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Ponyboy explains the difference between greasers and Socs in economic terms. The Socs are the "jet set, the West-side rich kids," but Ponyboy also differentiates between the two groups in terms of wild behavior as well (2). According to him, the greasers are much more tough and street-smart; due to their impoverished circumstances, greasers are more likely to turn to crime or have a record with the police. These two very different social groups do not see eye to eye, and they definitely do not get along.
As the novel progresses, Hinton provides more insight into the Socs through the character of Cherry Valance. Cherry informs Ponyboy that "things are rough all over," and much of the conflict between the two groups comes from the Socs' frustration with their own personal lives. The greasers are an easy target, whether the Socs are looking to channel their boredom like when they wanted to give Ponyboy a haircut or they are testing the limits like Bob whose parents never told him no.
The Socs are more affluent, so they have the means to not only support themselves, but also they have discretionary income. The privileges they enjoy come with a price. In the case of the Socs, they are dependent upon the wealth and power of their families. This dependence restricts the freedoms of the Socs. Out of frustration and a need to rebel, the Socs release their anger through confrontations with the Greasers. The Greasers, lacking money and power, have limited ability to challenge the Socs in the Socs' territory. The place where the Socs and Greasers have equality is within the Greasers' territory. This is the place where the Greasers can retaliate, and thus there are brawls (rumbles) between the Socs and Greasers in the Greaser territory.
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