Critical Overview S. E. Hinton’s “The Outsiders”

S. E. Hinton was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma in the year of 1948.

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As a kid, she was timid. She kept quiet and to herself. After high school, her father was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She poured her heart and soul into writing to cope with the tragic turn of events. At only 15 years old, she began writing her novel, The Outsiders, due to the lack of literature for teenagers in her generation. Hinton was tired of reading happily ever after stories that were far reality. She wanted to give teens a book that they could relate to, something that was raw and portrayed issues that real people go through. She had given no thought to publication until a professional children’s writer, who just so happened to be one of her friend’s mother, took a look at her draft. She immediately saw the potential of the book and urged Hinton get in touch with her New York agent. She completed her first draft around her joiner year, and the final copy was published on April 24th, 1967.

The book was sold at a local drugstore before Hinton’s publisher notices how good it was selling. It soon became clear that there was a large market for young adult readers. Jon Michaud informs us that “Since then, The Outsiders has gone on to sell more than ten million copies in the article S. E. Hinton and the Y.A Debate. The book was a huge success and continues to be read till this very day. According to Martel Sardina in her essay, “Susan Eloise Hinton broke new ground in young adult fiction with the publication of The Outsiders. The Outsiders is a story about two teen gangs, the greasers and the socs. Ponyboy and his brothers Sodapop and Darrel are part of the greasers, who are considered juvenile delinquents by society. They wear their hair long, greased, and they don’t follow the rules. The scocs are the privileged and wealthy kids of the west side. These two gangs are far from friends. The conflicts between them change both of their worlds. The lives of both gangs will significantly change. One night, Johnny and Ponyboy get jumped by Bob and Randy and a few other members of the socs. The fight became intense when Bob started drowning Ponyboy in a fountain. At first, he would take him out of the water, but after one of the greasers suggested leaving him under the water, Johnny knew he had to do something. Johnny, in an instant, stabs Bob to stop him before he kills Ponyboy. Bob dies, and the boys are left in shock. Not sure what to do, Ponyboy and Johnny turn to Dally, another member of the greasers, for help.

They knew Dally would know what to do in a crisis such as this one. Dally gives the boys a gun, some money, and tells them to hide in an abandoned church. While in the church, the boys cut and dye their hair to disguise themselves and spend their days reading poetry. After a week or so, Dally comes to check on Ponyboy and Johnny, and the boys catch up. Dally tells the boys that things have intensified between the gangs ever since the incident. Johnny shocks Dally with the news that he has been planning on turning himself in. Dally then agrees to bring the boys home, but they notice that the church caught fire, trapping a group of children inside. The greasers rush back, jump in and save the kids. Johnny was burned during the process and ends up in the hospital while the greaser and scocs partake in a battle known as a “rumble. The greasers win the battle, but Johnny dies. His last words to the boys were “stay gold (Hinton 148). Dallas ends up committing suicide by a cop shortly after Johnny’s death. Pony is later cleared of any charges. Strongly affected by this horrid chain of events, Pony decides to write The Outsiders as an assignment for his English class. In Martel Sardina’s essay, she focuses her attention on the trend that Hinton started. “Such books portrayed issues such as drug and alcohol abuse, teen pregnancy, death, and divorce. She noted that teachers and parents worried that this tend of writing might influence such behaviors from their children. “Debate raged over whether The Outsiders and the books that followed in its footsteps were too realistic for their good. The message Hinton was trying to convey was clear to Sardina.

She noticed and that most critics overlooked the message of the story because they focused all of their attention on the use of violence in Hinton’s novel. She notices that Hinton explores different themes in the book, some of which include the gap between rich and poor, the loss of innocence and honor among the lawless. “The greasers are honorable” Sardina state. Her reason for saying so was that they stick up for each other and stick together through thick and thin no matter the situation. She follows this by giving an example from the story, “Dally takes the blame for a crime that he did not commit instead of turning in his friend. She then talks about the essential theme of the book: innocence. As we can recall, Johnny’s last words were “stay gold. He was trying to tell Ponyboy to keep his innocence. Staying innocient is the lesson that Hinton was trying to give her audience according to Sardina. To conclude, she notes the success of the book. “Despite its critics, The Outsiders became a commercial success and won numerous awards. She mentions several names the book was given such as one of the best teen books by the New York Herald Tribune. “With more than fourteen million copies in print, The Outriders is among the best-selling young adult novels of all time. Nick Greene, the editor for Mental Floss, was impressed by Hinton. He has yet to find a book that was entertaining in a non-goofy type of way.

He says, “most of the books I had read up until that point were either explicitly goofy books such as Sherlock Bones or Bunnicula or assigned school reading that intimidated or bored me. The Outsiders manages to take a serious citation but also make it enjoyable to read. “The Outsiders is the book that made me want to be a writer” Greene says. He continues with saying that Hinton changed his definition of what a writer was. It wasn’t a job but rather something you did because you enjoyed and wanted to do. According to the article, “The Outsiders by SE Hinton, book of a lifetime: A powerful feeling of hope” The Outsider was the first book that Matt Haig read on his own. He tells his story and how the book helped him throughout his youthful years. He says it was like a friend to him. He says, “I have various books that mean a lot to me, but The Outsiders- was a book that comforted me at various points in my life. Something he can go back to when he feels alone or lost in the world. Even as an adult, Haig re-reads the book as his way to cope with his anxiety and depression. It was his therapy. Although this book became popular among the youth and was appraised for exposing significant issues such as violence and racism, a few critics had a few harsh words to say about the book. For instance, Thomas Fleming wrote, “Hinton’s fire engine pace does not give the reader much time to manufacture doubts in his New York Times Book Review. He questions the believability of the storyline. He points out that in his days, it was the wealthy kids that were picked on rather those who resembled the greasers. It was a bit too clich in his opinion. To conclude he says that the ending of the book was “comforting if not quite believable. We see a similar comment from Nat Hentoff who reviewed the book in Atlantic Monthly.

He states that the plot was somewhat forced and “artificial. He does, however, applaud her for bringing awareness to real issues in her writing. Kids need to be aware of these types of problems. It’s important to be mindful of certain things even if you go on living a full life without encountering them. Kids were not exposed to the harsh reality in previous works of literature. Hinton broke down the wall because she felt that kids need to be educated about these problems. Hentoff concludes that the book is popular among the youth “because it stimulates their feelings and questionings about class and differing lifestyles. They might not relate to the specific situation, but they are engaged because they are realistic. Critic Michael Malone can agree with what Thomas Fleming and Nat Hentoff were saying. He pointed out the young kids are not exposed to the kind of violence that Hinton wrote about in The Outsiders. He does have a point. Most kids don’t go through anything remotely close to what the greasers did when it comes to violence. “Far from strikingly realistic’ he says. A similar theme of critique is seen in these three reviews. They can all agree that, although the book points out severe and real issues, the storyline isn’t believable. Joanne S. Gillespie wrote the critical work, Getting Inside S. E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. She shares her experience with sharing this novel with her middle school students. She starts by stating that the book fits Hazel Roschmann’s definition of a good story: “A good story is rich with ambiguity with uncertainty. You sympathize with people of all kinds, and neither side wins. Before reading the book, she has her students talk about labeling and stereotypes. Next, she has them write about a time when they were labeled and how they felt in the moment. Students become aware that labeling, calling people names and stereotyping cause trouble. “This is a perfect segue into The Outsiders (Gillespie, 44)

She has her students perform different activities to determine if they understand the reading. For example, she has the students share their insights about a character through similes and metaphors. The students are so engaged that they can come up with creative responses almost instantly. One kid says, “Dally is a Swiss army knife because he is useful in many ways but dangerous when mishandled (45). It’s evident that Gillespie’s made real connections reading this novel. Kids don’t like to read anymore, and they don’t often do so if not obligated. Getting them to engage the way they do with this book is a huge deal. Many teachers have and will continue providing this book in their classes. This book is an excellent book for youth and a great education tool. In the New York Times, Hinton wrote an article “Teenagers Are for real. To begin, she explains that adults try to relate to the youth of today and believe they are successful, but in reality, are not. Their mindset is stuck in the past while generations ahead keep evolving into the new world. When trying to write about teenagers, they do so from memories. They are unable to strongly connect with the youth because “teenagers today want to read about teenagers today (28).

Hinton points out that most authors try to sugar code their writing. They leave out the heartache, suffering and “behind the scenes stuff that real teens go through. “In short, where is the reality? she says (28). This is ironic considering a lot of her critics said her storyline was unrealistic. She notes that kids want to read books like The Outsiders. Considering she was a kid when she wrote the novel, she has a point. This book has captured of youth in her days and continue to do so long after her childhood. Not only do writers they sugar code the world from children, but they put up this wall of lies that teens already know aren’t valid. Hinton explains that teenagers know about injustice and brutality. They know that sometimes the bad guys win and that there are no happily ever asters. They know the cruel side of the world, but writers continue to block that side from them. Hinton praises that writers shouldn’t be scared to shock the younger audience with information they already know. They should give the audience stories that they can relate to, and with that, they could earn the audience’s respect. Many critics voice their opinions toward the book The Outsiders written by S. E. Hinton.

The views on the book were very divided. It was either they liked it, or they didn’t. Most of the critics believed that Hinton’s storyline was unrealistic and a bit clich. Others thought the novel was relatable and raw. While some critics put Hinton down for exposing children to violence, death, etc., others praised her for doing so. They agreed that children need to be exposed to certain situations so that they know the hardships and consciences that follow and not want to get involved. Others believed that it would influence their children to behave in a wrong way. Hinton does a great job of explaining her point of view in the article “Teenagers Are for Real. Despite the critics, Hinton book continues to be a favorite of the youth.

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