In The Outsiders, what is the conflict between the Greasers and the Socs?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The conflict between the greasers and the Socs is that they are rival gangs that are constantly fighting each other.

As with most rivalries, there is always an old grievance to nurse.  The greasers are the working class kids and the Socs are the wealthy kids.  They are always fighting each other in group brawls called rumbles.  They are not fighting for any particular reason other than the fact that they have been fighting for so long that they have to get back at each other for the last fight.  So there is always a new reason to fight.

A rumble, when it's called, is usually born of a grudge fight, and the opponents just happen to bring their friends along. (Ch. 1)

Pony explains that the greasers, who wear their hair long greasy and usually dress in t-shirts and jeans, often get into trouble by robbing gas stations or wrecking houses.  They are not usually real criminals though.  They are just poor kids who are sticking up for each other.

The Socs, on the other hand, are the rich kids.  Pony calls them the “jet set.”  They are the socialites from the social club.  They are just making trouble for fun or to stave off boredom until their trust funds kick in and they go off to college.

The greasers and Socs are constantly fighting each other.  Socs will jump greasers in groups, just because they are there.  Then a group of greasers will have to get together and fight the Socs in a rumble, to make up for it.  It continues like that. Pony explains his perception of the Socs’ behavior.

[The] Socs had so much spare time and money that they jumped us and each other for kicks, had beer blasts and river-bottom parties because they didn't know what else to do. (Ch. 3)

Though Pony is a little more empathetic than most greasers, and he does begin to accept that the Socs have feelings too, and do have some problems.  Some of them do not want to fight.  Randy tells him later that he has seen too much violence, especially after Bob dies, and will not participate in the rumble.  While the Socs can walk away, most greasers cannot.  Pony is one of the few who is intelligent enough and sensitive enough to have the option.  He finally does take it, after he has seen too much death himself.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In S.E. Hinton's novel The Outsidersthere is conflict between the Socs, which is short for Socials, the kids that live on the west side of town and are rich. The greasers live on the east side. Their nickname comes from the way they wear their hair--long and with a lot of oil, or styling gel. Beginning on page three, Ponyboy begins to describe the conflict between the two groups. Throughout the book, the conflict heightens and reaches a climax. The end result is not a complete resolution of the conflict. The greasers win a rumble against the Socs, but there is no textual evidence that the conflict between them will end. Here is Ponyboy's description of the two groups:

"Greasers can't be 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. I'm not sure how you spell it, but it's the abbreviation for the Socials, the jet set, the West-side rich kids. It's like the term 'greaser,' which is used to class all us boys from the East Side. 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, and get editorials in the paper for being a public disgrace one day and an asset to society the next. 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." 

In chapter one, Ponyboy is walking home alone from the movies when he is surrounded by Socs. They pulled a knife out held it against his throat. Ponyboy's brothers Darry and Sodapop come to his aid. 

In chapter four, Ponyboy and Johnny are walking home from the drive-in when they encounter some Socs. These Socs want to pick a fight because Ponyboy and Johnny were talking to their girlfriends at the drive-in. They push Ponyboy's head under the water of a fountain in the park. Here is a quote from that conflict: 

"'Next time you want a broad, pick up yer own kind--dirt.' I was getting mad. I was hating them enough to lose my head. 

'You know what a greaser is?' Bob asked. 'White trash with long hair.'

I felt the blood draining from my face. I've been cussed out and sworn at, but nothing ever hit me like that did. Johnnycake made a kind of gasp and his eyes were smoldering. 

'You know what a Soc is?' I said, my voice shaking with rage. 'White trash with Mustangs and madras.' And then, because I couldn't think of anything bad enough to call them, I spit at them." 

Johnny, believing they will drown his friend, stabs Bob to death. The two boys then run to Dally for help. He tells them where to hide so they don't get arrested. 

After the stabbing, the Socs call for a "rumble" against the greasers to avenge the death of their friend. During the rumble, Ponyboy makes this observation when Darry starts the fight with his former friend Paul: 

"The silence grew heavier, and I could hear the harsh heavy breathing of the boys around me. Still Darry and the Soc walked in a circle. Even I could feel their hatred. They used to be buddies, I thought, they used to be friends, and now they hate each other because one has to work for a living and the other comes from the West Side. The shouldn't hate each other...I don't hate the Socs any more...they shouldn't hate..." 

The greasers declare themselves winners of this fight. But three deaths occur as a result, either direct or indirect, of the conflict between the greasers and Socs--Bob, Dally, and Johnny. 

Some peace is made between the groups when Ponyboy gets to know Cherry Valance, and Bob's friend Randy. It doesn't seem to have any lasting effects, and the story ends with Ponyboy writing down his story. 

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The basic conflict between these two groups comes from the fact that they are from very different backgrounds. The Greasers are the poor or lower middle class kids from the "wrong side of the tracks." The Socs are the rich kids with the nice cars and clothes.

The two gangs spend a fair amount of time, it would appear, trying to catch members of the other gang alone. When they do, they tend to beat them up as Johnny was beaten up and Pony was almost beaten up.

Every now and then, if there is some reason, they all get together and have a big fight (a rumble).

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on