[There are some spoilers to The Outsiders, so be forewarned. I’d definitely recommend reading this book as it is an enjoyable and quick read]
I never read The Outsiders in middle school or high school, even though I know many people who had to, and quite frankly, knowing how rarely I actually read or digested my assignments during that time, I’m glad I did not. The Outsiders to a younger me would’ve been a great bore, even though now it is an easy and gripping read. I probably would’ve spent my time trying to figure out which Outsider I wanted to be (definitely see myself as a Sodapop). My friend recommended this to me and noted that “I’d be able to read this in a day”, and in turns out that she was right.
The story is told through the viewpoint of Ponyboy Curtis. He lives on the “wrong side of the tracks” so to speak with his two older brothers Darry and Sodapop. The three are part of a gang that includes Sodapop’s best friend Steve, shoplifter Two-Bit, resident bad boy Dally, and the soft-spoken “pet” Johnny. They are all considered “greasers” with their tough looks and long, greased up hair. They go against the Socials or “Socs”, who are on the richer side of town and are dressed up in madras and drive Mustangs. Even though the Socs are better dressed and more presentable, they are just as delinquent as the greasers. It feels as if these two groups are destined to continue combating each other without fail. However, two encounters with members from the Socs, one positive and another negative, greatly affect Ponyboy and his outlook on life, and result in the events in the book, which include heroics, family struggles, and death. It’s also a quite angsty book, which is fitting given that nearly all of the characters are teenagers.
The part of the book that stuck out to me the most was the importance of the Robert Frost poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay”, which Ponyboy first references when looking at the sunrise (which calls back to his conversation with Soc girl Cherry). Both Johnny and Ponyboy are standing in awe of the sunrise when Johnny remarks that he wishes it could always stay this way, and Ponyboy responds with the ending line of the poem, “nothing gold can stay”. This poem comes back in Johnny’s dying words to Ponyboy when he tells him to “stay gold”. They are optimistic words during a time of great sadness, coming from a character who, in my opinion, didn’t seem to deserve what happened to him. But he finds a way to pass on a parting message of hope. Johnny clears up what he means when he told him to “stay gold”. Staying gold means to treat everything in life with the same child-like happiness and joyfulness that he had when watching the sunrise. Ponyboy had many impactful conversations in the book, from his conversation with Cherry where she helps him realize that the Socs and greasers are not all the different to his conversation with Randy about the meaningless of the Socs and greasers fighting, but none of them imparted a message of hope quite like Johnny’s did.
I’d recommend this book to others. The characters are mostly interesting (Steve rears his head only so often), and while the plot seems to just happen, the book evolves as we see the characters respond to what happens in their lives. The evolution of Johnny, Dally, and Ponyboy really capture your attention, and even though their fates seem inevitable, you cannot help but feel shock as they unfold. At 160 pages or so, it is a quick read, but it is engaging and well-written. I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did, and stay gold!