How are things "rough all over" in Chapter 7 of The Outsiders?

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Jonathan Beutlich eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In Chapter 2 of The Outsiders, Cherry Valence tells Ponyboy that "things are rough all over." She tells him this shortly after he finishes telling her why Johnny acts so "hurt and scared." Cherry expresses her sympathy, but doesn't allow the story to make her think that the Greasers have it worse than the Socs. She tells Ponyboy that "things are rough all over." What's revealing about the exchange is that Ponyboy believes her. He doesn't have any evidence yet, but he believes her.  

Cherry no longer looked sick, only sad. "I'll bet you think the Socs have it made. The rich kids, the West-side Socs. I'll tell you something, Ponyboy, and it may come as a surprise. We have troubles you've never even heard of. You want to know something?" She looked me straight in the eye. "Things are rough all over."

"I believe you," I said. "We'd better get back out there with the popcorn or Two Bit'll think I ran off with his money."

Chapter 7 represents the calm before the rumble storm. Dally and Johnny are both in the hospital. Dally is going to be okay, but Johnny is not doing well. Toward the end of the chapter, Randy, a Soc, comes to talk to Ponyboy. Randy wants to understand why Pony and Johnny saved those kids. He can't understand why a Greaser would do such a thing. Pony tells him that it had nothing to do with being a Greaser. Randy then begins to explain to Ponyboy that he is having a hard time coming to terms with the death of Bob and the pointlessness of the gang war. He's sick of it and of the class distinctions that mean nothing anymore.  

"And tonight... people get hurt in rumbles, maybe killed. I'm sick of it because it doesn't do any good. You can't win, you know that, don't you?" And when I remained silent he went on: "You can't win, even if you whip us. You'll still be where you were before—at the bottom. And we'll still be the lucky ones with all the breaks. So it doesn't do any good, the fighting and the killing. It doesn't prove a thing. We'll forget it if you win, or if you don't. Greasers will still be greasers and Socs will still be Socs.

By the time the conversation ends, Ponyboy has finally seen concrete evidence of how things are rough all over because he understands the futility of gang war and the Soc's grief over deaths they see. When another Greaser asks him about that Soc (Randy), Ponyboy responds by saying that it wasn't a Soc, just a guy because now Ponyboy sees through the class war and the war against privilege to the humanity of individuals, some with more, some with less.

"He ain't a Soc," I said, "he's just a guy. He just wanted to talk."

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Kristen Lentz eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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As Cherry Valance points out to Ponyboy earlier in the novel, "things are rough all over" and they continue to be so in Chapter 7.  Ponyboy, Sodapop, and Darry all worry about the possibility of the younger brothers being put in a boys' home, and all of the gang frets over Johnny's worsening condition while in the hospital.  Meanwhile, the Socs have their own set of concerns to deal with, mostly those stemming from the tragedy of Bob's death.  Bob's best friend, Randy, confides in Ponyboy that he no longer believes that fighting does any good.  He mourns the loss of his best friend and has come to realize that the outcome of any rumble has no power to change any social circumstance.  All the characters, whether Greaser or Soc, struggle with the seriousness of recent events: Bob's death, Johnny's accident, and the upcoming rumble.

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