Ponyboy, in The Outsiders, regularly takes 4 aspirins, but in chapter 9 he takes 5 aspirins—why is that? It is in chapter 9: "Darry had cooked...

Ponyboy, in The Outsiders, regularly takes 4 aspirins, but in chapter 9 he takes 5 aspirins—why is that?

It is in chapter 9:

Darry had cooked dinner: baked chicken and potatoes and corn—two chickens because all three of us eat like horses. Especially Darry. But although I love baked chicken, I could hardly swallow any. I swallowed five aspirins, though, when Darry and Soda weren't looking. I do that all the time because I can't sleep very well at night. Darry thinks I take just one, but I usually take four. I figured five would keep me going through the rumble and maybe get rid of my headache. (emphasis added)

It is said that he took 5 to face the rumble, but what other possible reasons could explain why he did it?

Expert Answers

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

At the beginning of chapter 9, Ponyboy enters his home and takes five aspirins before the rumble. At this point in the story, Pony is completely exhausted and stressed out. Pony has skipped town with Johnny, hid in an abandoned church, narrowly survived a church fire, and is suffering from a severe headache. Pony believes that taking five asprins will make him feel significantly better and will hopefully get rid of his headache before the rumble. What Pony actually needs is a stomach full of hearty food and some much-needed rest.

In addition to hoping that the asprins will make him feel better, Pony takes them to numb his body before the rumble. Although Pony is feeling exhausted and ill, he refuses to abandon his friends and desires to participate in the rumble. By taking five asprins, Pony hopes to feel good enough to compete in the rumble.

Pony may also overindulge in asprins because he has witnessed his friends do the same with alcohol. Pony is an impressionable adolescent and is influenced by his peers—which could motivate him to take five aspirins. Pony may also be self-medicating and hoping that the aspirins will make him feel better about Johnny's severe injuries or the possibility of being placed in a boys' home.

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

At this point in the story, there is a lot going on with Ponyboy. He and his brother had lost their parents only eight months before. He is still reeling from the encounter with the Socs that resulted in Johnny murdering Bob. He and Johnny have been hiding out, their pictures have been printed in the newspaper, and now, he has a rumble to prepare for.

Some of the boys are known for indulging in alcohol and cigarettes. Perhaps Ponyboy used aspirin in this way. For him, it may have acted as a placebo. Of course, aspirin doesn't have a calming effect, but for Ponyboy, it may have been a mind thing. Perhaps self-medicating with the aspirin helped him to deal with all of his anxiety.

I wouldn't say that there was anything more to it than this.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial