Hinton explores the themes of inequality and discrimination through her portrayal of how the Greasers are treated by their peers and society in general. Hinton also examines how the Socs struggle with similar issues despite their privileged social status. Pony continually laments that he is "marked lousy" simply because he is a Greaser, and he compares himself to Pip from Dickens's classic novel Great Expectations. Pony's allusion emphasizes how people view him with contempt because of his lower-class background, appearance, and social group. Even though Pony is portrayed as a sensitive, intelligent, athletic adolescent with a bright future, he is viewed with contempt and discriminated against by his peers and authority figures, which is unfair and inaccurate. In chapter 3, Pony says,
It ain't fair! . . . It ain't fair that we have all the rough breaks! (38)
Pony believes that the circumstances surrounding himself, his brothers, and close friends are undeserved and unfair. Pony finds it unfair that Two-Bit, Dally, and Steve come from broken homes and believes that it is unfair that Darry was forced to give up a college scholarship to support his family after the death of their parents. Darry also resents the fact that he had to give up his dreams of playing football in college in order to work two jobs to make ends meet.
In addition to the Greasers' view that life isn't fair, Cherry Valance and Randy Adderson also experience similar feelings regarding their social group. Cherry feels that it isn't fair that people believe her life is easy. She explains to Pony that her friends are callous and compares her life to a constant rat race. Randy also laments the fact that he will be ostracized for not participating in the rumble. Overall, Hinton explores how both privileged and lower-class adolescents experience inequality and discrimination to various degrees by illustrating how both social groups are perceived and treated by others.