The Outsiders

S. E. Hinton

As a teenager, The Outsiders was one of my favourite books. The story is about fourteen-year-old Ponyboy Curtis. It is a narrative about boys growing up in a cruel world that keeps shoving them back down.

Ponyboy is portrayed as a daydreamer who enjoys reading. Odd characteristics for a greaser growing up in a poor neighbourhood. All he’s ever known is how to be an underdog to the wealthy Socs. Ponyboy and his two older brothers Darry and Sodapop are without parents. Sadly they were killed in a car accident. Left to look after each other, things don’t always run smoothly.

The oldest brother Darry steps into the authority figure role. Unsure how to manage the situation he sometimes overcompensates, especially when it comes to Ponyboy.

The situation turns south one night when Ponyboy and Johnny go to the drive-in. On the way home, they have a run-in with the Socs. A few threats are made but no one is harmed. Wanting one last cigarette Ponyboy and Johnny go to the lot and end up falling asleep. When Ponyboy eventually arrives home several hours later Darry is very angry with him.

Thinking Darry hates him, Ponyboy runs away and seeks out Johnny. The two boys wander into the park where they are set upon by a bunch of Socs. The situation turns life-threatening when the Socs start pushing Ponyboy backwards into a water fountain, attempting to drown him. They only stop when Johnny stabs one of them with a knife, killing him

Now fugitives the boys seek out their buddy Dally who instructs them to escape to the country to hide.

The boys sneak onto a train and go to the country. For several days they hide in the church, sleeping, reading, eating and smoking. Several days later Dally shows up and takes them out for burgers. When they return they discover the church is on fire. A group of young kids and adults, out on a school picnic are standing nearby. One of the teachers suddenly notices some of the children missing. He thinks they are in the burning church. Ponyboy and Johnny race towards the church, clamber inside a window and rescue them. With the children saved they begin making their own escape, but Johnny doesn’t make it.

Ponyboy is taken to hospital in an ambulance where he learns that Johnny is critically injured, but despite a burnt arm, Dally is fine. Ponyboy’s brothers Darry and Sodapop arrive soon after and they all hug and make-up.

The following night the Socs and Greasers meet up in the lot. The two groups have arranged a rumble to avenge the recent happenings. Ponyboy insists on fighting too. The rumble is fairly vicious and although he receives a bit of a beating Ponyboy comes out the other side still standing. Afterwards, he goes with Dally to the hospital to visit Johnny, who is close to death. They speak to him briefly before he passes.

The only thing Dally truly loved was Johnny, unable to cope with his death, he runs off and robs a grocery store. Then he phones his friends and tells them to meet him at the lot, saying he needs their help to hide from the law. Both the gang and the police show up. Dally is there waiting, he begins wielding an unloaded gun about. The police shoot him dead… which is what he wanted, without Johnny, Dally saw no point.

There are three remaining scenes left in the book. The first is the court case scene, where it’s decided that Darry, Sodapop, and Ponyboy should remain living together. The second is where Sodapop explodes telling both Ponyboy and Darry to stop arguing because he can’t take it anymore. And the third is when Ponyboy discovers a letter Johnny wrote him before his death saying he was glad he’d saved the kids from the burning church and that he didn’t mind dying. He finished off the note by saying that there was still good left in the world if a person was willing to look for it. The book ends with Ponyboy writing a creative writing piece for an English assignment. It starts like this:

Anyway, I absolutely loved this book, after I finished reading it I devoured S. E. Hinton’s other novels in quick succession. Then the best thing happened. The Outsiders came out as a movie. I recall going to the cinema. I recall sitting in my seat, excited as all hell, waiting for the movie to start. And then you’ll never believe it, the movie began, but a quarter of the way into the story. The opening chapters where Ponyboy is attacked in the street by the Socs, and then when he’s at home with his brothers Darry and Sodapop, were not shown. It was disappointing. It was those scenes that set up the entire story. Trying to keep an open mind I watched on regardless. Then a thought occurred to me. If the opening scenes were missing, did that mean the end scenes might be as well? I waited, holding my breath, and then it happened. The court case scene and the scene where SodaPop runs off into the park, being chased by Ponyboy and Darry were both cut from the movie. What the hell? Talk about a let-down, and not just for me, for thousands of teenagers around the world.

Years later I happened to read Rob Lowe’s autobiography ROB LOWE — Stories I Only Tell My Friends. He dedication a large section of his book to the roles he acted in various movies. The Outsiders was one of them. Back when he was eighteen, he played the part of Sodapop. He too was shocked and disappointed to find his scenes deleted from the movie, something to do with budget cuts. Ridiculous, the three brothers were what made this story great. According to Rob Lowe, Frances Ford Coppola got a lot of slack for making the cuts and years later put the deleted scenes back in. Upon reading this information, I quickly ordered the new edition DVD and a few weeks later invited my family over for an Outsiders luncheon. After we ate, we watched the movie. And there it was, The Outsiders, deleted scenes and all. What a fabulous treat.

So, if you’re stuck for reading material, I suggest The Outsiders. It’s pitched for teenagers, but any age group would enjoy it.

Until then, happy reading.

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