Compare and contrast the film and the novel. Why do these comparing and contrasting points matter? What examples from the novel support these points?

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emilyknight7 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As far as book to film adaptions go, Francis Ford Coppola's 1983 film version of S.E. Hinton's 1967 novel is pretty faithful. Ponyboy's "dreamer in the hood" character comes through very well. The gang's rambunctiousness, love, and loyalty is expressed in some very delightful and watchable scenes of them hooting and hollering around the Curtis household and doing gymnastics on the way to the rumble. The connection between Cherry and Pony, bridging economic divides and mutual stereotypes, is lovely and avoids the trap of becoming a romance, which I firmly believe it is not in the book. The set, costumes, and especially the soundtrack give a strong sense of place that even exceeds what Hinton achieved with just words.

Still, as with many book to film translations, some aspects of the story are lost as it gets pared down to fit a 91-minute time frame. Sodapop's character is particularly less fleshed out in the film, which is important for a few reasons. For one, his happy-go-lucky nature despite his rough life circumstances was a good balm for Pony when he got too pensive and offered a more innocent version of Two-Bit's almost manic jokester attitude. By lessening these aspects of Soda, as well as removing references to his horse Mickey Mouse and Sandy's pregnancy and their break-up, his joy in the face of tragedy is lost as well. Second, the relationship dynamics between Pony, Soda, and Darry and between Pony, Soda, and Steve helped make Pony's family struggles very relatable to teen readers, who are likely experiencing similar circumstances. The family tensions between the three brothers and Pony's strong preference for Soda and frustrations with Darry are familiar to many readers and help them draw connections between Pony's life and their own. The same goes for Pony as the kid brother "tag along" to Soda and Steve's friendship; almost every younger sibling has experienced that feeling.

Perhaps more important are the differences in Johnny and Dally's deaths. After all, Ponyboy comes to some of his most critical realizations about the world due to his two friends dying. With Johnny's death, the novel gives a deep insight into Johnny's sense of losing his own innocence and perhaps not even deserving life. When he says it was worth dying to save the schoolchildren, he proves himself a hero, but he is also demonstrating how much life as a greaser with abusive parents has skewed the way he sees his own value. This is an important point for Ponyboy for a few reasons, not in the least because it helps him value his own family and see the tragedy of how thoroughly Johnny was beaten down.

Dally's death in the film is, I think, the most tragic change from the novel. In the novel, it is crystal clear that Dally is committing suicide due to Johnny's death. Dally's sense of Johnny being the last good thing left to love is said explicitly several times throughout the novel. Furthermore, when Dally runs out towards to the cops and lifts the gun, Pony recalls that it is unloaded, but that the police cannot know that. He knows that Dally is committing suicide: "...I knew he would be dead, because Dally Winston wanted to be dead and he always got what he wanted” (Chapter 10). Again, this death makes a huge mark on Pony and his understanding of the world:

“It was too late to tell Dally. Would he have listened? I doubted it. Suddenly it wasn't only a personal thing to me. I could picture hundreds and hundreds of boys living on the wrong sides of cities, boys with black eyes who jumped at their own shadows. Hundreds of boys who maybe watched sunsets and looked at stars and ached for something better. I could see boys going under street lights because they were mean and tough and hated the world, and it was too late to tell them that there was still good in it, and they wouldn't believe you if you did. It was too much of a problem to be just a personal thing” (Chapter 12).

In the film, Dally's death is confusing. It seems like he gets upset about Johnny, then randomly decides to rob a store. His death is tragic, but doesn't hold the depth of meaning that it does in the novel, nor is Pony's reaction to it expressed as clearly.

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The Outsiders

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