The Outsiders

The Outsiders - S.E. Hinton Classics in literature, by their very nature, must be understood within the context of the times in which the book was written. "The Outsiders" was written at a time when, according to the author, most books for teens were about Mary Jane going to the prom. S.E. Hinton was 16 years old when she wrote this book about teen violence and tensions between the greasers and the socs (the socials, the ones with money).

When I first read the book as a teen myself, I remember thinking that it was the first book I'd read that opened up to me the struggle of boys. They have to act "tuff" in front of their friends, but what if they want to quote Robert Frost passages or read "Gone with the Wind" with their best friend. Where can I find a guy like this, I wondered. Isn't the criticism that a "real greaser" wouldn't be this sensitive exactly the point of the novel? And isn't the whole aura around a greaser cliche to the point of caricature? Heck, even Danny and Kenickie got sentimental on occasion. And who can argue with the fact that S.E. Hinton based the novel on real rival gangs at her high school. She lived in the working class neighborhood and a classmate of hers got beaten by the rich kids one day on his way home from school.

Ultimately, the theme of the novel transcends generations. Everyone at some point in their life has been the outsider, has been misunderstood, especially teens. This is why the book is still being read in Jr. High English classes everywhere.