In The Outsiders, how and why does Ponyboy's opinion of the Socs change by the end of the story?

In The Outsiders, Ponyboy's opinion of the Socs changes by the end of the story because he begins to see that they do not have the perfect lives he's always imagined. By talking to Cherry and Randy, Pony gains a new understanding and realizes that "things are rough all over," just as Cherry had told him.

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Early in the story, Ponyboy stands firmly with his Greaser friends—and firmly against the Socs. While Pony and his friends are relatively poor and often come from difficult backgrounds, the Socs seem to "get editorials in the paper for being a public disgrace one day and an asset to society the next." It seems that things always go well for the Socs, who drive nice cars and wear sweaters and madras shirts.

The Socs often look for a chance to engage in a fight with the Greasers. In fact, Johnny had been badly beaten when he was walking alone one evening, and the experience had shaken him. Pony relates this story to Cherry Valance, a Soc, who tells Pony that not all Socs are jerks like Bob. She guesses that Pony probably believes that Socs "have it made" but points out that they have troubles Pony has never even imagined. Cherry then tells Pony, "Things are rough all over." Pony can't even imagine what Socs would need to worry about, but this frank and honest conversation with Cherry plants a seed in Pony's mind that begins to grow into a new understanding.

Because of their conflict, Johnny kills Bob and is then fatally injured in a fire where he and Pony hide out. Bob's friend Randy comes to visit Pony and tells him that Bob was "a good guy...the best buddy a guy ever had." He acknowledges that Bob was a fighter but wants Pony to understand that he was a real person who had friends who now miss him. This is particularly meaningful to Pony, who realizes that his own best friend could also die. Randy tells Pony that fighting is never going to change anything, and he is sick of it all.

After Johnny's death, Pony also loses their friend, Dally. He is later told that Soda's girlfriend has gotten pregnant with a baby that isn't Soda's; Pony is shocked because Soda has maintained his easygoing attitude despite his own pain.

Pony begins to see the truth in Cherry's words; things really are rough all over. He realizes that even people who seem to have no problems are carrying around weights of their own. Because of Randy and Cherry, he begins to see that the Socs as real people whom other people love and care about. Pony takes the time to really talk to some of the Socs, who are so different from him, in order to gain a new perspective which shifts his feelings about the Socs.

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At the beginning of the book, Pony assumes the Socs are all enemies. By the end, he realizes they are just people with problems like everyone else.

As the book opens, Pony is afraid of the Socs, the greasers' rival gang. He thinks they unfairly target greasers. The Socs are the rich kids, and they have all the breaks.

Greasers can't walk alone too much or they'll get jumped, or someone will come by and scream "Greaser!" at them, which doesn't make you feel too hot, if you know what I mean. We get jumped by the Socs. . . the jet set, the West-side rich kids (Chapter 1). 

When Pony meets Cherry, he changes his mind about the Socs, at least to some degree. Cherry tells him everyone has problems, regardless of whether they have money. Social class is not everything. She makes Pony stop and think about the Socs as people, and not just the enemy, when she tells him things are “rough all over.” 

I shook my head. It seemed funny to me that the sunset she saw from her patio and the one I saw from the back steps was the same one. Maybe the two different worlds we lived in weren't so different. We saw the same sunset (Chapter 3). 

This new understanding is somewhat enhanced by the aftermath of the fight in the park when Johnny kills Bob. Johnny and Pony are forced to go on the run. When they return, Pony finds some of the Socs are reacting strongly to the incident. Cherry turns “spy” and tells the judge Bob was drinking and it wasn’t Johnny’s fault. Randy tells Pony he doesn’t want to fight anymore and won't participate in the upcoming rumble, saying,

I'm sick of all this. Sick and tired. Bob was a good guy. He was the best buddy a guy ever had. I mean, he was a good fighter and tuff and everything, but he was a real person too. You dig? (Chapter 7

Cherry and Randy both make Pony look at Socs differently, but not in the same way. Cherry makes him realize not all Socs are out to get greasers. Randy makes him realize it is possible for Socs to change. Pony emerges from the experience changed and with a different perspective on the Soc-greaser conflict and the Socs themselves.

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Ponyboy’s opinion of the Socs begins to change through his interactions with Cherry. Largely because he had only thought of the Socs as a group, rather than considered them as individuals, Ponyboy had a strong class-based prejudice against the wealthier youths. When he begins to talk with Cherry, he starts to understand that each person in the group is an individual, and he gradually accepts her perspective that even relatively wealthy teenagers can have problems.

While the boys in both groups had some minor scuffles, the fight between Johnny and Bob represents a turning point. While Pony wants to support his own group and believes that self-defense is a justification, he is appalled when Johnny kills Bob. The likelihood of greater escalation in the inter-group violence, as well as the legal repercussions they will face, makes him realize the destructive power of their conflict. Reacting to the deaths of Johnny and Dally, Pony suffers a breakdown.

As he recuperates, Pony thinks about the impact of the Soc boy’s death on his family and friends. Randy, another a Soc who had been Bob’s best friend, reaches out to Pony. Their conversation furthers Pony’s understanding of the individuality of the group members, as well as similarities in their values, such as friendship and loyalty. Although he has another potentially violent encounter with some Socs, he listens to his friends and decides to live and let live.

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At the beginning of the story, Ponyboy holds the same opinion of the socs as the rest of the greasers do.  The greasers hate the socs because the socs are rich, always pick on the greasers, and think that they are better than the greasers. 

As the story continues, however, Ponyboy begins to realize that the socs are just people like the greasers are.  The socs may have more money than the greasers, but they are still people who face pain in the same way and who struggle through the problems in life. 

Ponyboy's relationship with Cherry is the catalyst that causes Ponyboy to begin to think about who the socs actually are and to question the purpose of the on-going feud between the greasers and the socs. 

Also, when Johnny kills one of the socs, Pony begins to realize that the socs are just as vulnerable as the greasers are and that they are people just like the greasers. 

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When the story begins, Ponyboy doesn't really even consider the Socs as actual people. The Socs are an enemy group made up of a bunch of spoiled rich kids, and they are to be disliked and fought.

Not like the Socs, who jump greasers and wreck houses and throw beer blasts for kicks, and get editorials in the paper for being a public disgrace one day and an asset to society the next.

Ponyboy's opinion of the Socs begins to change quite early in the story, and much of that has to do with Cherry. She is a Soc, yet she doesn't have a problem talking to Ponyboy. The two characters have some great conversations throughout the book, but already in their first conversation Cherry gets Ponyboy to consider the idea that the Socs are regular people with problems just like the Greasers.

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.

As events continue to unfold in the story, Ponyboy's attitude toward the Socs continues to evolve. By the final third of the book, Ponyboy is able to look past the "Soc" label and see Randy for just the guy that he is.

"My name's Ponyboy," I said. "Nice talkin' to you, Randy."

I walked over to Two-Bit, and Randy honked for his friends to come and get into the car. "

What'd he want?" Two-Bit asked. "What'd Mr. Super-Soc have to say?"

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

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