Form and Content (Masterplots II: Juvenile & Young Adult Literature Series, Supplement)
The story in this short novel is episodic but tied together by Texas McCormick’s struggle with the changes in his life. It begins when Tex comes home from school one day and discovers that Mason, his older brother, has sold their horses in order to pay the household bills. Because their father is off riding the rodeo circuit and their mother has been dead for twelve years, Mason has taken responsibility for the household and his brother’s well-being. Tex has never quite realized that the money their father left with them would not last long and that Mason’s discipline in running the house is vital for their survival. The loss of his horse, however, begins to awaken him to these facts.
Tex spends most of his free time with his friend Johnny Collins, who has a motorcycle they ride together, and Jamie, Johnny’s twin sister, with whom he is falling in love. His feelings for Jamie create conflicts with Johnny and, later, with Jamie when she tells him that their relationship will not last.
Mason plans to attend college on a basketball scholarship, but the stress of being the head of a household causes him to develop an ulcer that is diagnosed at a hospital in the city. While in the city, the brothers visit Lem Peters, Mason’s former classmate who lives there with his wife and new baby. Lem is working at a gas station, and they discover that he is dealing drugs for extra money.
On the way home, the brothers pick up a hitchhiker...
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The Late Seventies
During the late 1970s, the United States struggled to overcome the upsetting legacy of the Watergate scandal, the subsequent resignation of Richard Nixon, and the wounds of American participation in the Vietnam War. Adding to the frustration of many Americans was a volatile economic situation: high inflation, high unemployment, and a worldwide energy crisis.
In addition, farming communities and small towns begin to disappear across America. This trend was exacerbated in the 1980s, especially in farming communities like that in Hinton's Oklahoma. Record numbers of farming families went bankrupt as a result of this farming crisis.
The Carter Administration
Running as an outsider, Jimmy Carter (1924- ) won the presidential election of 1976. Two issues challenged the Carter Administration: first, the energy crisis caused the cost of living to increase by thirteen percent; second, the Islamic revolution in Iran resulted in the taking of American hostages in Iran. In November 1979, Carter had allowed the hated Iranian leader—known as the shah of Iran—to enter the United States for medical treatment; and in retaliation, fifty-three Americans were taken hostage from the American embassy in Tehran.
When Carter refused to return the shah to Iran, the captors refused to release the hostages. In April an attempt to rescue the hostages failed. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance resigned over the...
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Tex is characterized by simple first-person narration; in other words, the story is told from Tex's perspective. There are no superfluous tricks or scenes. Everything in the narration relates to the plot, and the reader knows only what Tex knows.
The majority of the novel takes place in the country, which represents space and peacefulness. On the other hand, the city is full of cars, people, and danger. Each setting presents a challenge to the hero and his friends.
Within the conventions of fiction, the action—both emotional and actual—gradually rises until it reaches a crisis point. This is known as the climax.
The climax of Tex occurs in the school office, when Tex hears how close he came to being expelled and witnesses Mason fighting with Pop. Mason utters the very line of the climax, "he is my brother even if he isn't your son." The action of the novel reaches its greatest moment of tension when the truth of Tex's conception is revealed.
A bildungsroman is a kind of German novel, typically about a boy struggling through his formative years. Such tales involve survival of physical and mental anguish in high-pressure schools or military academies. There is a positive ending, as the main character survives his earlier foolishness and mistakes and grows as a person.
Hinton has redefined this class...
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The world of Tex is a rural one, and love of the outdoors and horses pervades it. His regret over Negrito's loss seems deeply felt. The visit to the city with its attendant evils is used as a contrast to the more idyllic country life.
Tex does not use the enveloping technique of The Outsiders, although some critics praised it for the fuller character development of Tex, for the solidly constructed story, and for the restraint and humor of the narrative. The ending of Tex is not as startling as the conclusion of The Outsiders, but it is not as obtrusive either, Hinton brings the story of Tex and his eventual insight into his relationships with others to a closure at the end of the novel, but here she does it with a subtle touch and allusive grace. A brief discussion between Mason and Tex ends the novel, a discussion that takes into account much of what has gone before: Mason's desire to escape and a sense of helplessness in his responsibility, their relationship with "Pop," and the love-hate affinity they have shared while trying to make their lives together. The novel ends as the two boys plan a fishing trip for the next morning, but it also indicates the cleansing quality (Tex is symbolically cleaning his gun) of self-realization and deeper understanding of others that Tex has found in himself as the narrated story line completes itself in a moment of hope for the future and its possibilities.
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Tex is unusual in the writings of Hinton in that it leaves the area of urban peer-group gangs and situates itself in the rural part of America. Tex is more concerned with school, with motorcycles, and with his horse, Negrito, than with gang life. The notion of social class does come up obliquely through run-ins with Cole Collins, the father of a girl Tex likes, who does not think that Tex and his brother fit the model he envisions for those who should associate with his daughter. Lem, an older character, is a drug dealer so that he may maintain a middle-class lifestyle rather than a lower-class one.
Illegal drugs are a major theme in this novel because Lem, the drug dealer, involves Tex in his machinations when Tex runs away from home. Unwanted pregnancy is also given a special poignancy as Tex learns that he is the product of an illicit union between his mother and a rodeo rider that took place while his father was in prison; this realization is one of the high points of the novel as Tex attempts to come to a fuller understanding of himself and of his family.
Tex also tries to have a much more "normal" relationship with a girlfriend than Hinton narrators usually do. Tex notes with a growing awareness that he is beginning to like Jamie Collins in more ways than merely as a friend, and he keeps up this liking for her even when her father severely disapproves. In a rural setting outside the world of gangs these relationships are not so clearly...
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Topics for Further Study
Due to the commercial success of Hinton's novels, young adult literature has become a popular genre. Educators are divided as to whether this is a good development. Some assert that it panders to a poor education system in which teachers are so desperate to foster literacy skills that they use such "easy" texts. Other commentators and librarians applaud that fact that young adults want to read these books. What do you think? What are your favorite young adult books?
In an article for the New York Times in 1967, Hinton wrote:
You've heard of people reading the symptoms of a disease, and then suddenly developing the disease? Well, you can't pick up a magazine or a newspaper that doesn't declare that teenagers are rebellious, over-worked, over-pampered, under-privileged, smart, stupid and sex-crazed. No wonder some develop the symptoms.
Reflecting on the book and on your own experience, explain how perceptions behave as a disease. Apply your thoughts to the general perception today of youth and postulate whether anything has changed since Hinton's 1967 article.
To the charge that her fiction contains too much violence, Hinton maintains:
Adults who let small children watch hours of violence, unfunny comedy, abnormal behavior and suggestive actions on TV, scream their heads off when a book written for children contains a fist fight. But violence too is a...
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Tex was filmed as a Buena Vista release by Walt Disney Productions in 1982. It was directed by Tim Hunter, and it starred Matt Dillon, Jim Metzler, Meg Tilly, Bill McKinney, Ben Johnson, Jack Thibeau, Emilio Estevez, and Frances Lee McCain. It was produced by Tim Zinneman with music by Pino Donaggio. The screenplay was by Charlie Haas and Tim Hunter.
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Walt Disney released a film adaptation of Tex in 1982. Hinton assisted director Tim Hunter with the casting, script-writing, and directing. The movie was filmed in Tulsa, and Hinton's own horse starred as Negrito. Matt Dillon starred as Tex and Emilio Estevez played the role of Johnny Collins.
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What Do I Read Next?
Hinton wrote her first book while still attending Tulsa's Will Rogers High School. The Outsiders (1967) focuses on the interaction of familiar social groups: the lower-class "greasers" and the upper-class "socs." The book remains popular among teenagers, though parents often complain that it is too violent.
That Was Then, This Is Now (1971) is Hinton's second book. This novel chronicles the story of two foster brothers. One brother becomes popular with girls and does well in school, while the other gets involved with drugs and crime.
Hinton's 1975 novel, Rumble Fish, revisits the themes of her first novel. The protagonist of the story, Rusty-James, struggles to earn a tough reputation through his relationship with Motorcycle Boy.
First published in 1944, Esther Forbes' Johnny Tremain remains a popular novel for young adults. Johnny is a young apprentice silversmith with a maimed hand. He becomes involved in the Revolutionary War through his relationship with James Otis, John Hancock, and John and Samuel Adams.
Paule Marshall's 1959 novel, Brown Girl, Brownstones is a good complement to Tex. Selina's family are Barbadian immigrants who move to Brooklyn. She faces the tough challenges of sexism and racism in her new home.
James Joyce's A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man (1916) is considered to be the greatest bildungsroman in the English language. In...
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Bibliography and Further Reading
Jay Daly, "Tex: Those Who Go and Those Who Stay," in Presenting S. E. Hinton, Twayne Publishers, 1987, pp. 89-111.
June Harris, review in Contemporary Popular Writers, edited by Dave Mote, St. James Press, 1997.
S. E. Hinton, "Teen-Agers are for Real," in The New York Times Book Review, August, 1967, pp. 26-9.
Michael Malone, a review in The Nation, Vol. 242, No. 9, March 8, 1986, pp. 276-78, 290.
Cynthia Rose, "Rebels Redux: The Fiction of S. E. Hinton," in Monthly Film Bulletin, Vol. 50, No. 596, September, 1983, pp. 238-39.
William Walsh, an interview in From Writers to Students: The Pleasures and Pains of Writing, edited by M. Jerry Weiss, International Reading Association, 1979, pp. 32-8.
Jay Daly, Presenting S. E. Hinton, Twayne, 1987, p. 127.
A guide to the first five of Hinton's novels, including major themes of each book.
Gene Lyons, "On Tulsa's Mean Streets," in Newsweek, October 11, 1982, pp. 105-6.
Examines Hinton's works that have been adapted as films.
Kevin Phillips, Boiling Point: Republicans, Democrats and the Decline of Middle-Class Prosperity, HarperCollins, 1994, p. 307.
A political analyst for the Republican Party during the 1968 election, Phillips has been praised for his work on economic issues. In Boiling...
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Bibliography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Daly, Jay. Presenting S. E. Hinton. Boston: Twayne, 1989.
Donelson, Kenneth L., and Alleen Pace Nilsen. Literature for Today’s Young Adults. 3d ed. Glenview, Ill.: Scott, Foresman, 1989.
Mills, Randall K. “The Novels of S. E. Hinton: Springboard to Personal Growth for Adolescents.” Adolescence 22 (Fall, 1987): 641-646.
Stanek, Lou Willett. A Teacher’s Guide to the Paperback Editions of the Novels of S. E. Hinton. New York: Dell, 1975.
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