S. E. Hintons novel, The Outsiders, is at first a narrative of Ponyboy, a young outcast boy who later becomes a young man filled with identity. At the end of the novel, it is revealed that the narrative is actually Ponyboys autobiographical account of his quest for a place in society. The symbols and motifs of The Outsiders contribute immensely to the novels most prominent theme: Commonality between the rich and the poor is camouflaged by economics and socialism. The greasers are limited to physical forms of identity, as their only significant symbol of identity is their hair.
The greasers, unlike the Socs, cannot afford jewelry or cars like their opposing social group. Their greasy hair distinguishes them from all of their social groups and classes. In the beginning of the novel, the Socs and Ponyboy arrive at a confrontation and they promised, Were gonna do you a favor greaser. Were gonna cut all that long greasy hair off (Hinton 5). This symbolically reveals that the Socs were attempting to rob Ponyboy of his identity. Hinton also places heavy significance upon eye shape and color.
The descriptions of each characters eyes are symbolic of their personalities. Johnny Cades eyes are described as wide and brown, reflecting his nervous, gentle, yet vulnerable tendencies. In contrast, both Darry and Dally have eyes that are described as icy blue; this represents Ponyboys chilly feelings of uneasiness towards them. Hinton also utilizes their eye shape and color to convey Moy 2 their heartlessness, harshness and invulnerability. The symbols of hair and eyes assist in greater illumination the novels central theme of identity and class.
The reference to Robert Frosts poem, Nothing Gold Can Stay is introduced by Ponyboy, as he recites it to Johnny in the Windrixville Church. Natures first green is gold, Her hardest hue to hold. Her early leafs 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 (Hinton 77). The title of the poem simply suggests that all good things must subside to an end. As the novel concludes, the boys reason that youthful innocence cannot exist forever, as the harsh realities of life distort any such idea.
Near the end of the novel Johnny preaches, Stay gold Ponyboy. Stay gold (Hinton 159). This quote is representative of Frosts poem; Johnny has lost his innocence, just as the poem promised that nothing gold could stay. The poem also offers the boys a metaphor to the structure of their loss of innocence. The poem contests that through the course of existence, innocence will always naturally be lost. Frosts flower metaphor actuates the natural physical tendency for objects to loose their gold semblance, just as the Johnny has.
The departure of Johnnys innocence plays a significant role in proving meaning to the central theme as it demonstrates to Ponyboy the many convictions life may pose. They symbols of hair and eyes, along with the significance of Frosts poem, Nothing Gold Can Stay employs the fundamental theme of the novel; both rich and the poor share the same experiences throughout life. Although both social groups clash, Cherry Valance, a Soc, and Ponyboy, a greaser, manage to build a bridge of interests.
They discover both have an Moy 3 immense love of literature. Later, Ponyboy confides in Cherry and they discuss various books, which he later reads to Johnny. The interactions between Ponyboy and Cherry serve as an essential link of shared interests and passions. This commonality brings together both the Socs and the greasers. As the novel progresses, Ponyboy intermittently recognizes that both groups face similar experiences in life, and that ultimately they are all conquering the same hardships and obstacles.
Hintons employment of symbols and motifs illuminate the meaning of the novels focal theme of the contrast between the Socs and the greasers. Through their symbolic forms of identity, Hinton offer the greasers a narrative sense of self. The poem, Nothing Gold Can Stay provides structure to Ponyboys eventual epiphany, that experiences will always be changing ones life, and that experiences can never be changed. In the end, Ponyboy understands that the differences between him and the Socs does not create outsiders, it is the golden experiences that truly produce ones identity.