When Ponyboy returned to school, did students change thier perceptions of him in The Outsiders?

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litteacher8's profile pic

litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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All of the other students and teachers knew what happened with Ponyboy, so they gave him even more space than usual.

Ponyboy’s life was changed forever by the events that started in the park with Johnny.  When he returned to school, he was in a deep state of depression.  His grades suffered, and he isolated himself from other kids.

Ponyboy exists in a kind of fog, even more absent-minded and lost in his head than usual.

I started running into things, like the door, and kept tripping over the coffee table and losing things. … I was lucky if I got home from school with the right notebook and with both shoes on. (ch 12, p. 170)

Ponyboy did return to school, because he really wasn’t guilty of anything.  He was battling deep grief over what happened, and that includes Bob’s murder and Johnny’s death.

I knew Johnny was dead. … It was Johnny, not me, who had killed Bob—I knew that too. I had just thought that maybe if I played like Johnny wasn't dead it wouldn't hurt so much. (ch 12, p. 177)

After passing through the stages of grief, Ponyboy has reached the acceptance stage.  However, his life has not gotten back to normal yet.  The other kids and teachers are aware of this.  He has a certain stigma associated with him after being connected with a murder, going on the run, being in an accident, and having his best friend die.  Always a loner, Ponyboy is even more left alone.

The first week of school after the hearing had been awful.  People I knew wouldn't talk to me, and people I didn't know would come right up and ask about the whole mess. Sometimes even teachers. (ch 12, p. 171)

Ponyboy’s English teacher tried to help Ponyboy out by getting him to write a paper.  As it turns out, the process was likely somewhat therapeutic.  The Outsiders is Ponyboy’s paper.  It allowed him to evaluate the events that he had been through.  Sometimes writing about what happens helps with grief.

Ponyboy’s experiences with the Socs are a bit different.  They blame him for killing Bob, even though it was Johnny that actually did it.  After his experiences, Ponyboy is tired of the cycle of violence.  He is not going to be afraid of them anymore.

Big deal. I busted the end off my bottle and held on to the neck and tossed away my cigarette. "You get back into your car or you'll get split."

They looked kind of surprised, and one of them backed up. (ch 12, p. 172)

The Socs are frightened and leave.  The cycle is ended, and Ponyboy is ready to move on with his life.

One of the most powerful themes in The Outsiders is the consequences of social class on our interactions with others.  Ponyboy’s experiences when he returns to school demonstrate this concept.  Most students are afraid of him, because they look at him as a dangerous hood.  Even some of his teachers feel this way.  The Socs blame him and try to pick a fight, and when he doesn’t back down they figure he actually is dangerous. 

But Ponyboy is just a normal kid, caught up in circumstances that got way out of hand.  The one person who reached out to him was the English teacher, who saw what no one else could—Ponyboy was just a sensitive kid who was suffering under the enormous weight of the events he didn’t cause and couldn’t control.

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ik9744's profile pic

ik9744 | Student, Grade 9 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted on

They left Ponyboy alone more since they all knew the rumble happened and possibly the lost of Dally and Johnny. To my knowledge Ponyboy would of started fights IF they ask him. He grew tougher and is still on the verge of broken. I'd recommend him have therapy since two of the people he cared so much died in one single day. That'd be so tough on him.

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