The Outsiders

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The Outsiders

The Outsidersby S.E. Hinton

S.E. Hinton was born in 1950 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She published The Outsiders in 1967, at just 17 years old. She went on to publish four other novels and two children's books. S. E. Hinton has received numerous honors and awards for her contributions. Perhaps most importantly, she won the Margaret Alexander Edwards Award in 1988, which honors authors “whose book or books, over a period of time, have been accepted by young people as an authentic voice that continues to illuminate their experiences and emotions, giving insight into their lives.”

Ponyboy is a part of a gang called the Greasers, who live on the East Side of town. The story revolves around confrontations with their rival, upper class gang from the West Side, called the Socs’. In addition to Ponyboy, the Greasers consist of Ponyboy’s two brothers, Darry and Sodapop, and their friends Dally, Johnny, Steve, and Two-Bit. The story begins with Ponyboy and Johnny getting attacked by the group of intoxicated Socs’ in the park. The Socs’ try to drown Ponyboy in a fountain, Johnny panics and stabs one of the Socs’ named Bob with his switchblade. Thus, Ponyboy and Johnny end up hiding out in an abandoned church to avoid the police. After a week, Dally convinces the police the boys are headed for Texas and Cherry testifies that they acted in self-defense. They then realize the church is on fire and a group of children are inside. Ponyboy and Johnny feel responsible, so they rush inside to rescue the kids. A beam falls on Johnny and breaks his back; he ends up dying from his injuries. They are termed heroes. Upset about the fire, Dally robs a store. When running from the police, Dally is shot. In the end, Ponyboy and the Greasers beat the rival gang. Ponyboy writes all about it in an essay for his English class.

The Outsiders contains many relevant AYA themes and can be easily related to many other novels. The first and perhaps most predominant theme discussed is the search for identity. Throughout the text, Ponyboy faces many challenges as he struggles to find out who he truly is. Second, a heavy emphasis was placed on the theme of isolation, or being considered an 'outsider.' Overall, many adolescents can relate to these issues, as well as trying to fit in with certain social groups.

There are many ways teacher's can incorporate The Outsiders into their Literacy curriculum, while still meeting Common Core standards. Since the text is engaging and highly relatable, it could be used as part of whole or small group instruction. Additionally, it could be paired with a classic, or canon text, like Of Mice and Men. Teacher's may also recommend this text as an independent read.

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The Outsiders is a great AYA novel. One of the greatest aspects of the book is that it is highly relatable. Although the book was published in the 70s, not much has changed! Conflicts and ‘teen’ problems still exist. Many can also relate to the injustices and fitting into certain social groups, as well as the struggle for individual identity. Overall, I highly recommend this book; it was a great read!

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