By Danielle Innocent, AmeriCorps member serving on the Wellington Management team with McKay K-8 School
“When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home” (Hinton 1). There is perhaps no other starting sentence in all of literature that has the ability to pull on my heartstrings so quickly. One of my favorite books in the world, S. E. Hinton’s classic novel, The Outsiders, tells the story of Ponyboy Curtis and his “greaser” best friends, and their struggle to survive in a world often cruel to anyone different. Living as outsiders in their rich town, the greaser boys face seemingly insurmountable dangers, and tragedies, and are pushed to their limits in the effort to just stay alive.
When I was introduced to this book in my eighth-grade English class, it was love at first sentence. Arguably the best feature of this book comes in the characterization that Hinton is able to develop throughout the novel. Even six years later, the boys from The Outsiders are some of my favorite characters in all of literature. From loveable Sodapop to terrified Johnny to broken Dallas, all six carved out spaces in my heart over the course of the story and have remained there ever since. Hinton has a remarkable knack of making the reader feel as if they are one with the greasers; their hopes become the reader’s hopes, their fears become the reader’s fears, their pain becomes the reader’s pain, their lives become the reader’s life. Reading of the boys’ hardships, I found my heart yearning for the ability to jump into the story alongside them and protect them. I felt that anything that happened to the boys -- my boys, as they became -- was by extension happening to me, and the continual stream of struggles threatened to break my spirits. However, the hardships had the additional function of keeping me riveted to the story. I found myself becoming the greasers' biggest cheerleader, and the only way to know if they ended up okay was to keep reading, right until the very last page.
Though the greasers seemingly faced challenge after increasingly difficult challenge, the theme of constant, unshakable persistence, determination, and pure strength of the human spirit remains a huge theme throughout the story. Regardless of what they face, the greasers never leave each other’s side and never give up. Their bond as friends, and as brothers, holds true through it all, showing readers that human resilience will always outshine anything obstacles life may throw in one’s path. One of my favorite quotes in the book, and perhaps one of my favorite quotes of all time, comes later on in the plot, when Johnny reminds Ponyboy to “stay gold.” Though it emulates a reference to a Robert Frost poem about how “nothing gold can stay”, Johnny’s two-liner serves as a reminder to Ponyboy, and to readers, that even in an often cruel world, it is all we can do to remain pure, to remain good, and to remain gold.