The Outsiders
S.E. Hinton
Contributed by Jerrold Mcmenamin
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Chapter 7-8
Summary

Summary: Chapter 7

[G]reasers will still be greasers and Socs will still be Socs. Sometimes I think it’s the ones in the middle that are really the lucky stiffs.

Ponyboy, Darry, and Sodapop are interviewed by the police and reporters in the hospital waiting room. Sodapop is able to keep the mood lighter than it would be otherwise, by making jokes with the hospital staff and reporters. When the doctors finally approach the group, they say that Dally will recover but Johnny suffered a broken back. He might die, and even if he survives, he will be permanently and seriously disabled.

Ponyboy is making breakfast the following morning when Sodapop’s best friend, Steve Randle, and Two-Bit arrive. They bring the morning papers, in which Dally, Johnny, and Ponyboy are said to be heroes for saving the schoolchildren. They also talk about Ponyboy’s success in school and on the track team. The papers report that Johnny will be charged with manslaughter. Also, both he and Ponyboy will be send to juvenile court, and Ponyboy could be forced to spend time in a boys’ home. The others in the group reassure Ponyboy that this won’t happen and he and his brothers will be able to stay together. Ponyboy says that the previous night he had a recurring nightmare, one that he first experienced after his parents’ funeral. While he never remembers the substance of the dream, he always wakes up in a severe panic.

Ponyboy asks about Sandy, and Sodapop explains that she got pregnant and is now in Florida living with her grandmother. Her parents wouldn’t allow her to marry Sodapop because he is so young. Darry and Sodapop head to work, and Ponyboy and Two-Bit go to the Tasty Freeze to buy some Cokes. A blue Mustang appears in front of the restaurant. In it are the Socs that attacked Johnny and Ponyboy in the park. Ponyboy feels how intensely he hates them.

Randy, a Soc and Marcia’s boyfriend, approaches Ponyboy. Two-Bit reminds him of the rule of no fighting before the rumble, but Randy insists he just wants to talk. He inquires why Ponyboy saved the children’s lives and declares he would never have imagined a greaser could do something like that. Ponyboy explains his action wasn’t related to his being a greaser. Randy is upset about Bob’s death and the general violence, and he declares he will not fight at the rumble. He says that Bob was his best friend, and that he was a good guy although he had a horrible temper and his parents spoiled him. Ponyboy gets some reassurance from this conversation with Randy, and he comes to understand that the Socs are humans and can be vulnerable.

Summary: Chapter 8

We couldn’t get along without him. We needed Johnny as much as he needed the gang. And for the same reason.

Ponyboy and Two-Bit visit Dally and Johnny at the hospital. Johnny is pale and weak. He says in a whisper that he hopes that Ponyboy will finish reading Gone with the Wind aloud to him. His mother arrives for a visit. Johnny refuses to see her because of her mean-spirited character. She confronts Ponyboy and Two-Bit as they are leaving, accusing them of having caused Johnny’s condition. Two-Bit responds with an insult.

Dally is making a good recovery in the hospital. Ponyboy has warm feelings towards him for the first time in his life. Dally tells him that the leader of another gang of greasers, Tim Shepherd, visited him to discuss the rumble. Dally asks Two-Bit for his prized black-handled switchblade. Two-Bit gives it to him without even asking why it is needed.

As Ponyboy and Two-Bit make their way home, they see Cherry Valance driving her Corvette. She stops and talks, saying that the Socs have said they will fight without any weapons. Ponyboy requests that she go and see Johnny, but she declares that she cannot do that because Johnny killed bob. She claims that Bob could be very sweet and was violent only when he was drunk, and that he was intoxicated when he attacked Johnny. Although Ponyboy says she is a traitor, he promptly forgives her. After asking Cherry whether she is able to see the sunset on the West Side, he tells her to always remember that the same sight can be seen on the East Side, too.

Analysis

In the second half of the novel, we are given an increasingly greater sense of the importance of the family. Ponyboy’s family is not just the biological Curtis family but his greaser family, as well. The cohesion of the Curtis family is threatened by circumstances and events, as there is a strong possibility that the state will force Ponyboy away from his brothers and into a boys’ home. This possibility is extremely painful for the brothers, especially as Ponyboy is finally starting to appreciate Darry. Ponyboy being able to remain with his brothers is now seen as a matter of pride for the greasers. The greasers will have the chance to prove that greasers can overcome significant obstacles and be functional and successful if the Curtis brothers are allowed to stay together.

For Johnny and many other boys like him, other greasers provide a greater sense of care and stability than their biological parents. The peer group provides a more reliable family. The way Johnny prefers the greasers and feels nothing for disdain for the dysfunctional family he has at home is clear when he lets Two-Bit and Ponyboy but not his own mother visit him in the hospital. Johnny refuses to see her mother not because he wants to upset her but rather simply because he does not perceive her as being an important figure in his life. She has denied him the nurturing he needed as a child. Ponyboy and Two-Bit have given Johnny the support he needs.

It is ironic that Johnny plays a greater part in his own life and thinks about his individual desires more intensely the closer he gets to death. For a very long time, he has been a greaser and carried out his life in accordance with their principles, one of which is a dislike of the Socs. A member of any group, however, needs to have a part of his identity that it not entirely wrapped up with the group to which he belongs, and this applies to Johnny. His proximity to death gives Johnny a different perspective on life, one that diverges from the ones belonging to other greasers. He now understands the futility of violence. More importantly, he now realizes that it doesn’t need to comprise his entire identity.

Ponyboy’s appreciation of connections between people who have differences and understanding that every person is an individual is emphasized in his conversations with the two Socs, Cherry and Randy. Ponyboy reminds Randy that all people are individuals, and he points out to Cherry that the people on the West and East sides can see the sunset equally well. The conversation about the sunset demonstrates another similarity between the greasers and the Socs: regardless of where someone lives or whether they are a greaser or a Soc, they are still able to appreciate beauty. These discussions also let an earlier topic come back to the surface. This earlier topic is that of the cycles of nature, introduced when Ponyboy recites the Robert Frost poem. In this part of the novel, Ponyboy shows he understands the natural cycles, especially those of life and death. He comprehends that they apply to all human beings, no matter their social group. The emphasis on connections and points of commonality we see here takes place just as the characters are getting ready for the rumble. This is expected to be the moment of most dramatic division.

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