Ponyboy Curtis – The novel’s fourteen-year-old narrator and protagonist, and the youngest of the greasers. Ponyboy’s literary interests and academic accomplishments set him apart from the rest of his gang. Because his parents have died in a car accident, Ponyboy lives with his brothers Darry and Sodapop. Darry repeatedly accuses Ponyboy of lacking common sense, but Ponyboy is a reliable and observant narrator. Throughout the novel, Ponyboy struggles with class division, violence, innocence, and familial love. He matures over the course of the novel, eventually realizing the importance of strength in the face of class bias.
Darrell Curtis – Ponyboy’s oldest brother. Darrell, known as “Darry,” is a twenty-year-old greaser who is raising Ponyboy because their parents have died in a car crash. Strong, athletic, and intelligent, Darry has quit school. He works two jobs to hold the family together. The unofficial leader of the greasers, he becomes an authority figure for Ponyboy. He also makes good chocolate cake, which he and his brothers eat every day for breakfast. The other greasers call him “Superman. ” Sodapop Curtis – Ponyboy’s happy-go-lucky, handsome brother. Sodapop is the middle Curtis boy.
Ponyboy envies Sodapop’s good looks and charm. Sodapop plans to marry Sandy, a greaser girl. Two-Bit Mathews – The joker of Ponyboy’s group. Two-Bit, whose real name is Keith, is a wisecracking greaser who regularly shoplifts. He prizes his sleek black-handled switchblade. He instigates the hostilities between the Socs and the greasers by flirting with Marcia, the girlfriend of a Soc. Steve Randle – Sodapop’s best friend since grade school. Steve is a seventeen-year-old greaser who works with Sodapop at the gas station. Steve knows everything about cars and specializes in stealing hubcaps.
He is cocky and intelligent, tall and lean. He wears his thick hair in a complicated arrangement of swirls. He is also tough? he once held off four opponents in a fight with a broken soda bottle. He sees Ponyboy as Sodapop’s annoying kid brother and wishes Ponyboy would not tag along so often. Dallas Winston – The toughest hood in Ponyboy’s group of greasers. Dallas, known as “Dally,” is a hardened teen who used to run with gangs in New York. He has an elfin face and icy blue eyes and, unlike his friends, does not put grease in his white-blond hair.
Dally’s violent tendencies make him more dangerous than the other greasers, and he takes pride in his criminal record. Dally feels protective of Johnny Cade. Johnny Cade – A sixteen-year-old greaser with black hair and large, fearful eyes. Though Johnny does not succeed in school, he approaches intellectual matters with steady concentration. The child of alcoholic, abusive parents, he is nervous and sensitive. Since his parents do not care for him, Johnny sees the greasers as his true family. In turn, the older boys, particularly Dally, are protective of him.
Sandy – Sodapop’s girlfriend. Sandy is pregnant with another man’s child and moves to Florida to live with her grandmother. Like the other greaser girls, Sandy appears in the text only when the boys mention her. Cherry Valance – Bob’s girlfriend, she is a Soc cheerleader whom Ponyboy meets at the movies. Cherry’s real name is Sherry, but people call her Cherry because of her red hair. Ponyboy and Cherry have a great deal in common, and Ponyboy feels comfortable talking to her. Cherry is both offended and intrigued by her encounter with Dally Winston at the drive-in.
Cherry admires Dally’s individuality and tells Ponyboy that she could fall in love with Dally. In the days preceding the rumble, Cherry becomes a spy for the greasers. Marcia – Cherry’s friend and Randy’s girlfriend. Marcia is a pretty, dark-haired Soc who befriends Two-Bit at the drive-in. Marcia and Two-Bit share a sense of humor and a taste for nonsensical musings. Randy Anderson – Marcia’s boyfriend and Bob’s best friend. Randy is a handsome Soc who eventually sees the futility of fighting. Along with Cherry, Randy humanizes the Socs by showing that some of them have redeeming qualities.
Randy helps Ponyboy realize that Socs are as susceptible to pain as anyone else. Randy tries to make peace with Ponyboy after Ponyboy saves the children from the fire, and he refuses to fight in the Soc-greaser rumble. Bob Sheldon – Cherry’s boyfriend. Bob is the dark-haired Soc who beats up Johnny before the novel begins. Bob has a set of three heavy rings, which he wears when he fights greasers. Bob’s indulgent parents have never disciplined him. Paul Holden – The husky blond Soc who steps forward to challenge Darry when the rumble begins.
Paul and Darry were friends and football teammates in high school. Jerry Wood – The teacher who accompanies Ponyboy to the hospital after Ponyboy saves the children from the fire. Though an adult and a member of mainstream society, Jerry judges the greasers on their merits instead of automatically branding them juvenile delinquents. Tim Shepard – The leader of another band of greasers and a friend of Dally. Tim and Dally respect each other, despite occasional conflicts. Ponyboy thinks of Tim as an alley cat, hungry and restless.
Tim does not appear in the novel until the night of the rumble, when his gang sides with Ponyboy’s. Ponyboy sees Shepard’s gang as real street hoods and criminals, and realizes that his own gang is little more than a group of friends fighting to survive. Curly Shepard – The fifteen-year-old brother of Tim Shepard. Curly is stubborn and rough. He cannot go to the rumble because he was put in a reformatory for six months after robbing a liquor store. Tim is proud of Curly’s criminal record. Mr. Syme – Ponyboy’s English teacher. Mr. Syme expresses concern over Ponyboy’s falling grades.
He offers to raise Ponyboy’s grade if he turns in a well-written autobiographical theme. This assignment inspires Ponyboy to write about the greasers and the Socs, and his autobiographical theme turns into the novel The Outsiders. Setting Ponyboy Curtis, the narrator, begins the novel with a story: he is walking home one afternoon after watching a Paul Newman film, and his mind starts to wander. He thinks about how he wants Paul Newman’s good looks, though he likes his own greaser look. He also thinks that, although he likes to watch movies alone, he wishes he had company for the walk home. Plot
Ponyboy Curtis belongs to a lower-class group of Oklahoma youths who call themselves greasers because of their greasy long hair. Walking home from a movie, Ponyboy is attacked by a group of Socs, the greasers’ rivals, who are upper-class youths from the West Side of town. The Socs, short for Socials, gang up on Ponyboy and threaten to slit his throat. A group of greasers comes and chases the bullies away, saving Ponyboy. Ponyboy’s rescuers include Sodapop, a charming, handsome high-school dropout, and Darry, Ponyboy’s oldest brother (Darry assumed responsibility for his brothers when their parents were killed in a car crash).
The rest of the greasers who come to Ponyboy’s rescue are Johnny, a sensitive sixteen-year-old; Dally, a hardened street hood with a long criminal record; Steve, Sodapop’s best friend; and Two-Bit, the oldest and funniest group member. The next night, Ponyboy and Johnny go to a movie with Dally. They sit behind a pair of attractive Soc girls. Dally flirts with the girls obnoxiously. After Johnny tells Dally to stop harassing the Soc girls, Dally walks away. Johnny and Ponyboy sit with the girls, who are named Cherry and Marcia, and Ponyboy and Cherry discover that they have a lot in common.
Two-Bit arrives, and the three greasers begin to walk the Soc girls to Two-Bit’s house so that he can drive them home. On the way to Two-Bit’s house, they run into Bob and Randy, the girls’ drunken boyfriends. The girls must leave with their boyfriends in order to prevent a fight between the Socs and the greasers. Ponyboy is late getting home, and his brother Darry is furious with him. Sick of Darry’s constant scrutiny and criticism, Ponyboy yells at Darry. The brothers begin to fight, and Darry slaps Ponyboy across the face. Ponyboy flees, determined to run away.
He finds Johnny, and the two boys heads for the park. There they encounter Bob and Randy with a group of Soc boys. The Socs attack the Johnny and Ponyboy, and one of them holds Ponyboy’s head under the frigid water of a fountain until Ponyboy blacks out. Ponyboy regains consciousness to find himself lying on the ground. He is next to Johnny? and next to Bob’s corpse. Johnny tells Ponyboy that he (Johnny) killed Bob because the Socs were going to drown Ponyboy and beat up Johnny. Desperate and terrified, Ponyboy and Johnny hurry to find Dally Winston, the one person they think might be able to help them.
Dally gives them a gun and some money and sends them to an abandoned church near the neighboring town of Windrixville. They hide out in the church for a week, cutting and dying their hair to disguise themselves, reading Gone with the Wind aloud, and discussing poetry. After several days, Dally comes to check on Ponyboy and Johnny. He tells the boys that, since Bob’s death, tensions between the greasers and the Socs have escalated. A rumble is to take place the next night to settle matters. He says that Cherry, who feels partially responsible for Bob’s death, has been acting as a spy for the greasers.
Johnny shocks Dally by declaring his intention to go back and turn himself in. Dally agrees to drive Ponyboy and Johnny back home. However, as the boys leave, they notice that the abandoned church where Ponyboy and Johnny have been staying has caught fire. They discover that a group of schoolchildren has wandered inside. Ponyboy and Johnny rush into the inferno to save the children. Just as they get the last child through the window, the roof caves in, and Ponyboy blacks out. He regains consciousness in an ambulance. At the hospital, he is diagnosed with minor burns and bruises.
Dally is not badly hurt either, but Johnny’s back was broken by the falling roof, and he is in critical condition. Darry and Sodapop come to get Ponyboy, and Darry and Ponyboy make up. The following morning, the newspapers proclaim Ponyboy and Johnny heroes. They also report that, because of Bob’s death, Johnny will be charged with manslaughter. Finally, the papers also state that both Ponyboy and Johnny will have to go to juvenile court so that a judge can decide if they should be sent to a boys’ home. Ponyboy and Two-Bit go to get a Coke and run into Randy.
Randy tells Ponyboy that he is sick of all the fighting and does not plan to go to the rumble that night. When Ponyboy and Two-Bit visit Johnny in the hospital, Johnny seems weak. He asks Ponyboy for a new copy of Gone with the Wind. During their visit with Dally, Ponyboy and Two-Bit notice that Dally is much stronger than Johnny. Dally asks to borrow Two-Bit’s black-handled switchblade. On the way home, Two-Bit and Ponyboy see Cherry. She refuses to visit Johnny because he has killed Bob, and Ponyboy calls her a traitor. When she explains herself, he relents.
At the rumble, the greasers defeat the Socs. Dally shows up just in time for the fight; he has escaped from the hospital. After the fight, Ponyboy and Dally hurry back to see Johnny and find that he is dying. When Johnny dies, Dally loses control and runs from the room in a frenzy. Ponyboy stumbles home late that night, feeling dazed and disoriented. He tells the others of Johnny’s death. Dally calls to say that he has robbed a grocery store and the cops are looking for him. The greasers hurry to find him, but they are too late. Dally raises a gun to the police and they gun him down.
Overwhelmed, Ponyboy passes out. Ponyboy wakes up in bed at home. He has suffered a concussion from a kick to the head at the rumble and has been delirious in bed for several days. When he is well, he attends his hearing, where the judge treats him kindly and acquits him of responsibility for Bob’s death. The court rules that Ponyboy will be allowed to remain at home with Darry. For a time, Ponyboy feels listless and empty. His grades slip, he feels hostile to Darry, and he loses his appetite. At last, Sodapop tells Ponyboy that he (Sodapop) is angry and frustrated because of the tension at home.
He tearfully asks that Ponyboy and Darry stop fighting. Finally understanding the value of his family, Ponyboy agrees not to fight with Darry anymore. He finds that for the first time he can remember Dally’s and Johnny’s deaths without pain or denial. He decides to tell their story and begins writing a term paper for his English class, which turns out to be the novel itself. Themes Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor – The Outsiders tells the story of two groups of teenagers whose bitter rivalry stems from socioeconomic differences.
However, Hinton suggests, these differences in social class do not necessarily make natural enemies of the two groups. The greasers and Socs share some things in common. Cherry Valance, a Soc, and Ponyboy Curtis, a greaser, discuss their shared love of literature, popular music, and sunsets, transcending? if only temporarily? the divisions that feed the feud between their respective groups. Their harmonious conversation suggests that shared passions can fill in the gap between rich and poor. This potential for agreement marks a bright spot in the novel’s gloomy prognosis that the battle between the classes is a long-lasting one.
Over the course of the novel, Ponyboy begins to see the pattern of shared experience. He realizes that the hardships that greasers and Socs face may take different practical forms, but that the members of both groups? and youths everywhere? must inevitably come to terms with fear, love, and sorrow. Honor Among the Lawless – The idea of honorable action appears throughout the novel, and it works as an important component of the greaser behavioral code. Greasers see it as their duty, Ponyboy says, to stand up for each other in the face of enemies and authorities.
In particular, we see acts of honorable duty from Dally Winston, a character who is primarily defined by his delinquency and lack of refinement. Ponyboy informs us that once, in a show of group solidarity, Dally let himself be arrested for a crime that Two-Bit had committed. Furthermore, when discussing Gone with the Wind, Johnny says that he views Dally as a Southern gentleman, as a man with a fixed personal code of behavior. Statements like Johnny’s, coupled with acts of honorable sacrifice throughout the narrative, demonstrate that courtesy and propriety can exist even among the most lawless of social groups.
The Treacherousness of Male-Female Interactions – As hostile and dangerous as the greaser-Soc rivalry becomes, the boys from each group have the comfort of knowing how their male friends will react to their male enemies. When Randy and Bob approach Ponyboy and Johnny, everyone involved knows to expect a fight of some sort. It is only when the female members of the Soc contingent start to act friendly toward the greasers that animosities blur and true trouble starts brewing. Even on the greaser side, Sodapop discovers female unreliability when he finds out that his girlfriend is pregnant with another man’s child.
With these plot elements, Hinton conveys the idea that cross-gender interaction creates unpredictable results. This message underscores the importance of male bonding in the novel to the creation of unity and structure. Character Analysis of 2 characters Ponyboy Curtis – Ponyboy Curtis, the youngest member of the greasers, narrates the novel. Ponyboy theorizes on the motivations and personalities of his friends and describes events in a slangy, youthful voice. Though only fourteen years old, he understands the way his social group functions and the role each group member plays.
He sees that Two-Bit is the wisecracker, Darry the natural leader, and Dally the dangerous hood. Ponyboy dislikes the Socs, whom we see through his subjective viewpoint. The distorting effects of hatred and group rivalry make his narration less than objective. Ponyboy is young enough to have changeable conceptions of people, however, and over the course of the novel he realizes that Socs have problems just as greasers do. He also comes to see that Socs are even similar to the greasers in some ways.
Ponyboy has a literary bent, which Hinton uses to show that poverty does not necessarily mean boorishness or lack of culture, and that gang members are not always delinquents. Ponyboy identifies with Pip, the impoverished protagonist of Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations, cites the Robert Frost poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay,” and introduces Johnny to the southern gentlemen of Margaret Mitchell’s Southern epic, Gone with the Wind. With such an awareness of literary protagonists, Ponyboy sees himself as he is, as both character and narrator.
He takes on the narrator’s work of recounting events and the character’s work of growing and changing as a result of those events. The novel is not just a story of gang rivalry; it is an account of Ponyboy’s development. Johnny Cade – Johnny Cade is a vulnerable sixteen-year-old greaser in a group defined by toughness and a sense of invincibility. He comes from an abusive home, and he takes to the greasers because they are his only reliable family. While Johnny needs the greasers, the greasers also need Johnny, for protecting him gives them a sense of purpose and justifies their violent measures.
When Johnny, little and vulnerable, suffers at the hands of the Socs, the greasers feel justified in their hatred of the rival gang. Passive and quiet, Johnny is the principal catalyst for the major events of the novel. He stands up to Dally at the drive-in and tells him to stop harassing the two Soc girls, Cherry and Marcia. Johnny’s intervention on the girls’ behalf pleases the girls, and they talk and walk with the greasers. This interaction between female Socs and male greasers sparks the anger of the Soc boys and motivates them to attack Johnny and Ponyboy.
Ultimately, Johnny’s small acts of courage lead to murder, death, and heroic rescue. But Johnny ends by advocating against gang violence, stating that he would gladly sacrifice his life for the lives of little children. Although a gentle boy, he has a profound impact with his startling, persistent demand for peace. His courage in rescuing the children from the burning church and his subsequent death as a result of injuries sustained in the rescue make him a martyr. Ponyboy’s decision to write the story that becomes The Outsiders ensures that Johnny’s bravery will not be forgotten.