In The Outsiders, why does Ponyboy remind Cherry that they watch the same sunsets? How does his mention of sunsets refer back to the opening line of the novel? What is the symbolism between light and darkness?
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The ability to see and marvel at the beauty in sunsets is shown to be a symbol of humanity and the capacity to live a life that is not defined by the narrow segregation of Socs and Greasers that seems to split so many young people from each other. When Cherry and Ponyboy have their conversation about sunsets, what it represents and demonstrates is that Cherry, just like Ponyboy, is human too, and they have the same joys and pleasures. The sunset motif is used throughout the novel at various stages to represent this shared humanity. Note, for example, how when Randy meets with Ponyboy before the rumble to tell him that he is not going to participate in the fight, how Ponyboy sees him as less of a Soc and more of a fellow human, as the following quote explores:
Cherry had said her friends were too cool to feel anything, and yet she could remember watching sunsets. Randy was supposed to be too cool to feel anything, and yet there was pain in his eyes.
The mention of sunsets probes the difference between appearances and reality as these young people invest so much time and energy in presenting themselves as being so hard and "too cool to feel anything," whereas actually in reality they are just the same, whether they are Socs or Greasers. The capacity to feel and be human in all its fullness is therefore symbolised in the ability to watch sunsets and enjoy them. This is why Johnny writes in his last letter that Ponyboy should tell Dally to "look at" a sunset.
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