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SIMILES IN THE OUTSIDERS
- They were all as tough as nails... (Chapter 1). Pony is describing the Socs that attacked him, comparing their toughness to iron or steel.
- Soda attracted girls like honey draws flies... (Chapter 1). Pony is comparing his ability to attract girls to the way flies are drawn to honey.
- He was as wild as the boys in the downtown outfits... (Chapter 1). This description of Dallas Winston compares his wildness with the tougher inner city gangs.
- ... he looked like some Greek god come to earth (Chapter 1). Pony is comparing Soda's good looks to that of a god.
In The Outsiders, S E Hinton uses figurative language and symbolism to reflect the environment in which the "Socs" and the "greasers" live. The characters are mostly hard and street-wise but Ponyboy, who is "supposed to be the deep one," is a little different. He is diligent and, as Dally says of him, "Always having his nose in a book." These are metaphors relating to Ponyboy's intelligence and love of reading, something unusual for gang members. Ponyboy's ability to rise above his circumstances and not let them define him is an enduring theme throughout.
Dally is a typical gang member, arrested by the police by the age of ten. He is tougher than the other boys. His tough and seemingly callous facade will lead to his tragic death. Ponyboy is very wary of Dally whose eyes are, "Blue, blazing ice, cold with a hatred of the whole world." This is a metaphor and the reader has no doubt about Dally's character. However, Dally will reveal that his seemingly hard exterior has another side to it when he becomes a most unlikely hero, although he is unable to save Johnny.
Johnny is described as, "Everyone's kid brother," suggesting that each member looks out for him and feels partly responsible for him, especially as he is shy and anxious and even "scared of his own shadow." He attributes a deeper meaning to Robert Frost's words in the poem Nothing God Can Stay when he tells Ponyboy to "stay gold." Johnny desperately hopes that his friend can stay true to who he is and retain his good nature, believing in the basic goodness of people and not judging them on appearances.
There are many comparisons in the book by way of metaphor and simile and they all add depth to the characters, ensuring that the reader sees far more than gangsters and fights and does not judge them but recognizes their own struggles. Ponyboy can only hope to express himself and help others in a non-violent way, "before it was too late."
Early in chapter one, Ponyboy is attempting to tell his readers a little bit about himself. He describes himself, and several members of the Greaser gang. At one point, Pony describes the gang as a whole. He says the following:
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.
By page five, Ponyboy's narrative description is interrupted, because a group of Socs have cornered him. Pony isn't sure what to do, so he says this:
So I stood there like a bump on a log while they surrounded me.
Ponyboy gets saved from a major altercation by his brother Darry. Pony's description of Darry's eyes is probably one of the most famous lines from the entire book.
He's got eyes that are like two pieces of pale blue-green ice.
Sodapop also shows up to help out Ponyboy, and through his dialogue, the reader learns that Ponyboy didn't come through the Soc encounter completely unscathed.
"You're bleedin' like a stuck pig."
One last simile.
I knew I was as white as I felt and I was shaking like a leaf.
As for a metaphor, it works the same way as a simile. It makes a comparison between two things in order to highlight some characteristic about one or both items. The big difference is that a metaphor can't use "like" or "as." Johnny's final note that Pony reads at the end of the novel contains a few great metaphors.
I've been thinking about it, and that poem, that guy that wrote it, he meant you're gold when you're a kid, like green. When you're a kid everything's new, dawn.
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