The Outsiders
S.E. Hinton
Contributed by Jerrold Mcmenamin
Chapter 11-12
Summary

Summary: Chapter 11

After Ponyboy wakes up from his concussion, he is required to stay in bed for a full week. When looking through Sodapop’s high school yearbook, he discovers a picture of Bob. He sees a similarity between Bob’s and Sodapop’s grins. Ponyboy ponders whether Bob’s parents see him as an object of hatred, thinking he would prefer to be hated than to be pitied by them. He remembers conversations he has had with Randy and Cherry while looking at the picture. He comes to the conclusion that Bob was a hot-tempered, arrogant, and scared human being.

When Randy comes over to talk to Ponyboy, he is shockingly insensitive. Not giving any consideration to what Ponyboy must have suffered, Randy declares that he is concerned about being linked to the violence. They talk about the hearing that is supposed to take place the next day. Ponyboy is feeling delirious. He says that Johnny is still alive and that he killed Bob himself. Darry says that Randy has to leave.

Summary: Chapter 12

Ponyboy’s doctor has told the judge about Ponyboy’s condition. As a result, the boy is not required to speak a great deal at the hearing. The judge maintains a gentle manner in asking Ponyboy some questions about his life at home. Ponyboy is then acquitted of all wrongdoing and lets him go home with his brothers. Ponyboy seems detached and depressed after the hearing. He loses his appetite, memory, and coordination, and his grades suffer. He starts fighting again with Darry. Mr. Syme, Ponyboy’s English teacher, explains that while the boy is failing, he will be able to increase his grade to a C if he does a great job on his autobiographical theme project.

Ponyboy, Steve, and Two-Bit go to the grocery store to buy Cokes and candy bars the following day. Ponyboy is accosted by some Socs, and he wards them off with a broken bottle. He declares that he will not tolerate any more intimidation. This uncharacteristic demonstration of hostility alarms Two-Bit and Steve, and they tell Ponyboy he must take care not to become as hard as Dally was. They are pleased to see Ponyboy bend down to retrieve the broken glass, wanting to avoid causing anyone to end up with a flat tire.

Darry confronts Ponyboy about his grades that night, and the two argue. Sodapop rushes from the house, distressed that a letter he sent to Sandy has been returned to sender, unopened. Darry tells Ponyboy that Sodapop is not father to Sandy’s child and seems surprised that Sodapop never confided in Ponyboy about hat. Ponyboy thinks that he probably seemed uninterested when Sodapop wanted to discuss his problems. Darry and Ponyboy are worried, and they go to try to find Sodapop. When they find him, he tells them that the constant arguing is destroying him. He sobs, begging that they try harder to accept one another and stop fighting. Darry and Ponyboy promise that they will try. Ponyboy believes that it is Sodapop who will hold the family together.

After the boys run back home, Ponyboy takes a look at Johnny’s copy of Gone with the Wind. He discovers a note that Johnny wrote in it. It tells him to stay gold and declares that saving the children’s lives were worth losing his own. Ponyboy now knows he wishes to tell the story of his friends. He feels this will help prevent other boys from nursing their anger and make them see the beauty in the world. He starts to work on his English theme project. We see the words that begin The Outsiders: “When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home.”

Analysis

Ponyboy cannot initially come to terms with Dally and Johnny’s deaths. He is immobilized both physically and emotionally. His physical injuries heal and he recovers in that way, but he feels empty and listless. His grades and his relationship with Darry suffers. Ponyboy’s companions worry that he will cope in the wrong way: by hardening and becoming an angry hoodlum. This worries them. We might imagine that Ponyboy’s new demonstrations of toughness would be seen in a positive light by Two-Bit and Steve. Ponyboy’s actions with the broken bottle in the grocery store indicate that Ponyboy is becoming less vulnerable to intimidation and is therefore increasing his value in the greaser gang. Yet although it is important that greasers have tough exteriors, Ponyboy’s friends do not wish for him to transform into something that he is not. As Johnny is now dead, Ponyboy is the only one in the group who still has his innocence. The other group members remember this kind of innocence with nostalgia. The greasers are also concerned about Ponyboy’s demonstration of toughness because they are ware that he has no natural hostility and does not have an intimidating nature. The way the other greasers worry about Ponyboy proves that they see individual well-being as being just as important as group well-being. The fact that Ponyboy shows the consideration of picking up the pieces of broken grass after he intimidates the Socs with the bottle shows that his decency and thoughtfulness is a much more prominent aspect of his character than any capacity for demonstrations of intense anger.

When Ponyboy hashes out issues with his brothers, he demonstrates that his recovery is in progress. While Ponyboy is still experiencing the pain of his los, he is finally able to remember Dally and Johnny without feelings of overwhelming anguish or denial. He starts to see the greasers’ and juvenile delinquents’ plights in an objective way. He sees that many teenage boys hate the world and think he need to be violent and tough, and he starts to feel that someone ought to make them see the beauty in the world. The decision Ponyboy makes to tell the story of the greasers in his English theme paper is a demonstration of his maturation and emotional capability. Hinton indicates that Ponyboy has discovered a way he can make sense of the unnecessary violence in his life. His willingness to take a close look at his painful past marks the final stage of his recovery. It puts him a position to eventually fulfill the potential that Darry perceives in him.

The fact that the closing lines of the novel exactly repeat its opening lines symbolically begins Ponyboy’s exploration of the past through memory. It is through this exploration, which is recorded in his writing, Ponyboy and the readers are finally able to find a purpose in the seemingly pointless struggle he has gone through. Hinton’s decision to end the book by circling back to its opening creates a strong sense of balance and symmetry in the structure of the story. More significantly, however, Ponyboy’s ability to conclude the story in such an appropriate way is proof that he has successfully addressed the trauma of his past in a healthy way.

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