What is the author's message in The Outsiders?

Expert Answers
litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The author’s message is the theme in a work of fiction.  In The Outsiders, Hinton’s message is that class conflict is pointless, unwarranted, and destructive.

Ponyboy begins by explaining that he is a “greaser,” a term he says is “used to class all us boys on the East Side” (ch 1, p. 3).  By beginning the book this way, Hinton introduces us to a major theme in the book: class conflict. 

The Socs and Greasers are at odds for no other reason than their different social classes.  This leads to a great deal of destruction, ruining several innocent young lives.  Bob is killed because of the violence, and Johnny eventually dies as a result.  Ponyboy’s life is never the same.

When Ponyboy meets Cherry, a Soc girl, he realizes that not all Socs are bad.  They have problems too, even if they are different ones.  They also are more similar to the Greasers than the each group would think.

It seemed funny to me that the sunset she saw from her patio and the one I saw from the back steps was the same one. Maybe the two different worlds we lived in weren't so different. We saw the same sunset. (ch 3, p. 40)

It is true that the two groups are not that different.  By constantly feuding, they are accomplishing nothing but perpetuating the war and destroying people’s lives.  There is no reason for them to fight.

Jane Ames eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Another central theme in The Outsiders concerns friendship. At one point, the narrator states: "You take up for your buddies no matter what they do. When you're in a gang, you stick up for the members" (66). This bears a special meaning for Ponyboy, as his family consists of his brothers and a network of friends. It is an older friend Ponyboy turns to after the shooting incident with the Socs. For Ponyboy, his brothers, and the other Greaser characters, friends are essentially family.

Ponyboy's interactions with Cherry also offer an interesting perspective on friendship. Cherry and Ponyboy have been socially conditioned to hate one another, yet they go out of their way to talk with one another in a compassionate or at least polite way. Their tenuous friendship suggests that friendship itself is so powerful, it can transcend rigid social classes and conventions. 

These are only a few of many instances in the book where friendship plays a crucial role. Through Ponyboy's life and story, the author depicts friendship as a force which is both extremely powerful and very flexible: powerful enough to overcome major obstacles and flexible enough to connect people from different walks of life.

ik9744 | Student

There could be a lot of theme... For example one example is to stay pure while another example can be not to give up your life when a loved one dies.