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The novel The Outsider by S.E. Hinton focuses on the disparities between the affluent and the poor. The novel was released in 1967 and is set in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The plot revolves around the rivalry of two gangs known as Socs and Greaser. Hinton offers a chronological overview of events that occur in the town. Ponyboy Curtis, the story's protagonist, and narrator, lives with his brother after their parents die. Ponyboy and his brothers Darrel and Sodapop are members of the Greasers, a criminal organization made up of underprivileged neighborhood adolescent boys. One of the book's most major themes is society and class. The two gangs are divided by wealth, opportunities to succeed and social statutes.
Analysis of Society and Class in The Outsider
Struggle between the rich and the poor
Hinton portrays the struggle between the rich and the poor in the society. The story describes the Socs and the Greasers as two different groups. The Socs gang comprises of people from the upper class. They are rich people found on the right side of the town and own sports cars. On the other hand, the Greasers are poor, found on the wrongs side of the town and do not own cars. The Greasers dislike the Socs as they live good life, have great money and dress in good clothes. Through this story, the author illustrates the struggles that go on in the societies characterized by different classes.
The differences in class culminate in great conflicts. The division and the fighting between the two groups becomes evident when the narrator says “Tulsa was one of many American cities that had seen an increasing division between social classes since World War II, and the animosity between Greasers and Socs gangs illustrated the extent to which this division between social classes had permeated society” (Hinton, 2016). Notably, the Greasers were viewed to be outcast in the society. For this reason, Socs frequently provoked them by stating hurtful words in order to portray the Greasers disadvantage nature. The author showcases the violence and builds on the theme to make it interesting to the reader.
The problems that exist between the Socs from the West and Geasers from the East is the primary focus of the book. The novel is embedded with critical themes including fighting, gangs, police escape and murder which further ignite the theme of society and class. The poor class struggle with violence, poverty and family conflict. When the novel starts, Ponyboy describes the relationship between the two gangs in the neighborhood. The narrator says that ''Greasers can't walk alone too much or they'll get jumped, or someone will come by and scream 'Greaser!' at them, which doesn't make you feel too hot'' (Hinton, 2016). The Socs attacked the Greasers frequently, and Ponyboy also describes the differences in their lifestyle. He states that ''We get jumped by the Socs . . . it's the abbreviation for the Socials, the jet set, the West-side rich kids. It's like the term 'greaser,' which is used to class all us boys on the East-side'' (Hinton, 2016). The quote clearly indicates that the Greasers are poor children while Socs are privileged and live an affluent lifestyle.
Division of Class as a source of violence
Greasers in the story struggle with poverty, family dysfunction and violence along with fear. The division between the brothers is evident through the constants conflicts. The Socs’ gang travel to the East in order to provoke the Greaser gang into fighting. The poverty, anger and fear fuel the violence in the city streets. Both gangs carry weapons and engage in fights. As the book processed, the Socs realize that the two are not different from one another as they have a number of similarities. Through this, Hilton makes the reader deduce that education, social class and wealth are not the factors that define a person. These factors should not be used to discriminate other people in society.
The genre of the book is realistic fiction as the exuberating story resonates with the problems that are realities in the lives of people. The book adventures the lives of two gangs and the challenges they face in life. The main character of the story is Ponyboy Curtis and comes from the town that lacks money. They do not have rich houses and fancy cars as compared to the Socs who have everything in life. Ponyboy has a good heart, and this is seen when he saves children from the burning house. Through the narrator, the reader learns to appreciate the people around him or her. Johnny, one of the members of the Greaser gang, is vitally bullied by the Socs and this even leads to his death. Sodapop Curtis also found himself in the gang after dropping out of school due to lack of money.
Discrimination due to social class
Discrimination due to class makes people think that the Socs are always right. The narrator mentions that “That’s why people don’t ever think to blame the Socs and are always ready to jump on us. We look hoody, and they look decent” (Hinton, 2016). Hilton wants the reader to understand that money does not define who a person is. Discrimination and judging basing on appearance and money is detrimental. Disrespect due to class is stressed in the book. Bob tells the Socs that “You guys know what Greasers are? White trash with long, greasy hair” (Hinton, 2016). This statement clearly shows that Bob judges the Greaser gang using their appearance. Bob and the others believe that the Socs and the Greasers are at different levels and defined by their wealth. The economic and social status in the book contributes to the perceived differences in class between the Socs and the Greasers.
Perhaps, the social ranking between the Socs and the Greasers portrays the differences between the two groups. Notably, the book exposes that the Socs who are wealthy are termed to be the vital asset of the society. The great wealth they have enables them to make contributions to the economy of the city. On the other hand, it is sad to report that the Greasers are viewed to be a huge burden to society due to poverty. The poor lifestyle they lead makes them unable to contribute to anything in the society. The boys are majorly seen to be the trouble in the society. However, the reader understands that the Greasers are not as bad as the society depicts them to be. The Greasers members have good intentions, but the circumstances force them to change due to the bad judgment from people. People only expect them to be troublemakers and criminals and eventually, they lead the life that people expect them to live. Nobody believes the poor people and thus find themselves in huge troubles. Ponyboy indicates that “They grew up on the outside of society. They weren’t looking for a fight. They were looking to belong” (Hinton, 2016). The Socs from the rich families often made fun of the poor boys and tarnished their reputation. Arguably, the author intended to educate the reader that people should not be judged according to their social class and reputation (Luengo, 2018). Every person is embodied with the good quality. Indeed, the idea can be linked to real life experiences where societies that engage in religious, ethnic and racial discrimination end never have peace. Judging a person basing on such stereotypes do not work to unite the society, but rather causes fragmentation and inflicts hatred and conflicts.
Different in opportunities
Indeed, the author portrays that the Socs have more opportunities compared to the Greasers due to differences in the economic status. The desirable economic position of the Socs enables them to succeed in life and live good lifestyle. From the book, the reader notices that Dally is an intelligent boy who was to join college, but he was unable to due to the poverty he leads in life. The lack of money makes the Greasers miss out on many opportunities in life. Dally even worked harder to get a job, but the poverty status made him unable to secure one (Luengo, 2018). Consequently, Dally got into criminal life due to desperate circumstances. The narrator designates that “But we just didn’t have the money for him to go to college, even with the athletic scholarship he won. And now he didn’t have time between jobs to even think about College” (Hinton, 2016). Ponyboy elucidates that it is totally unfair that the wealthy Socs have everything while the Greasers do not have (Luengo, 2018). Through this, the underlying idea of the author was to indicate that success to the wealthy people comes easily as they are fortunate to have money. However, poor people have to work hard to earn their success. The lack of money makes it difficult for the poor to gain success and take opportunities in life. As a result, they continue to languish in poverty. Nevertheless, the reader showcases that success comes through determination and hard work.
The setting and how it illuminates the theme
The book is set in a town in the US called Tulsa, Oklahoma in the 1960s. During this time, the region was characterized by poor neighborhoods. The book even indicates that the Greasers live in the poor region of the town. The setting of the book also works to significantly affect the characters. They live in poor places and adapt to the poor lifestyle. Due to this, Greasers are forced to join criminal gangs. The reader could presume that the narrator would have been a completely different person if he was born in the different neighborhood. Poverty has a great impact on how one feels and affects the self-esteem of characters along with the way they are challenged to get what they want in life (Luengo, 2018).
Poverty in Tulsa encourages the residents to resolve to steal and crime in order to have the basic things in life. As such, there is a significant relationship between poverty and crime rate in the poor neighborhood. Criminology studies in the disadvantages places indicate that the factors that cause crime range from social, psychological, biological and economic factors. They include unemployment, drugs, lack of education and poor parenting. The desire for material gain leads to thefts, property crimes, and robbery with violence crimes (Wenger, 2018). Due to poverty, people are not able to access good education as it is the case for the Greaser. As a result, they are unable to secure employment opportunities.
Low social, economic standards coupled with lack of income create desperate circumstances which drive people to become criminals. Indeed, the extreme differences drive poor people into a state of desperation. In attempts to better their lives, these people engage in illegal activities. Some of the people in poor areas are not able to afford food and other basic needs. Hence the urgent need for service delivery leads to the development of crime among people. Racial discrimination and injustices perpetrated among the poor people call for desperate measures. Individuals from the disadvantaged areas blame injustices and term it to be the wheel behind crime actions as a means of survival. Racial segregation is a serious issue globally, and its attributes to the numerous severe crimes. In the poor areas, segregation and racial discrimination are high. Racism creates alienation that leads to desperate circumstances.
Employment opportunities are directly linked to education. However, the barriers that exist in poor regions such as lack of finances to support education make residents to be limited in accessing educational opportunities. Low economic status means that persons are not able to receive good education and acquire certificates, diplomas, and degrees that would help them to secure jobs. As a result, they remain to be poorer and therefore attempt to achieve material success through illegal means such as stealing. There is no doubt that education plays an important role in transforming the lives of people and the elimination of crime. Therefore, the setting in the book plays a critical role in fueling the lives that people live. The author tries to communicate that friendship is a strong weapon in attempts to avoid conflicts.
The relevance of the theme Society and Class to the modern world
Hinton published his book The Outsiders in 1967 but is still finds significant relevance to the modern times. Many years have passed, and the society in the current world can be related to the events occurring in the book. The book confronts the most serious issues in society such as poverty, insecurity and violence. The issues described in the novel are realistic to the world. The experience of the children in poor hometown are not immune to many societies in today's world (Brandon, 2017). The book which provides a description of the gang warfare between two classes continues to be a touchstone in many families. To start with, the book captures the amber struggles of adolescent children. The children from poor neighborhoods are pushed to joining criminal gangs due to poverty and lack of parenting. The parents of the children had passed on in a road accident and thus lacked parenting.
The role of parenting in the upbringing of a child is important. Children neglect in the disadvantaged areas is high, and criminologist says that these children end up committing crimes later in life. Lack of proper parenting makes children more likely to develop criminal behavior. Sociologists argue that parenting is a major force behind some crimes committed in society like sexual abuse and stealing. Lack of proper parenting also leads to high instances of peer influence. Neglected children in the poor regions succumb to peer influence with an underlying decision of committing the crime (Brandon, 2017). Children from families that are unable to afford food, clothing, and shelter fall into the trap of being influenced. Consequently, numerous youths end up abandoning school and join the criminal groups.
Secondly, the book shows how discrimination is an undesirable aspect in the society as it only fueled conflicts. In the modern days, racism and religious segregations are more prominent. Segregation and discrimination also make it harder for individuals to access jobs. The rate of poverty, segregation, and inequality in disadvantaged neighborhoods makes them experience a high rate of violent crimes. Wenger (2018) states that “neighborhoods with higher poverty rates tend to have higher rates of violent crime.” Racial and ethnic discrimination also tend to lead to high rates of crimes in remote areas. As a result, Wenger states that “crime rates in predominantly African-American and Latino neighborhoods differ little from predominantly white neighborhoods after controlling for segregation and disadvantage” (Wenger, 2018). Aggressive tactics hinder the efforts to improve the social status of the communities.
Poverty is the root cause of crime in many areas of society and crime denotes to be a fabric of poor places. The social, economic level of people play a critical role in escalating the development of crime in society. Arguably, the crime rate in poor neighborhoods is higher compared to any other places due to the socio-economic status of the residents. The violent crimes play a critical role in defining the poor neighborhoods. Vast research in the poor regions indicated that the most violent crimes evident in the areas include aggregated sexual assaults, robbery and property crimes. Besides, arrays of studies show that crimes are intertwined with factors such as drug trafficking, poor parenting and lack of education. The poor neighborhoods face inequalities, and many are unemployed. The cost of crimes in society is adverse. It leads to fear among people, depression and psychological problems. There is a loss of lives and create lasting injuries. Therefore, proper strategies should be implemented to curb the rate of crime in poor regions. Perhaps, education and creation of employment opportunities will result in the targeted outcomes and promote better living standards. From these accounts, the book highlights vast issues that find relevance to society.
Indeed, the theme of society and class is predominant in Hilton’s book The Outsiders. The book finds relevance to real-life social issues such as poverty, crime, discrimination and lack of parenting. The Socs and Greasers gangs are divided by the wealth they possess, the social status they hold and also the opportunities that they have in the society. The accounts relate to real-life experiences such as religious discrimination and racism which is sometimes rampant in many societies. These factors only fuel hatred and conflict. Many of the actions in the book are powered by conflict due to differences in class, and the economic status exposes the rivalries and violence in the characters. The actions are framed from the interactions between the Greasers and the Socs. Therefore, Hilton denotes to be an acclaimed writer and vividly managed to manifest the problem of society and class in his novel.
Brandon Tensley. (2017). The Enduring Fascination of S.E. Hinton’s ‘The Outsiders’. Retrieved on December 18 2018 from Pacific Standards. https://psmag.com/news/the-enduring-fascination-of-s-e-hintons-the-outsiders.
Hinton S.E. (2016). The Outsiders. New York. Penguin Books, Limited, 2016
Luengo Muñoz. (2018) Analysis of Susan E. Hinton’s Novel the Outsiders with an Educational Approach. Retrieved on December 18 2018 from http://repositorio.udec.cl/bitstream/handle/11594/2592/Tesis_Analysis_of_Susan.Image.Marked.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y.
Wenger, M. (2018). Clarifying the Relationship between Racial Diversity and Crime: Neighborhoods versus Cities. Crime & Delinquency, 001112871876872. doi: 10.1177/0011128718768726
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