In Chapter 12 of The Outsiders, the last quote in the book says, "When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home." What does this mean?

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The novel begins and ends with the same sentence about Ponyboy stepping outside from a movie theater thinking about Paul Newman and a ride home. In Chapter 12, Ponyboy reads Johnny's moving letter and has an epiphany. Pony mentions that he thought about the hundreds of kids struggling to fit in and survive on the rough streets of every city in America. Ponyboy then decides that he can make a positive impact on the lives of those misunderstood teenagers throughout the country by telling their side of the story. Ponyboy then calls his English teacher and asks him if the theme paper can be longer than five pages. Ponyboy ends up telling the story of the Greasers and writing about how three teenagers died in the same week. Ponyboy begins his theme in chapter 12 by writing,

When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home. . .

Essentially, The Outsiders is the story that Ponyboy writes for his English assignment, which is an account of how Pony tragically lost his friends in the same week. Pony's story begins with him leaving the movie theater and getting jumped by a gang of Socs. 

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With the final line of this powerful book, in a sense the story comes full circle, as the reader suddenly realises that what they have been reading is Ponyboy's English essay that he has written for his teacher. Having experienced the death of Johnny and the other various events in the novel, Ponyboy finds himself thinking that he needs to tell others about the kind of situations that Johnny and countless other young people face in order to prevent another tragedy like the one that has occurred in this book:

It was too vast a problem to be just a personal thing. There should be some help, someone should tell them before it was too late. Someone should tell their side of the story, and maybe people wouldn't understand then and wouldn't be so quick to judge a boy by the amount of hair oil he wore. It was important to me.

One of the big themes of this text has been how society is divided between two groups, and how characters are judged massively by which group they are a part of. Ponyboy therefore decides to be the one who can tell "their side of the story," and to hopefully achieve understanding so that this kind of judging and stereotyping would not happen. The final lines of this story therefore are exactly the same as the first lines, because what the reader has just read has been exactly what Ponyboy has written for his English essay. The only question left to consider is whether the reader feels Ponyboy has achieved his aim. 

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