What is an example of an important scene in S. E. Hinton's The Outsiders?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One very critical scene in S. E. Hinton's The Outsiders happens in Chapter 2. Here, Cherry has just invited Ponyboy to join her at the concession stand, and while waiting in line, Cherry makes the very empathetic and insightful observation, "Johnny ... he's been hurt bad sometime, hasn't he?" (p. 28) Cherry's question leads Ponyboy to relate a story about Johnny and have an important, though brief, conversation with Cherry that serves to develop and underscore central themes in the book.

After Cherry's question, Ponyboy feels compelled to tell her about a recent incident in which Johnny was severely attacked by four Socs without any provocation. Johnny had been out one night in the field he and his Greaser friends often play in, looking for a football to practice with, when four Socs in a blue Mustang pulled up, got out, and jumped single, defenseless Johnny for absolutely no reason. Johnny was so severely hurt and so severely insulted that he is now too scared to go anywhere without carrying a blade for protection.

Cherry's reaction to Ponyboy's story about Johnny is to turn "white as a sheet" and beg Ponyboy to believe her when she says, "All Socs aren't like that ... You have to believe me, Ponyboy. Not all of us are like that." (p. 31) She continues to state that being a rich Soc isn't everything the Greasers think it is, that all people have their problems and hardships, problems that others can't even imagine.

The reason why Cherry's short speeches in this scene are so critical is that they develop and underscore the themes of prejudice and social class struggles. Cherry's speech is pointing out that all people have their prejudices: the Socs are just as prejudiced against the Greasers as the Greasers are against the Socs. However, Cherry is also pointing out that the prejudice is unfounded because not all Socs are as evil as the ones Ponyboy has just described. Instead, all people are just people.

Since all people are just people, Cherry is also pointing out that the idea of social class distinctions is ridiculous; it also happens to be the primary cause in the novel of prejudices. The Greasers are poor, so the Socs in general think they are untrustworthy, whereas the poor Greasers think the Socs are untrustworthy partially due to their wealth. Hence, Cherry is underscoring the themes of class distinctions as well as prejudices to show that class distinctions don't truly exist--it's all in our minds. Since all people are people, the wealthy have just as many problems as the poor.