the author’s participation: “Susie was a regular member of the company. My experience with her made me realize that the idea of ​​having a writer on set makes a lot of sense.”

11. The book has become one of the most controversial books of the 20th century.

Controversial at the time of publication, the frank description of violence, gang crime, underage drinking and smoking, as well as obscene language – based on all this, the book continues to be challenged. It was ranked #38 on the “Top 100 Most Contested Books of the 90s”. The book was even banned in some schools by the American Library Association. Fortunately, the book has also become part of many other schools’ curricula, ensuring students will “stay gold with Ponyboy” for years to come.

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