In the book The Outsiders, how do the setting, order of events, point of view, and characters (other than Ponyboy) affect the plot?

The setting, event order (with Ponyboy getting jumped by page 5), Ponyboy's point of view as narrator, and characters inform and advance the story to its climax. The often violent setting affects the story, with Ponyboy and Johnny's fight with the Socs a pivotal event that leads to the climax. Ponyboy's story contrasts with Johnny's. They face similar risk of violent attack from Socs, but stark differences in their family support networks leads to extremely different outcomes for these characters.

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In The Outsiders, the setting, order of events, point of view, and characters affect the plot by providing details about the tensions between the Socs and the greasers and advancing various plot elements that bring the story to its ultimate climax. Since Ponyboy is the narrator, essentially telling his own story, the point of view is Ponyboy's. He attempts to understand events, sees fighting between the two groups, and experiences heightening emotions, all of which inform the reader's understanding of the story.

We learn early on that Ponyboy and his group live in an uncertain setting where violence can erupt unexpectedly, often without immediate provocation. This is an extremely important bit of context for the story. Ponyboy says he is "a greaser." Describing greasers, he says,

We're poorer than the Socs and the middle class. I reckon we're wilder, too. Not like the Socs, who jump greasers and wreck houses and throw beer blasts for kicks ... 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 …. I'm not saying that either Socs or greasers are better; that's just the way things are.

He then discusses the risk of getting "jumped" by Socs, which informs the reader almost from the very start about the physical dangers that Ponyboy and his friends face.

Despite Ponyboy's desire to appear "tough" like Paul Newman, Ponyboy is sensitive and a loner. This colors much of the narrative as the story unfolds. Since Ponyboy describes getting jumped by Socs in the first chapter, we get an early view that the violence goes beyond fist fighting and often includes knives. This informs the tone for the rest of the book and also leads to the events that unfold.

It also enables the reader to compare and contrast Johnny's story and Ponyboy's. Although the two boys live in the same setting and face similar risks, their outcomes differ markedly, primarily because their family support networks are so different.

Ponyboy's rescue provides insight into what a tight-knit group the greasers are and how much his brothers look out for him. Ponyboy says greasers stick together, defend one another, and have tremendous loyalty to the group. Moreover, Ponyboy's relationship with his brothers is an important element that is shown in stark contrast to the family support—or lack of support—that many other greasers have, including Johnny. After Ponyboy is rescued, Soda says,

Leave my kid brother alone, you hear? It ain't his fault he likes to go to the movies, and it ain't his fault the Socs like to jump us, and if he had been carrying a blade it would have been a good excuse to cut him to ribbons.

This foreshadows events that occur later in the book when Johnny kills a member of the Socs during a fight. This event leads to Johnny and Ponyboy hiding out in the church while they try to figure out what their next steps should be. The church scene is extremely important because it brings emotional context to the story and also enables Johnny to achieve redemption when he rescues the children from the fire.

Johnny's story forms a sharp contrast to Ponyboy's. Although the two boys are close to one another and each is sensitive in many ways, because of the support network that Ponyboy has in his two older brothers, Ponyboy somehow is encouraged to move forward and has direction in his life, unlike Johnny, who has no support from his family and ends up alone with Ponyboy and scared while he tries to figure out how he can move forward with his life.

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A story's plot very basically includes the exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. I have attached a plot diagram to illustrate how these elements go together to make up the plot. In The Outsiders, the exposition is when Ponyboy and Johnny meet Cherry and Marcia at the drive-in. The rising action includes Johnny killing a Soc during a fight, Ponyboy hiding out with Johnny to avoid getting arrested, and then the two boys finding their hide-out on fire and risking their lives to save some children trapped inside. The climax occurs when Ponyboy fights in the rumble against the Socs. In the falling action, Johnny dies, Dally dies, and Ponyboy gets sick and has visits from Randy and Cherry. The resolution is when Ponyboy is acquitted after several Socs testify at his hearing.

Setting is where and when a story takes place. The setting of The Outsiders affects the plot because the story is set in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1965. The real rivalry between greasers and Socs in American cities in the 1960s is pivotal to the plot. Ponyboy and Johnny meet Cherry and Marcia, two Soc girls, at a drive-in. The drive-in is part of the setting; American teenagers often went to the drive-in during the 1960s. Meeting the two Soc girls sets the ball rolling for the subsequent rising action: Cherry's boyfriend Bob and his Soc friends attack Ponyboy and Johnny in a park, and that's when Bob gets killed. Another important fact of life for American teenagers in the 1960s were the rumbles. The rumble in The Outsiders is the climax.

The order of events affects the plot because in a plot, the events in the rising action get more and more intense until the climax, the most intense event, and then the falling action and the resolution consist of events that get less and less intense. You can put the events on a plot diagram like the one attached to see how they rise and fall in intensity.

Point of view refers to how the story is narrated. The Outsiders is told from the point of view of Ponyboy Curtis. It is told in the first person, meaning it is told entirely through Ponyboy's eyes and narrated using the pronouns "I," "we," "me," etc. First-person point of view is limited because the reader is only privy to the narrator's thoughts, feelings, and observations of the events and other characters. Ponyboy is a young teenage greaser, so his point of view is biased towards teenagers and greasers. He learns through the course of events that greasers and Socs aren’t so different. Ponyboy has two conflicts in this story. His external conflict is his fight against the Socs and his desire to escape punishment from killing Bob. His internal conflict is his desire not to be taken away from his family and to be accepted by his older brother, Darry. The resolution of the story resolves both conflicts. 

The other characters are pivotal to the plot. Johnny shows Ponyboy the beauty and poetry in the world. In the rising action, Dally takes the boys to the old church and helps them hide out there, and in the beginning of the falling action Dally dies in an emotional reaction to Johnny's death, which shows Ponyboy that Johnny's beautiful heart was the heart of their gang. During the falling action, Darry and Sodapop teach Ponyboy the value of family and Ponyboy discovers that his older brother loves him. Between the exposition and falling action, Cherry shows Ponyboy that greasers and Socs are not so different because from their two parts of the city, they see the same sunset. So therefore we can see that many plot points were caused by these other characters' decisions.

You can read The Outsiders summary on eNotes to get more details on each plot point I have mentioned.

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