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The Outsiders Susan Eloise Hinton English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 3129 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Young adult literature gives the students different perspectives in what they might be going through in their lives. Students often forget how easily reading can be, especially if they connect with the characters and situations. Teachers, in addition, may forget how integrating literature in their students’ lives can be very helpful for them.

As I was able to read the classic famous novel, The Outsiders, it was not difficult to see how such a great novel should be integrated in the English classroom. This novel tends to be very realistic as to how society can be, and young adults need to have the opportunity to see different perspectives of the society they live in. Novels like these sometimes get too controversial because of the violence or bad habits they have; however, people are often misguided as to how much more students can learn from them. Not only do the authors introduce realistic and strong topics, they also bring a lot of meaning to love, family, friendship and other themes that students can relate to.

Teachers should not forget to find books that young adult can instantly connect to and integrate their own problems to the classroom. The students’ response can be enhanced easily with the teacher’s sensibility and motivation in the classroom.

Brief Biography

S.E Hinton

Susan Eloise Hinton was born on July 22, 1948 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She is an American novelist and screenwriter in young adult fiction and children’s literature. She first began writing in grade school and her major inspiration was reading. Her first writings were about cowboys and horses; which led her to wish to have a horse ever since. While still in her teens, Hinton became a household name as the author of The Outsiders, her first and most popular novel, set in the 1960’s. The year she began writing it was in 1965, when she was sixteen years old. The book was inspired by two rival gangs at her school. She desired to show sympathy toward the Greasers by writing from their point of view. “The Outsiders” was published in 1967 and became the second-bestselling young adult novel in publishing history. She changed her name to her initials so her novel wouldn’t be dismissed by male reviewers. She continued using them to keep her private and public lives separate. S.E. Hinton was, and still is, one of the most popular and best known writers of young adult fiction. Her books have been taught in some schools, and banned from others. Her novels changed the way people look at young adult literature.

Her literary books are:

The Outsiders (1967, novel)

That Was Then, This Is Now (1971, novel)

Rumble Fish (1975, novel)

Tex (1979, novel)

Taming the Star Runner (1988, novel)

Big David, Little David (1995, picture book)

The Puppy Sister (1995, chapter book)

Hawkes Harbor (2004, novel)

She was the first recipient of the Margaret Alexander Edwards Awards, which honors an author for significant and lasting contribution to Young Adult Literature. Most of her works have received variety of awards and honors, especially The Outsiders, her most famous novel.

The Outsiders awards and honors:

New York Herald Tribune Best Teenage Books List, 1967

Chicago Tribune Book World Spring Book Festival Honor Book, 1967

Media and Methods Maxi Award, 1975

ALA Best Young Adult Books, 1975

Massachusetts Children’s Book Award, 1979

Summary of The Outsiders

Ponyboy is a kid from the wrong side of the tracks whose parents were killed in a car accident. He lives with his brothers, Darry, who works all the time and is very overprotective of him, and Sodapop, who dropped out of school but is the closest to him. He, along with his friends, Johnny, Dally, Two-Bit, and his brothers are part of a group of poor teenage boys called the greasers. They are always beaten up by the Socs, which are the rich and privileged boys. One night, he gets home late after spending some time and talking with two Socs girls, and gets into a fight with his older brother, Darry, who hits him. Ponyboy is hurt and mad by this and runs to find Johnny to get away from his house. Later that night, both of them get attacked by a group of Socs, and Ponyboy is almost drowned to death. Johnny, scared and trying to defend Ponyboy, stabs Bob, one of the Socs, and kills him. They run to find Dally, their aggressive and troubled friend, and he gives him money, a gun and tells them to hide in an abandoned church. Johnny and Ponyboy stay there for a few days. They change their hair and they read to each other. When Dally comes to find them, he tells them that there is a ramble scheduled for the next day and that Cherry, one of the girls they met and Bob’s girlfriend, was going to testify that Bob was drunk and that the murder was self defense.

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When they return to the church, they see it’s on fire and there are kids trapped inside. Without thinking, Ponyboy runs to save them, Johnny and Dally following him. Ponyboy gets out okay, Dally burns his arm, but a burning piece of wood falls on Johnny breaking his back and burning him badly. The three of them are declared heroes, but a juvenile trial is scheduled for Johnny and Ponyboy. With the fight near, Ponyboy visits Dally and a dying Johnny at the hospital and Dally says that they need to beat the Socs for Johnny. The Greasers and the Socs fight each other and the Greasers win. When Dally and Ponyboy go see Johnny to tell him the news, he tells Ponyboy not to “stay gold”, and dies. Dally gets overwhelmed and runs out, robbing a store. When he calls the boys to pick him up, the police are already chasing him. When the greasers are arriving, Dally takes out his unloaded gun and the police shoot him. After this, Ponyboy gets very sick and is in denial of Johnny and Dally’s deaths. He pretends to himself and to everyone that he was the one that killed Bob. However, at the trial, he is found innocent. Later on, Ponyboy finds a letter that Johnny wrote to him before he died in the book they read together, Gone with the Wind. In it, Johnny explains about why he wants Ponyboy to “stay gold” and how he thinks there are a lot of good things in the world. He wanted to make sure Ponyboy told Dally about it. Ponyboy, then, decides to write about life as a greaser for a class assignment for people to know what life as a greaser was about.

Evaluation Criteria


Students might be interested in this novel because it can give them an insight on how others feel, no matter what their background is. They can feel identified with it, because teenagers tend to be in the position in which they don’t know who they are, or who the people around them are. Also, it’s a novel that talks about society as well, and they could understand better what happens because of the situation nowadays.


The novel has a very simple vocabulary for young adults. The characters often use words incorrectly because that’s the way they are used to talk. However, even when they aren’t correctly spoken, it can make students understand and relate to the characters more. The context of the novel should be familiar to what students know of, which makes it easier for them to understand the novel. It is organized in a way that students can comprehend and keep being interested in reading more.


The novel has a known topic, especially to young adults, who might have been in the situation, or might know someone who was in it. The topics about social differences, criminal tendencies, friendship and family can be recognized by the students. Even if they have not experienced what the characters have personally, they can sympathize and comprehend it.

Political Appropriateness

The novel doesn’t necessarily mentions any political situations, but it does mention a lot about society and how the social classes can be an influence in a lot of situations in the neighborhood. We can read about how people see rich and poor boys, and the prejudice they tend to have without really knowing someone.

Cultural Suitability

Not much cultural situations are mentioned in the novel, which makes it better to present this novel in a young adult class. The situations are very common in a lot of countries, in which the poor and the rich are separated or the criminal situations vary between young kids.


The novel does not have any pictures throughout the pages. Its letter size is not too big, but it is easy to read. The type of font is readable to young adults and since it is well organized, the students will not find it difficult to continue with the reading.

Critical Theories

Moral/Intellectual – In the novel, Ponyboy goes through a lot alone and with his brothers, one of them having to do with their parents’ death. Students might sympathize the characters in situations like this, even if they don’t necessarily relate to them in a personal way. Throughout the novel, we see a lot of changes in Ponyboy, prejudice and love in which students might be able to improve their understanding of the world and of themselves.

New Critical/Formalist – With this approach, students might be able to discuss and understand better the purpose of the point of view of the novel and how it is developed throughout the story.

Economic determinist/Marxist – A lot of economic differences between groups of people are present in the novel. Money is a big influence and it is the factor that separates everyone.

Psychological/psychoanalytic – The behavior of the characters can be understood if you look closely at their reactions and try to comprehend their feelings towards each situation. Students might be able to tell the reasons behind the characters’ actions and decisions.

Reader-Response – Students might discuss what they perceive of the novel and how they can relate to them, whether it is personally or not. They can share opinions in the characters’ actions or feelings.

Name: ________________________ Date: _____________________

Title: _________________________ Section: ___________________

Mini Lesson: Characterization

Focus: Students should be able to describe character’s feelings and actions and explain their own personal criteria for responding to what they read.

Objectives: After reading the novel The Outsiders and explaining what characterization is, the student will:

recognize the elements of characterization, and apply those elements to the characters in the novel.

evaluate themselves and relate to characters

Definition – The literary term characterization is the development of the characters in the story into real people. Most characters can be described in two ways: 1) physically, which includes the outside description (appearance) and 2) psychologically, which includes the inside description and personality (thoughts, feelings).


“I have light light-brown, almost-red hair and greenish-gray eyes.” (p.1) – Physical trait

“I love Soda more than I’ve ever loved anyone, even Mom and Dad. He’s always happy-go-lucky and grinning, while Darry’s hard and firm and rarely grins at all.” (p.2) – Psychological trait


Choose a character of the novel The Outsiders and give at least 3 physical and psychological traits.

Physical Psychological

1. 1.

2. 2.

3. 3.

Describe an event or moment of your life in which you face the same issues as that character. It could relate to you directly or indirectly, but make sure to tie it to your own life.






Name: ________________________ Date: _____________________

Title: _________________________ Section: ___________________

Mini Lesson: Identity

Focus: Students should be able to identify and explain connections between factors and the actions or decisions the characters make.

Objectives: After the discussing the definition of identity, the student will:

recognize the factors that influence a person’s identity,

apply and relate the factors to the characters in the novel.

compare the factors that influence a character with their own.

Definition – Identity is what makes someone definable and recognizable, in terms of possessing a set of qualities or characteristics that tell them apart from others.

Characters in the novel are influenced by many factors in their lives, some which they can control, and some which they cannot. Some factors which influence the characters’ identities are:


Social status





Explain how these factors influence the characters in the novel. Be specific to how they influence the characters.







Create a “Wanted Ad” for either Johnny or Ponyboy. Represent two different identities for each of them: the identity the Greasers see and the identity the public sees. You can include stereotypes and judgments.

Name: ________________________ Date: _____________________

Title: _________________________ Section: ___________________

Mini Lesson: Journal Entry

Focus: Students should be able to use critical thinking skills to get beneath the surface of media in the novel and in society.

Objective: The student will be able to:

compose a newspaper article describing an event of the novel.

Definition – A journal is a daily record of events either for business, for a newspaper, for private use or for academic purposes. Sometimes a journal is used a synonym for a magazine, but when it us for an educated audience it is usually called a professional magazine.


In groups of 3 or 4 students, write a short newspaper article from the point of view of a Greaser or a Soc. Create an attractive title about one of these two events:

Johnny’s stabbing Bob

Johnny and Ponyboy’s recue of the children in the church















In your groups, state whether you are a Greaser or a Soc and present your article to the rest of the class.

Name: ________________________ Date: _____________________

Title: _________________________ Section: ___________________

Mini Lesson: Theme in a Poem

Focus: Students should be able to interpret and explain the message of a poem and how it relates to the novel.

Objectives: The student will be able to:

deduce the theme of the poem introduced in the novel.

relate the theme of the poem with the novel and how it’s reflected.

compare their interpretation of the poem with Johnny’s interpretation.

Definition – A theme is the message or moral an author portrays in his or her work. The message may be about life, society or human nature. Themes often explore timeless and universal ideas and may be implied rather than stated explicitly.


Read the following poem, introduced previously in the novel The Outsiders.

Nothing Gold Can Stay

By: Robert Frost

Nature’s first green is gold,

Her hardest hue to hold.

Her early leaf’s a flower;

But only so an hour.

Then leaf subsides to leaf.

So Eden sank to grief,

So dawn goes down to day.

Nothing gold can stay.

What do you think the theme of the poem is? How does it relate to the story?




Johnny tells Ponyboy in the letter: “he meant you’re gold when you’re a kid”. What do you think this means? What is Johnny’s interpretation of the poem? Do you have the same opinion of the poem?






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