Essays and Criticism
David Ansen has called The Outsiders "the prototypical young adult novel." Written when S. E. Hinton was sixteen, it is widely credited with ushering in a new era of "realism" in the writing of young adult novels. Yet Hinton's book also contains haunting lyricism; indeed, the tension between dreamy romanticism and hard-knock realism is part of what the book is about. In the early pages of the novel, Ponyboy Curtis tells us of his two brothers: "Darry's gone through a lot in his twenty years, grown up too fast. Sodapop'll never grow up at all. I don't know which way's the best. I'll find out one of these days." In Ponyboy's relationship with his two brothers and with Johnny Cade and Dallas Winston, he experiences the differences between growing up too soon and never growing up. By the end of The Outsiders, he has found some tentative answers to the question of which way of being is best.
Ponyboy portrays himself as dreamy and sensitive, not very realistically-minded, and the other characters respond to him this way as well. His idealism enables him to connect with Cherry Valance and with Johnny Cade; makes him fear Dallas Winston; causes him to admire his friend Two-Bit; and creates clashes with his hard-headed, realistic brother Darry. When Ponyboy meets Cherry, he realizes that they are both outsiders in their respective groups, the greasers and the Socs. Both of them are dreamy...
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A Look Inside A Landmark: The Outsiders
Before we can begin to write a book rationale for our classroom or school library, two conditions should apply: (1) we know the book extremely well, and (2) we believe that this book makes a significant contribution to our curriculum and to students. Writing a rationale for why a book ought to be in the curriculum requires a knowledge of the goals and objectives of the curriculum; the skills, abilities and interests of students; a knowledge of students' literary and popular culture backgrounds; and a knowledge of the broader area of study in which the book is to be used. It is also helpful to know how frequently the title is used in similar situations, what reviewers have had to say about it in professional journals and in the popular press, and what awards the title has won, if any. Much of this material should be available locally; for example, in the school's curriculum guides. Much of the information, however, must be culled from a variety of sources such as textbooks, monographs and journals related to teaching or educational materials. The Book Review Index, published by Gale Research Company since 1965, provides an index of reviews appearing in more than 200 periodicals. Readers who are particularly concerned about children's and young adult literature should consult the annotated list of reference and bibliographical resources described in "Familiarity with Reference" (Kenney, 48-54). All of these sources add to the rationale writer's own...
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Presenting S. E. Hinton
In April 1967 the Viking Press brought out a book called The Outsiders, by S. E. Hinton and the world of young adult writing and publishing would never be the same. This is not an exaggeration. In more ways than one, The Outsiders has become the most successful, and the most emulated, young adult book of all time. The situation was ripe, in the mid-sixties, for the arrival of something like The Outsiders, although no one knew it at the time. There had been a "young adult" genre for many years, dominated by books like Maureen Daly's Seventeenth Summer, dreamy-eyed stories of carefree youth where the major problem was whether so-and-so would ask our heroine to the prom in sufficient time for her to locate a prom gown. Or there were cautionary tales to warn us that, if we were not good, and we all know what "good" meant, we would never get to the prom at all.
Into this sterile chiffon-and-orchids environment then came The Outsiders. Nobody worries about the prom in The Outsiders; they're more concerned with just staying alive 'til June. They're also concerned with peer pressures, social status, abusive parents, and the ever-present threat of violence. What in the world was this? It certainly wasn't the same picture of the teenage wonder years that the "young adult" genre projected (and no one ever lived). Welcome to real life.
There is a perception...
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