The Outsiders

I’ve heard about this book for half my life, I guess, but I never got around to reading it because it just didn’t sound like my sort of book. Actually, I think for most of that time I was confusing it with another – possibly also by Hinton? – because I thought it was about cowboys….

Anyway, I finally read it. In an afternoon. The impetus is that I have to teach it this year and I’m glad that I read it well ahead of time, because I’m not ashamed to say that there were tears when I got to the end. Tears of sadness and tears of appreciation at the beauty of the story.

What can I say about it? I love Ponyboy, I think he’s awesome and I’ve probably taught kids like him; tough background but doing his best. I know I went to school with kids like him… and a lot of them didn’t get themselves out of the hole, sadly. His relationship with his brothers is fascinating – I read a review somewhere that was highly critical of some of the language used, questioning whether a 20-something boy would call his kid brother ‘honey’, but I’m not going to assume that I know how slang worked 40 years ago so I’m going to let that slide. I think what I appreciated most was Pony’s growing awareness of what his brothers were like as people, and how that affects their relationships; I presume that’s one of the things the curriculum wants students to consider for themselves and their own families. And the fact that there is a range of families portrayed, and that the group of boys effectively act as a family for one another, is intriguing and should also get students thinking, I guess.

Clearly one of the big messages the school will want students to consider is risk-taking behaviour and its consequences. And that’s fair enough, and I have no doubt that we will have discussions about whether Pony ought to have turned up for the big rumble, whether that was peer pressure, etc. But I hope we also have discussions about the class structure of Socs vs Greasers and how that might be reflected in our school, or not, and whether Socs really did have a tough life as well. Because those are some awfully important things to consider.

I was stunned when I realised that this was written by a seventeen-year-old. For me, it doesn’t have the feel of a debut novel, and it really doesn’t have the feel of teenage writing. Quite astonishing.

My sister describes the film as “a whole bag of sexy,” and looking at the cast I can see why: Estevez, Cruise, Swaze, Macchio, Lowe… but I still don’t think I’ll watch it. I don’t think I could stand it.

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