Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton

Book 31

The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton, was one of the first books I was required to read in school.  6th grade.  It remains one of my favorites.  I found a..what's it called when the book is the size of a mass market paperback, has the same cover as a mass market paperback, but is actually hardcover?..well, I found one of those in great shape at the Wings Resale shop a couple of weeks ago for 75 cents.  In fact, it was half that because everything in the store was 50% off, but that is another story.  Incidentally, my copy is the 20th anniversary edition with the cover pulled from the film. The one to the left is the 40th anniversary edition. 

This young adult novel divided the world into two camps, the heros were the greasers and the baddies were the Socs.  Our narrator, Ponyboy, tells the story of how his universe was turned upside down and trying to figure out just what exactly is the difference between a greaser and a Soc.  What really separates them.

The answer is that it isn't really that the Socs have all the money and the greasers are all hoods.  The token chick in the book, a Soc named Cherry, helped him get to this:

"It's not money, it's feeling - you don't feel anything and we feel too violently."

I remember first reading that in class.  I remember getting it.  I remember thinking that I was closer to being a Soc than to being a greaser.  I was not pleased.

The Outsiders is also the first place I remember learning the concept of "Suicide by cop".  When I finally heard that term years later, my first thought was  (SPOILER):  "Yeah.  Like Dallas Winston.":

"Dallas raised the gun and I thought: You blasted fool.  They don't know you're only bluffing. And even as the policemen's guns spit fire into the night, I knew that was what Dally wanted.  He was jerked half around by the impact of the bullets, then slowly crumpled with a look of grim triumph on his face.  He was dead before he hit the ground....I knew he would be dead because Dally Winston wanted to be dead and he always got what he wanted." 

I did not, at age 11, understand why in hell anyone would do such a thing.  And that is why I have re-read this thing about a dozen times.  It is a short novel and if you haven't gotten to it yet, you are seriously missing something.

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