Monday, July 22, 2013

The Outsiders

by S.E. Hinton

The Outsiders is a novel first published in 1967 by S.E. Hinton, about the wanton violence and day-to-day lifestyle of teenage gangs or more specifically, hoods.
The Outsiders is written from the perspective of Ponyboy Curtis, the 14 year old brother of Sodapop and Darrel, hoods in a local gang. It describes in detail the highs and lows of being associated with a gang. We are told about his predicaments in fitting in with his grade and gang, and his difficulties in the harsh reality of his bleak existence. He has worries about being attacked by the Socs, a gang of rich folk who all live in the north side and harbour a deep hatred of the greasers, or the southern gangs. The first climax culminates in the accidental killing of a Soc by Ponyboy’s friend, Johnny. The ensuing debacle forces the duo out of town and into fresh troubles in the countryside. We begin to understand the harsh nature of the teens on the fringe of society, something that compares remarkably to the state of the same environment today. A rescue mission into a burning church in the country by Ponyboy and Johnny shows us that our first impressions of these “misfits” were indeed unfounded, and we start to have an inkling of where Miss Hinton is coming from. As Johnny suffers a life threatening injury which he later dies from, we finally understand the message that Miss Hinton wanted to make, and indeed, this message still holds much weight in today’s society, some forty years after initial publication.
I believe that Miss Hinton did indeed achieve her purpose with this work, that being to educate the world on some of the issues facing the teenagers of her day, and to illustrate that they were not all they were made out to be. I love that the message of this book is still applicable to life many years after its being written. The book encourages readers to rethink their stereotypes on the teenage generation, now mine, and gives them pause to think about life from their, or our, perspective. The book was very strong and emotional, but written beautifully enough that I could not put it down or simply look away. This was largely due to the fact that there was so much about the lives of some that I had yet to figure out, and have now. Perhaps the only shortcoming of the book was that Miss Hinton did not delve deeper into the school life of our 14 year old protagonist, as this would have made it easier for the teenagers of her day to relate all the better to the book. The name of the book itself implies that it is in the perspective of those who are shunned by society, pushed away from recognition.
The Outsiders was captivating and I would love to read it again to try and fully understand the hidden meanings of a book written before this era, perhaps I may understand better the context of the book. I would recommend this book to all people my age, although it appears to have been initially intended for older generations, in the hope that they too may learn the troubles behind the troubled face of our generation. Perhaps understanding each other would enable us to be able to break down the prejudicial barriers preventing our generations harbouring a healthy relationship.

Reviewed by Aaron P of Year 10.