The Outsiders Violence Theme Analysis and Examples
The Outsiders Violence Essay
Violence is one of the most prominent themes in The Outsiders, a novel by S.E. Hinton that was published in 1967. The novel tells the story of two rival groups of teenagers in Tulsa, Oklahoma, who are divided by their social class and their attitudes towards violence. The novel explores how violence affects the lives, relationships, and identities of the main characters, as well as the broader implications of violence for society. In this essay, I will analyze how violence is portrayed in The Outsiders, how it influences the main characters, and what messages the novel conveys about violence.
The Outsiders Violence Essay
What is The Outsiders?
The Outsiders is a coming-of-age novel that follows the experiences of Ponyboy Curtis, a 14-year-old boy who belongs to a gang of lower-class youths called the Greasers. The Greasers are constantly at war with another gang of upper-class youths called the Socs (short for Socials), who enjoy bullying and attacking them. The novel begins with Ponyboy being jumped by a group of Socs on his way home from a movie theater. He is rescued by his friends, including his brothers Darry and Sodapop, and his best friend Johnny Cade. Later that night, Ponyboy and Johnny meet two Soc girls, Cherry Valance and Marcia, at a drive-in movie. They have a friendly conversation, but are interrupted by Cherry's boyfriend Bob Sheldon and his friend Randy Adderson, who are drunk and angry. Ponyboy and Johnny run away with the girls, but are followed by Bob and Randy. A fight ensues, during which Johnny stabs Bob to death in self-defense. Ponyboy and Johnny flee to an abandoned church in Windrixville, where they hide out for a week with the help of another Greaser, Dallas Winston (Dally). While they are there, they save a group of children from a fire that breaks out in the church, but Johnny is badly injured in the process. They return to Tulsa, where they face a final showdown with the Socs at a rumble. After the rumble, Dally drives Ponyboy to the hospital to see Johnny, who dies from his injuries. Dally is overcome with grief and runs away from the police, who shoot him dead. Ponyboy passes out from exhaustion and shock, and wakes up at home, where he recovers from his physical and emotional wounds. He writes a school essay about his experiences, which becomes the novel itself.
The novel was written by S.E. Hinton, who was only 15 years old when she started writing it and 18 when it was published. She was inspired by her own observations of the social divisions and violence in her hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she witnessed several incidents similar to those in the novel. She wanted to show the realistic and human side of the teenage gangs, who were often stereotyped and demonized by the media and society. She also wanted to challenge the conventional norms of young adult literature, which she found too sentimental and unrealistic. She wrote the novel from the perspective of a male narrator, Ponyboy, to appeal to a wider audience and to avoid being labeled as a "girl writer". She used a simple and colloquial language, as well as references to popular culture, to capture the voice and culture of the teenage characters. She also incorporated themes such as identity, family, friendship, loyalty, courage, and justice, which resonated with many readers of different backgrounds and generations. The novel was an instant success, selling over 14 million copies worldwide and becoming one of the most influential and acclaimed works of young adult literature. It was also adapted into a film in 1983, directed by Francis Ford Coppola and starring many young actors who would later become famous, such as Tom Cruise, Matt Dillon, Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, and Ralph Macchio.
Why is violence a central theme in The Outsiders?
Violence is a central theme in The Outsiders because it shapes the characters and the plot of the novel. Violence is not only a physical act, but also a social phenomenon that reflects the conflicts and tensions between different groups and individuals in society. In The Outsiders, violence is mainly caused by three factors: social class conflict, identity expression, and trauma and loss.
Violence as a result of social class conflict
The main source of violence in The Outsiders is the rivalry between the Greasers and the Socs, who represent two different social classes in Tulsa. The Greasers are poor, uneducated, and marginalized by society. They live in the east side of town, where they face harsh living conditions and limited opportunities. They are often discriminated against and harassed by the police, teachers, and other authority figures. They have little respect for the law and society's rules, and they rely on their own code of honor and loyalty to survive. The Socs are rich, educated, and privileged by society. They live in the west side of town, where they enjoy comfortable lifestyles and abundant resources. They are often admired and praised by the media, parents, and other influential people. They have a lot of power and influence over the law and society's norms, and they use them to manipulate and oppress others. They have little respect for the Greasers and their values, and they see them as inferior and worthless.
Violence as a way of expressing identity and belonging
Another factor that contributes to violence in The Outsiders is the need for identity and belonging among the characters. Violence is often used as a way of asserting one's identity and affiliation with a group, especially for the Greasers, who have little else to define themselves by. Violence is also used as a way of proving one's worth and loyalty to a group, especially for the Socs, who have little else to challenge themselves with. Violence is also used as a way of communicating and interacting with others, especially for those who have difficulty expressing their emotions and thoughts in other ways.
The importance of gangs and loyalty for the Greasers is evident throughout the novel. The Greasers see themselves as a family, who stick together and protect each other from the Socs and other enemies. They share a common bond of being outsiders in society, who have to fight for their survival and dignity. They also share a common culture of music, movies, cars, clothes, and slang, which distinguish them from the Socs and other groups. The Greasers are proud of their identity and their gang, and they are willing to risk their lives for them. For example, when Ponyboy and Johnny are attacked by the Socs in the park, they fight back to defend themselves and their friends. When Johnny kills Bob, he does it to save Ponyboy from being drowned. When Dally helps Ponyboy and Johnny escape to Windrixville, he does it to protect them from the police. When Ponyboy and Johnny return to Tulsa, they join the rumble to support their gang. When Dally dies, he does it to honor Johnny's memory.
Violence as a source of trauma and loss
The third factor that causes violence in The Outsiders is the experience of trauma and loss among the characters. Violence is often a result of suffering from abuse, neglect, or grief, which can lead to anger, fear, or despair. Violence is also a cause of more trauma and loss, which can create a vicious cycle of pain and violence.
The effects of trauma and loss are evident in many characters in The Outsiders, but especially in Johnny and Dally. Johnny is a victim of violence from his abusive parents, who beat him and neglect him. He is also a victim of violence from the Socs, who beat him up so badly that he carries a switchblade for protection. He suffers from low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression. He feels like he has no place in the world, and that nobody cares about him. He only finds solace in his friendship with Ponyboy and his gang. When he kills Bob, he feels guilty and scared. When he saves the children from the fire, he feels heroic and happy. When he dies from his injuries, he feels peaceful and hopeful.
Dally is a rebel of violence from his harsh upbringing in New York, where he learned to survive by fighting and stealing. He is also a rebel of violence from his disdain for society's rules and expectations. He enjoys violence as a way of expressing his anger and defiance. He has no respect for anyone or anything, except for his gang. He only cares about Johnny, whom he sees as his younger brother. When Johnny dies, he loses his only reason to live. He deliberately provokes the police to shoot him dead.
How does violence affect the main characters in The Outsiders?
Ponyboy: The narrator and the outsider
Ponyboy is the narrator and the protagonist of The Outsiders. He is also an outsider in his own gang and his own society. He is different from the other Greasers in many ways: he is younger, smarter, more sensitive, more artistic, and more curious. He likes to read books, watch movies, and admire sunsets. He has a good relationship with his brothers, especially Sodapop, who understands him better than Darry, who is strict and demanding. He also has a good relationship with Johnny, who is his best friend and confidant. He does not like violence, but he participates in it to fit in with his gang and to defend himself and his friends. He is loyal to his gang, but he also sees the good in some of the Socs, such as Cherry and Randy.
Violence affects Ponyboy in several ways throughout the novel. First, it exposes him to danger and fear, as he is attacked by the Socs several times. Second, it forces him to make difficult decisions and actions, such as running away with Johnny after killing Bob, or joining the rumble despite being injured. Third, it causes him to lose his innocence and his friends, as he witnesses the deaths of Johnny and Dally. Fourth, it challenges him to grow and change, as he learns to cope with his trauma and grief, to understand himself and others better, and to find his voice and purpose in life.
Johnny: The victim and the hero
Johnny is the most tragic character in The Outsiders. He is also the most heroic character in the novel. He is a victim of violence from his parents, who abuse him physically and emotionally. He is also a victim of violence from the Socs, who beat him up so badly that he becomes afraid of his own shadow. He is shy, quiet, nervous, and insecure. He has no self-confidence or self-worth. He feels like he has no place in the world, and that nobody cares about him. He only finds comfort and happiness in his friendship with Ponyboy and his gang. He looks up to Dally as his role model and protector.
Violence affects Johnny in several ways throughout the novel. First, it makes him fearful and defensive, as he carries a switchblade for protection and kills Bob in self-defense. Second, it makes him courageous and heroic, as he saves Ponyboy from being drowned by Bob and saves the children from the fire in Windrixville. Third, it makes him mature and wise, as he realizes the futility of violence and the value of life. Fourth, it makes him die young and hopeful, as he succumbs to his injuries but leaves a lasting legacy for Ponyboy and his gang.
Dally: The rebel and the martyr
Dally: The rebel and the martyr
Dally is the most violent character in The Outsiders. He is also the most loyal character in the novel. He is a rebel of violence from his tough upbringing in New York, where he learned to survive by fighting and stealing. He is also a rebel of violence from his contempt for society's rules and expectations. He enjoys violence as a way of expressing his anger and defiance. He has no respect for anyone or anything, except for his gang. He only cares about Johnny, whom he sees as his younger brother and the only innocent thing in his life.
Violence affects Dally in several ways throughout the novel. First, it makes him hardened and cynical, as he becomes a criminal and a fugitive. Second, it makes him protective and supportive, as he helps Ponyboy and Johnny escape to Windrixville and provides them with money, a gun, and a plan. Third, it makes him reckless and suicidal, as he robs a store and confronts the police after Johnny's death. Fourth, it makes him die young and tragic, as he is shot by the police but dies with a smile on his face.
Cherry: The bridge and the traitor
Cherry is the most complex character in The Outsiders. She is also the most conflicted character in the novel. She is a bridge between the Greasers and the Socs, who tries to understand both sides and find common ground. She is also a traitor to her own group, who betrays them by helping the Greasers and falling in love with one of them. She is a Soc girl, who has money, beauty, popularity, and a boyfriend. She is also a sympathetic girl, who has intelligence, sensitivity, courage, and a conscience. She likes to watch sunsets, read poetry, and listen to music. She does not like violence, but she is surrounded by it.
Violence affects Cherry in several ways throughout the novel. First, it makes her unhappy and dissatisfied, as she feels bored and empty with her life and her friends. Second, it makes her curious and open-minded, as she befriends Ponyboy and Johnny at the drive-in movie and learns about their lives and their problems. Third, it makes her loyal and helpful, as she becomes a spy for the Greasers and warns them about the Socs' plan for the rumble. Fourth, it makes her conflicted and guilty, as she falls in love with Dally but cannot be with him because of their social differences.
What are the consequences of violence in The Outsiders?
Violence has many consequences in The Outsiders, both negative and positive. In this section, I will discuss three main consequences: violence leads to more violence, violence destroys innocence, and violence can be overcome by empathy and understanding.
Violence leads to more violence
One of the negative consequences of violence in The Outsiders is that it leads to more violence. Violence creates a cycle of revenge and hatred that fuels the conflict between the Greasers and the Socs. Violence also escalates from minor incidents to major events that have serious outcomes for the characters. Violence also spreads from individual actions to group actions that involve more people and more damage.
Some examples of how violence leads to more violence in The Outsiders are: when Ponyboy is jumped by the Socs at the beginning of the novel, he becomes more afraid and angry towards them. When Johnny kills Bob in self-defense, he triggers a chain of events that leads to his own death and Dally's death. When Dally robs a store and confronts the police, he causes a shootout that ends his life and shocks Ponyboy. When the Greasers and the Socs fight at the rumble, they injure each other and create more animosity between them.
Violence destroys innocence
Another negative consequence of violence in The Outsiders is that it destroys innocence. Violence robs the characters of their childhood and their hope for the future. Violence also exposes them to the harsh realities and injustices of life. Violence also changes them from innocent and naive to cynical and disillusioned.
Some examples of how violence destroys innocence in The Outsiders are: when Ponyboy and Johnny witness Bob's death and Dally's death, they lose their innocence and their faith in humanity. When Johnny saves the children from the fire, he loses his innocence and his health. When Dally dies, he loses his innocence and his only reason to live. When Ponyboy writes his essay, he loses his innocence and his idealism.
Violence can be overcome by empathy and understanding
One of the positive consequences of violence in The Outsiders is that it can be overcome by empathy and understanding. Violence can be reduced or prevented by finding common ground and peace with others. Violence can also be healed or forgiven by showing compassion and kindness to others. Violence can also be transformed or transcended by finding meaning and purpose in life.
Some examples of how violence can be overcome by empathy and understanding in The Outsiders are: when Ponyboy and Cherry talk at the drive-in movie, they realize that they have a lot in common and that they can see the same sunset. When Johnny tells Ponyboy to stay gold, he means that he should keep his innocence and his dreams alive. When Randy visits Ponyboy at home, he tells him that he is sorry for what happened and that he will not fight at the rumble. When Ponyboy reads Johnny's letter, he understands why he died and what he wanted him to do.
In conclusion, violence is a central theme in The Outsiders, a novel by S.E. Hinton that tells the story of two rival gangs of teenagers in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Violence is caused by social class conflict, identity expression, and trauma and loss among the characters. Violence affects the main characters in different ways, depending on their personality, background, and choices. Violence has many consequences, both negative and positive, for the characters and for society. Violence can lead to more violence, destroy innocence, or be overcome by empathy and understanding.
In my opinion, The Outsiders is a powerful and realistic novel that shows the effects of violence on young people and their society. It also shows the potential of young people to overcome violence and to make a difference in the world. I think that the novel is relevant and meaningful for today's readers, who may face similar issues and challenges as the characters in the novel. I think that the novel teaches valuable lessons about violence, such as: violence is not a solution, but a problem; violence hurts everyone, not just the victims; violence can be stopped by communication, not by confrontation; violence can be changed by love, not by hate.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some frequently asked questions about The Outsiders and its theme of violence:
What is the significance of the title The Outsiders?
The title The Outsiders refers to the main characters in the novel, who are outsiders in their own society. They are outsiders because they belong to different social classes, cultures, and values than the majority of their peers. They are outsiders because they face discrimination, oppression, and violence from others. They are outsiders because they feel alienated, misunderstood, and lonely in their own world. The title also suggests that the novel is written from the perspective of an outsider, who sees things differently and critically than the insiders.
What is the significance of the switchblade in The Outsiders?
The switchblade is a symbol of violence and survival in The Outsiders. It is a weapon that the Greasers use to protect themselves from the Socs and other enemies. It is also a tool that they use to express their identity and belonging to their gang. The switchblade is especially important for Johnny, who carries it with him at all times after being beaten up by the Socs. The switchblade is what saves his life when he stabs Bob in self-defense. It is also what ends his life when he gives it to Ponyboy before dying.
What is the significance of the sunset in The Outsiders?
The sunset is a symbol of beauty and ho