Undoubtedly, there have been class distinctions for as long as civilized man has existed. Although there has not always been a middle class and other social distinctions, there has always been one group that is more privileged than others, whether because of physical force, political force, monetary force, or something else. Therefore, The Outsiders is relevant because the novel is about one group expressing its superiority over others and the antagonisms that evolve from this competition and attempts at suppression. Added to this class conflict, and animosity there are often inner conflicts within the members of the group because of problems in their families. In other words, the story about Ponyboy and the others is not untypical of many young people and many places because it is about the struggle of people to be loved and accepted.
After losing his friend Johnny and another boy from their group, Pony writes of his experiences,
I could see boys going down 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 vast a problem to be just a personal thing. There should be some help, someone should tell them before it was too late.
S.E. Hinton's themes of brotherhood and class prejudice certainly are relative today as much as they were at the writing of her book and before as suggested in the allusions to Great Expectations, the tale of social injustices and a young boy who wishes to become a gentleman.