How does Cherry show sensitivity and understanding in The Outsiders?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Cherry is sensitive and understanding because even though Cherry is a Soc, Ponyboy understands that she is a good person and they become friends.

When Ponyboy first talks to Cherry, he is not sure what to expect.  He knows her name, and he knows she is a Soc and a cheerleader.  She asks him what a sweet, smart kid like him is doing hanging out with riffraff, and he tells her he is a grease.  He is offended by her behavior toward them.  She doesn’t think he fits in with the others and their coarse behavior.

"No," Cherry said slowly, looking at me carefully, "not innocent. You've seen too much to be innocent. Just not ... dirty." (ch 1)

Cherry is sensitive.  She does not immediately dismiss Ponyboy outright.  She comments that he probably thinks that all Socs have perfect lives, and she considers that the social class differences between them to not really make them that different.  She tells him that she does have troubles, and “Things are rough all over."

When Ponyboy suggests that it is just money that separates them, Cherry disagrees.  She reflects that she thinks it is a different set of values, with Greasers being more emotional and Socs more sophisticated, which she describes as “cool to the point of not feeling anything” (ch 2).  Nothing is “real” to them, and she says that Ponyboy is the first person she has “ever really gotten through to.”  Ponyboy realizes she doesn’t have to keep her guard up with him.

"Rat race is a perfect name for it," she said. "We're always going and going and going, and never asking where. (ch 3)

Ponyboy and Cherry communicate about real things, on a real level.  Since Ponyboy is young and Cherry is not used to opening up, this is a unique conversation for them.  They realize that they see the same sunset, meaning the differences between them are not as large as they think.