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One of the main themes in The Outsiders is identity. Hinton reinforces the theme of identity through Ponyboy's discovery that the Socs are not all that different from the greasers. When Cherry Valance informs Ponyboy that "things are tough all over," she challenges his perception that only the greasers have it rough. Later, during his conversation with Randy, Ponyboy begins to understand that the Socs have their own set of problems and difficulties. Ultimately, Johnny's final message of "stay gold" lingers with Ponyboy, helping him to make the connection that many other boys like him sit and watch the sunset and dream of something better. He resolves to tell his story with the hope of making a positive difference for other boys.
Ponyboy's perspective on life increases throughout the novel as he learns about himself and others through his various experiences. After Ponyboy speaks to Cherry and Randy, he realizes Socs are not that different from Greasers. He becomes aware Socs also struggle in different ways, and they, too, are adversely affected by the ongoing violence. At the end of the novel, Ponyboy realizes he was selfish by not appreciating Darry's sacrifice and needs to be more sympathetic to Sodapop's needs. Ponyboy learns his oldest brother has a lot of responsibility and made significant sacrifices to keep their family together. Pony also learns some individuals mask their inner feelings. He was previously not aware that Sodapop was in emotional pain after his girlfriend moved away because Sodapop always acted happy-go-lucky. Pony realizes he needs to start communicating more with his brothers and considering their needs. Ponyboy also learns he has a responsibility to share his experiences with others who are going through similar struggles, which is why he decides to write the novel.
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