How do expectations play a role in the lives of the Socs and Greasers in The Outsiders?

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Greasers can't be seen as individuals, only as members of the Greasers. For example, when they walk down the street, "Greasers can't walk alone too much or they'll get jumped" (page 3). Members of the rival gang, Socs, only see Greasers as rivals who deserve to be jumped. Boys on the East Side become Greasers, while kids on the richer West-Side are "Socs," or Socials. People expect the Greasers to act in a way that Ponyboy describes as "hoods." As he says, "we steal things and drive old souped-up cars and hold up gas stations and have a gang fight once in a while" (page 4). The Socs, on the other hand, "jump greasers and wreck houses" (page 4). The expectations that these gangs have of themselves and each other determine their behavior.

Though both groups engage in youthful misdeeds, the Socs have the capacity to go on to college, and people think they are capable of more. As Ponyboy says, the Socs "get editorials in the paper for being a public disgrace one day and an asset to society the next" (page 4). In other words, people still expect the Socs to contribute to society, but it's hard for Greasers to be taken seriously as anything other than hoods. Even though Ponyboy, a member of the Greasers, is smart, he has to prove himself as a writer and as a student--which he finally does at the end of the book.