The Outsiders
S.E. Hinton
Contributed by Jerrold Mcmenamin
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Chapter 3-4
Summary

Summary: Chapter 3

Just don’t forget that some of us watch the sunset too.

Ponyboy, Johnny, and Two-Bit walk with Marcia and Cherry to Two-Bit’s house. They want to drive the girls home. While they’re walking, Cherry and Ponyboy discuss Ponyboy’s brothers. He finds it very easy to talk to Cherry. When Cherry asks for him to describe Darry, he claims that Darry dislikes him and likely wishes he had the ability to put Ponyboy away in a home. Two-Bit and Johnny are shocked to hear Ponyboy say he feels this way. Johnny declares he always imagined that the brothers got along very well.

Ponyboy describes Mickey Mouse, Sodapop’s old horse, to Cherry. After this, the two talk about the ways they think the greasers and the Socs are different. Ponyboy and Cherry discover they have a lot in common. For example, they both love reaching and enjoy watching sunsets. Ponyboy expresses frustration with the terrible luck the greasers have. He indicates that the Socs do not appreciate their easy lives and beat up the greasers out of boredom. Cherry responds that the situations of individual Socs are not as simple as Ponyboy imagines. They conclude that the primary difference between the greasers and Socs is that the greasers feel things too intensely while the Socs’ coolness and aloofness stops them from properly acknowledging their emotions. The Socs spend all their time trying to find ways to fill their emotional voids. Ponyboy recognizes that while he and Cherry have different class origins, they watch and enjoy the same sunset.

A blue Mustang passes. It belongs to Bob and Randy, the Soc boyfriends of Cherry and Marcia. The car stops beside the group. Randy and Bob get out of it. Ponyboy sees that there are three heavy rings on Bob’s hand. The Socs and greasers almost get into a fight, but the girls say they will leave with their boyfriends in order to prevent things getting out of hand. Before the girls leave, Cherry tells Ponyboy that she would rather not see Dally again. She worries that if she did, she might fall in love with him.

Ponyboy makes his way home. He finds that Darry is furious with him for being out so late at night. Darry slaps Ponyboy in the argument that ensues. Ponyboy has never been hit by anyone in his family before. Very angry, Ponyboy leaves the house. He is now certain that Darry does not want him around anymore. Now at after two o’clock in the morning, Ponyboy discovers Johnny in the lot that is a popular hang-out spot for the greasers. He informs Johnny that he is running away. Johnny’s homelife is difficult because of his abusive alcoholic father, and he says that he will run away with Ponyboy without any hesitation. The boys go on to walk through the park and decide whether they will really leave.  

Summary: Chapter 4

It is 2:30 in the morning and the park is deserted. Johnny and Ponyboy walk a bit beside the fountain. The weather is cold, and Ponyboy wears only a short-sleeved shirt. A blue Mustang suddenly appears. It is the same one from earlier that evening. Randy, Bob, and three other Socs get out of the car and approach them. It seems that the Socs want to get revenge on the boys for flirting with their girlfriends. Ponyboy can discern that they are drunk. Bob says that greasers are only white trash with longer hair, and Ponyboy declares that Socs are white trash with madras shirts and Mustangs. Ponyboy is so full of rage that he spits at the Socs. After a Soc grabs Ponyboy, he holds the boy’s head under a fountain’s water, which is frigidly cold. Ponyboy feels that he is drowning and loses consciousness. After he wakes up, he discovers that the Socs have run away. He finds himself lying next to Johnny, on the pavement. Bob is nearby, clearly dead. Johnny explains that he killed him. Ponyboy sees that Johnny’s switchblade has a great deal of blood on it.

While Ponyboy panics, Johnny manages to stay calm. The boys decide that Dally might be able to help them, and they go to him. Dally is at the house of his rodeo partner, Buck Merril. He gives the boys fifty dollars, a loaded gun, and a change of clothing for Ponyboy. He tells them to travel to Windrixville by train, saying there is an abandoned church there that they can hide in. Once Ponyboy and Johnny are on the train, Ponyboy falls asleep. When they reach Windrixville, they get off the train and find the church. They are exhausted. Once they get to the church, they fall asleep immediately.

Analysis

In this part of the book, we see Hinton use images to symbolize the hostility that exists between the two different socioeconomic groups. The blue Mustang of the Socs represents class and power. A greaser would never be able to buy such a “tuff car.” The Mustang is symbolic of the economic realities that separate the groups and indicates a primary source of the division between them. In most of the novel, we see the greasers making their way around by foot, which puts them in a vulnerable position. It allows the Socs, who have the protection of their cars, to more easily attack them. Another material sign of the Socs’ wealth is Bob’s collection of rings. This helps to highlight the greasers’ poverty. Ponyboy is able to identify Soc Bob by the huge rings that adorn his fingers. Obviously, this kind of jewelry is a way to symbolize wealth. However, Bob also sees these rings as weapons when beating up the greasers. This is similar to way brass knuckles can be used to make a punch more painful and damaging. On a symbolic level, therefore, Bob is able to use his wealth as a physical weapon. By contrast, the greasers are unable to represent themselves by way of material luxuries. It is their long hair that is primary symbol of identification. Hair does not cost money, unlike rings and cars. The greasers hair is even cheaper to maintain than most, as they do not pay to have it styled or cut. Hair symbolizes the greasers while jewelry and cars symbolize their rivals, the Socs. The two gangs are differentiated by these superficial features, and this reinforces in the reader’s mind the fact that material possessions play a significant role in the creation of group identities in the novel.

The novel’s most significant crisis is introduced in this part of the novel. The attack of the Socs on Ponyboy and Johnny constitutes an invasion of greaser territory. Also, the fight is an unfair one because they are taking advantage of the physical vulnerability of the greaser boys. Psychologically, this event creates a crisis for Ponyboy. It creates doubts in his mind regarding the ideas that were developing there about the commonalities that may exist between the greasers and the Socs. Hinton renders Johnny’s actions in killing Bob morally uncomplicated. It is clear that if Johnny had refrained from attacking Bob, Ponyboy would have been drowned. While it’s true that Johnny commits murder, he retains the reader’s sympathy. He is portrayed as a defender of Ponyboy’s life rather than as a killer. We see that he is a victim of circumstances. We cannot question the noble nature of his motives and values. He thought only of saving his friend’s life.

The murder results in Johnny and Ponyboy gaining a new status in their group as well as in the story as a whole. At first, both characters have passive roles in their group and in the narrative. Ponyboy is an observer who is viewed as a “tagalong,” and Johnny hardly ever speaks. His action of killing a Soc in defense of his friend, however, results in Johnny transitioning to adulthood. He demonstrates his strength when he is able to stay calm after the killing takes place, deciding on a rational course of action. Ponyboy is made more significant by how close he is to the murder. Without any intention to do so, he motivates Johnny to kill the Soc. The boys inadvertently start playing active roles in the story, causing events to occur, increasing tensions between the greasers and the Socs, and making the narrative move forward.

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