Based on The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton, what is social justice? Explain with evidence from the text.

Quick answer:

In The Outsiders, S. E. Hinton suggests that social justice is the idea that all people deserve access to social opportunities and should be treated with fairness and respect. She shows this through the Greasers’ financial and social struggles and Johnny’s experience with the justice system. Her message that things are “rough all over” also shows that all people deserve respect and understanding.

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S. E. Hinton’s book The Outsiders brings attention to social inequality and suggests that all people deserved to be treated fairly. Consider the stark socioeconomic inequality between the Greasers and the Socs. The Socs have privileges that many Greasers do not, like access to education and financial security. The economic differences between the groups create social tension and the Socs feel they are superior to the Greasers, even though they simply have had more advantages. This dynamic leads to senseless violence and conflict, which adversely impacts the Greasers since they do not have the resources to handle the consequences. For example, consider the scene in which Pony explains to Randy that he might end up in foster care. Randy had not realized what Ponyboy’s situation was like and how much harder life was for him.

It is also interesting to consider how Johnny is not given justice. He only killed Bob because Bob was trying to drown Ponyboy, but the District Attorney charges him with manslaughter. If he had been able to afford strong legal support or if he was the son of parents of high social standing, he likely would not have gotten such harsh treatment. Hinton shows how much harder life is for those who lack social and economic resources and suggests that all people deserve access to them.

Although Hinton highlights the negative impacts of socioeconomic inequality, she also shows how difficult life is in general for young people and suggests that social justice includes listening to and respecting all people. Recall how Cherry tells Ponyboy, “things are rough all over.” This says that everyone struggles with different problems and thus everyone deserves to be treated with fairness and respect.

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