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The Outsiders - S. E. Hinton

The Outsiders Links





MONDAY Wk 9: In class today we broadly covered the idea of symbols in the novel.


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?


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 been posted.

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.)

LINKS :,pageNum-52.htm

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 known,

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

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 and authority.


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 greasers.

Bob’s Rings

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.

Greaser Hair

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.



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