S. E. Hinton broke new ground in young adult fiction with the publication of The Outsiders. The novel’s gritty, realist portrayal of teenage life was striking, as was the fact that it was written by a teenaged woman. Hinton has stated that she wrote The Outsiders because it was the kind of story that she wanted to read. Tired of books filled with clichés and obligatory happy endings, she longed to write stories about real people with real problems, hoping to earn the respect of her audience by giving them stories to which they could relate.
Hinton started a trend in young adult writing, which became a battleground for readers, parents, teachers, and librarians. Debate raged over whether The Outsiders and the books that followed in its footsteps were too realistic for their own good. Such books portrayed issues such as drug and alcohol abuse, teen pregnancy, death, and divorce. Parents, educators, and critics of realism worried that they could encourage bad behavior in their readers. These criticisms tended to be based on simplistic analyses of books’ content, so that The Outsiders was seen as a story about teenage violence, rather than a story about the characters and how they dealt with such violence. Instead of focusing on what Ponyboy learned as a result of being both a victim and an aggressor, some critics deemed the book to be without merit for glorifying violence, missing Hinton’s message entirely.
Hinton explores many themes over the course of the novel, such as bridging the gap between rich...
(The entire section is 640 words.)
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