The Outsiders Questions and Answers
by S. E. Hinton

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In the book The Outsiders, how do the setting, order of events, point of view, and characters (other than Ponyboy) affect the plot?

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mrs-tolley eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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A story's plot very basically includes the exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. I have attached a plot diagram to illustrate how these elements go together to make up the plot. In The Outsiders, the exposition is when Ponyboy and Johnny meet Cherry and Marcia at the drive-in. The rising action includes Johnny killing a Soc during a fight, Ponyboy hiding out with Johnny to avoid getting arrested, and then the two boys finding their hide-out on fire and risking their lives to save some children trapped inside. The climax occurs when Ponyboy fights in the rumble against the Socs. In the falling action, Johnny dies, Dally dies, and Ponyboy gets sick and has visits from Randy and Cherry. The resolution is when Ponyboy is acquitted after several Socs testify at his hearing.

Setting is where and when a story takes place. The setting of The Outsiders affects the plot because the story is set in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1965. The real rivalry between greasers and Socs in American cities in the 1960s is pivotal to the plot. Ponyboy and Johnny meet Cherry and Marcia, two Soc girls, at a drive-in. The drive-in is part of the setting; American teenagers often went to the drive-in during the 1960s. Meeting the two Soc girls sets the ball rolling for the subsequent rising action: Cherry's boyfriend Bob and his Soc friends attack Ponyboy and Johnny in a park, and that's when Bob gets killed. Another important fact of life for American teenagers in the 1960s were the rumbles. The rumble in The Outsiders is the climax.

The order of events affects the plot because in a plot, the events in the rising action get more and more intense until the climax, the most intense event, and then the falling action and the resolution consist of events that get less and less intense. You can put the events on a plot diagram like the one attached to see how they rise and fall in intensity.

Point of view refers to how the story is narrated. The Outsiders is told from the point of view of Ponyboy Curtis. It is told in the first person, meaning it is told entirely through Ponyboy's eyes and narrated using the pronouns "I," "we," "me," etc. First-person point of view is limited because the reader is only privy to the narrator's thoughts, feelings, and observations of the events and other characters. Ponyboy is a young teenage greaser, so his point of view is biased towards teenagers and greasers. He learns through the course of events that greasers and Socs aren’t so different. Ponyboy has two conflicts in this story. His external conflict is his fight against the Socs and his desire to escape punishment from killing Bob. His internal conflict is his desire not to be taken away from his family and to be accepted by his older brother, Darry. The resolution of the story resolves both conflicts. 

The other characters are pivotal to the plot. Johnny shows Ponyboy the beauty and poetry in the world. In the rising action, Dally takes the boys to the old church and helps them hide out there, and in the beginning of the falling action Dally dies in an emotional reaction to Johnny's death, which shows Ponyboy that Johnny's beautiful heart was the heart of their gang. During the falling action, Darry and Sodapop teach Ponyboy the value of family and Ponyboy discovers that his older brother loves him. Between the exposition and falling action, Cherry shows Ponyboy that greasers and Socs are not so different because from their two parts of the city, they see the same sunset. So therefore we can see that many plot points were caused by these other characters' decisions.

You can read The Outsiders summary on eNotes to get more details on each plot point I have mentioned.

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