The Outsiders Questions and Answers
by S. E. Hinton

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How does communication and miscommunication affect the identity of Cherry in The Outsiders?

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Cherry Valance is unlike the other members of her privileged social group and is depicted as a genuine, sympathetic person. When she first meets Ponyboy, Cherry does not judge him for being a Greaser and demonstrates her communication skills by interacting with him at the drive-in movies. Cherry listens intently as Pony vividly describes Johnny's assault and elaborates on Soda's horse Mickey Mouse. Cherry also explains to Pony the primary differences between their social groups and states that her peers are callous and aloof while the Greasers are significantly more emotional and sincere.

Following the death of Cherry's boyfriend, Bob Sheldon, she agrees to help the Greasers by acting as their spy. Cherry gives Dally and the Greasers important information regarding the upcoming rumble. Towards the end of chapter 8, Cherry tells Pony that she cannot go see Johnny in the hospital but struggles to articulate her reasoning. Cherry's miscommunication upsets Pony, who calls her a disloyal traitor. Cherry attempts to explain her decision by telling Pony,

I wasn't trying to give you charity, Ponyboy. I only wanted to help. I liked you from the start... the way you talked. You're a nice kid, Ponyboy. Do you realize how scarce nice kids are nowadays? Wouldn't you try to help me if you could? (Hinton, 110).

Fortunately, Pony exercises tolerance and perspective by forgiving Cherry, and they eventually make up. Cherry's ability to communicate with Pony portrays her as an understanding, sympathetic individual. However, her inability to articulate her emotions reflects her difficult situation. Even though Cherry associates with the Greasers, she identifies as a Soc. This creates a conflict of interest, and Cherry is caught in the middle of a serious rivalry. Therefore, Cherry is identified as a compassionate adolescent who is a unique individual as well as an outsider among her peers.

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