How does Ponyboy feel about being a greaser in The Outsiders?
Pony is proud of being a greaser but dislikes the violence.
Ponyboy goes to great lengths to describe what a "greaser" is, and the benefits of that life. He also points out the drawbacks. Greasers are defined by their neighborhood and socioeconomic status. In other words, you are a greaser because you are born into being a greaser. You are poor and live in a certain neighborhood. You do not really choose to be a greaser.
Greasers wear their hair a certain way and dress a certain way.
My hair is longer than a lot of boys wear theirs, squared off in back and long at the front and sides, but I am a greaser and most of my neighborhood rarely bothers to get a haircut. (Ch. 1)
Long hair is one of the hallmarks of a greaser. They also “grease” it with hair grease. This is where the name comes from. You have to remember the time period! The Outsiders was published in 1967, and such things were popular back then!
Greasers live on the East Side, unlike the Socs, their upper class (rich) enemies of the West Side. Greasers wear jeans, leather jackets, and t-shirts and Socs wear madras (plaid) shirts, collared shirts, and sweaters.
Pony is often careful when describing the greasers to make a distinction between what greasers do and what he does.
Greasers are almost like hoods; we steal things and drive old souped-up cars and hold up gas stations and have a gang fight once in a while. I don't mean I do things like that. (Ch. 1)
This distinction shows that while Pony is a greaser, he is not completely dedicated to the life. He is not comfortable with it or committed to it. He has some shame associated with being a greaser.
Pony is more sensitive than your average greaser. He likes movies and books, and is in honors classes at school. While he identifies with the greasers, they also consider him something apart. He was born a greaser, but is something softer too. He is not a fighter.
One of the biggest benefits to Pony of being a greaser is safety in numbers. The Socs will target him, so he needs protection.
When you're a gang, you stick up for the members. If you don't stick up for them, stick together, make like brothers, it isn't a gang any more. It's a pack. (Ch. 2)
Pony does not like the constant fighting between the greasers and the Socs. When Johnny is hurt after the church fire, he likes it even less. He considers getting out of the life. Johnny advises him to, telling him to “stay gold.” He even meets a Soc before the big rumble, Randy, who tells him he is through with the violence and will not be participating. Pony ponders the fact that both greasers and Socs are “just guys” (Ch. 7).
To avoid getting into more trouble with the law, and to make a future for himself, Pony abandons gang life and decides to commit fully to education. His gang members and family fully support him. They know that street life is not for him. In his heart he is a greaser in that the greasers are his family, but he has a future beyond the greasers too.
This is a story about class, identity, and coming of age. As Ponyboy navigates the rough streets of his hometown and the politics of street gangs, he has to come to terms with the fact that becoming who he is may mean leaving behind his family, friends, and all he has ever known.