The Outsiders Links
MONDAY Wk 9: In
class today we broadly covered the idea of symbols in the
ACTIVITY ONE - SYMBOLISM
Read the following (courtesy of Sparks Notes which I will
link to later then remove this document) and then see how
many more symbols you can come up with. Once you have identified
the symbol, you need to explain in some depth (neatly) how
the symbol makes some comment about characters or ideas in
the novel. What significance does
this symbol have?
ACTIVITY TWO - THEME
Visit the links below and make brief dot point notes on
the themes of The
Outsiders as identified in each site. DO
NOT accept what any of these sites offer as the answer
or the truth. There are many ways of coming to an undrstanding
of the themes of any text rather than accepting what has
Although each link makes some relevant comment,
I do not believe they adequately explore the meaning that
can be made from this novel. This we will do in class.
You will be tested tomorrow on your understanding of the
themes as they have been discussed on each site. (Remember-
an honest half an hour total.)
Food for thought : one of the main themes in The
Outsiders is that appearances are not always what they seem. The characters
we will meet use their outside appearance to speak for them.
Sometimes that works and sometimes it does not. So it is
with our lives where appearances may or may not provide clues
to who we really are.
REMEMBER MAX! You all judged and made
up your minds before knowing all the facts. Don't make judgements
based alone on what you see, as there is often more to be
Symbols and Motifs in The Outsiders.
Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, or literary
devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s
major themes. Symbols are things which can represent more
than, or other than themselves. (Double click on the word
symbol or motif for a definition.)
Literary references occur throughout The Outsiders, helping
us understand how the characters in the novel view themselves
and those around them. Ponyboy first alludes to a work of
literature in Chapter 1, when he compares himself to Pip
from Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations. Ponyboy
identifies with Pip because he, like Pip, is orphaned, impoverished,
and struggling to make sense of the world. Additionally Ponyboy
and Johnny put special emphasis on Robert Frost’s poem “Nothing
Gold Can Stay,” which helps them understand that growing
up and facing reality is a necessary part of life. Finally,
Johnny likens Dally to a Southern gentleman in Gone with
the Wind. Having this idealized vision of Dally makes Johnny
able to understand him.
Literature not only creates a bond between Ponyboy and the
other characters, as when he discusses books with Cherry
and reads to Johnny, but it also creates a cyclic premise
for the narrative itself. We find out at the novel’s
end that the narrative of The Outsiders is in fact an autobiographical
work that Ponyboy is writing in order to pass his English
class. This revelation confirms the importance of literature
in the story as a means of connecting with others.
Eye Shape and Colour
Though Hinton gives thorough physical descriptions of all
her characters, she places particular importance on their
eyes. Characters’ eyes represent key facets of their
personalities. For example, Darry and Dally—the two
boys with whom Ponyboy feels the least comfortable—have
icy blue eyes. Dally’s eyes, in particular, are narrow.
The narrator considers these two characters to be hard, even
heartless, and the narrowness and cool hues of their eyes
reflect their invulnerability. Hinton repeatedly defines
Johnny Cade, on the other hand, by his wide, brown eyes.
In correspondence with his eye shape and color, Johnny is
generally nervous, gentle, and vulnerable to attack.
Ponyboy’s Losses of Consciousness
During the second half of the novel, beginning with the
scene at the burning church, Ponyboy loses consciousness
multiple times. It might seem strange at first to have a
narrator slip in and out of mental clarity and thus miss
out on entire spans of plot development. However, it makes
sense that Hinton would distance her narrator temporarily
in this manner, as this gives us, as well as Ponyboy, a needed
rest from the intense action. This device also allows for
events to be recounted after they happen, so that Ponyboy
can sift through unnecessary details.
Symbols are objects, characters, figures, or colors used
to represent abstract ideas or concepts.
Two-Bit’s switchblade is his most prized possession
and, in several ways, represents the disregard for authority
for which greasers traditionally pride themselves. First
of all, the blade is stolen. Second, it represents a sense
of the individual power that comes with the potential to
commit violence. This symbolism surfaces most clearly when
Dally borrows the blade from Two-Bit and uses it to break
out of the hospital to join his gang at the rumble. It is
fitting that Two-Bit finally loses the blade when the police
confiscate it from Dally’s dead body. The loss of the
weapon, at this point, becomes inextricably linked with the
loss of Dally—a figure who embodies individual power
Cars represent the Socs power and the greasers’ vulnerability.
Because their parents can afford to buy them their “tuff” cars,
the Socs have increased mobility and protection. The greasers,
who move mostly on foot, are physically vulnerable in comparison
to the Socs. Still, greasers like Darry, Sodapop, and Steve
do have contact with automobiles—they repair them.
We can interpret this interaction with cars positively or
negatively. On one hand, it symbolizes how the greasers have
a more direct and well-rounded experience than the Socs with
the gritty realities of life. On the other hand, the fact
that the greasers must service and care for Soc possessions
demonstrates that the Socs have the power to oppress the
Bob Sheldon’s rings function similarly to the Socs’ cars.
Throughout literature, rings and jewellery have been traditional
symbols of wealth. The rings in this story represent the
physical power that accompanies wealth. By using his rings
as combative weapons, Bob takes advantage of his economic
superiority over Ponyboy and the other greasers, using his
wealth to injure his opponents.
The greasers cannot afford rings, cars, or other physical
trappings of power that the Socs enjoy. Consequently, they
must resort to more affordable markers of identity. By wearing
their hair in a specific style, greasers distinguish themselves
from other social groups. Conservative cultural values of
the 1960s called for men to keep their hair short, and the
greaser style is a clear transgression of this social convention.
It is not only distinctive, but, as a physical characteristic,
this hair is truly an organic part of the greaser persona.
When the Socs jump Ponyboy at the beginning of the novel,
they ask him if he wants a haircut and threaten to cut off
his hair. By doing so, they would rob him of his identity.