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After 47 years, 'The Outsiders' still a relevant book

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Can you imagine writing a famous book before your 17th birthday? S.E. Hinton did. She started "The Outsiders" when she was 15 and finished it when she was 16.

The novel, which came out in 1967, is now considered a modern classic and has been made into a movie (starring Tom Cruise, Matt Dillon, Patrick Swayze and more) and even a short-lived TV show.

"The Outsiders" follows a short time in the life of Ponyboy Curtis, a 14-year-old in an Oklahoma town in 1965. Ponyboy lives with his two brothers, Darrel ("Darry") and Sodapop, after his parents died in a car crash.

He is the youngest member of their gang, called the Greasers. Sodapop is the most intellectual of the gang; he reads, makes good grades and hates that one of his brothers has dropped out. The Greasers, who do not have very much money or hope for the future, are at constant war with the Socs, who are all privileged kids.

The Socs like to attack the Greasers for fun because they can get away with it. When Ponyboy witnesses his friend, Johnny, kill a Soc in self-defense, his life is turned on its head.

The novel explores "how the other side lives." Ponyboy comes to realize that the lives of the Socs are not perfect just because they have money. 

S.E. Hinton liked to read, but she thought that the young adult literature being written at the time was unsatisfying. She was also inspired to write "The Outsiders" from witnessing the social divide at her school. 

"The Outsiders" helped spawn the teen literature we have today that explores serious issues adolescents deal with. The novel remains popular today because it gives a genuine teenage viewpoint; it does not condescend or preach.

"The Outsiders" was sold to a publisher on the notion that it "captured a certain spirit." It also explores issues that people still deal with today, like the class divide and what it means to be a "good person."

Because of its dark themes and violence, "The Outsiders" has been a controversial book since its inception. It has been banned frequently in schools and libraries, but it is also taught in schools.

S.E. Hinton also has written many other popular books, including "That Was Then, This is Now" and "Rumble Fish."


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