The Outsiders Questions and Answers
by S. E. Hinton

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What does Cherry say is the difference between Socs and Greasers in Chapters 2 and 3 of The Outsiders?

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Jonathan Beutlich, M.A. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Cherry is my favorite character in the entire novel.  The reason for that is because she is able to fluidly interact with the Greasers and the Socs.  Perhaps the reason for that is because she understands that both groups are more similar than they are different.  She understands that both groups are struggling against an opponent that neither group can beat, which is why the groups fight each other.  A person vs. person fight is tangible. But struggling against a system is not.  

Cherry is an incredibly insightful person, which is also why she is able to correctly identify the main difference between the Greasers and the Socs.  Ponyboy has always thought it was money.  The Socs are rich, spoiled kids that wear expensive clothes and get to drive daddy's car.  The Greasers are poor thugs from broken homes and struggling to feed themselves half the time. That's why Ponyboy thinks the groups are different.  Cherry says that is incorrect.  She tells Ponyboy that the real difference is that the Socs don't feel.  They are emotionless, because they are trying to maintain a cool aloofness.  The Greasers, on the other hand, are the complete opposite.  They feel everything, and respond and act on every little emotion.  

I thought maybe it was money that separated us.

"No," Cherry said slowly when I said this. "It's not just money. Part of it is, but not all. You greasers have a different set of values. You're more emotional. We're sophisticated--cool to the point of not feeling anything. Nothing is real with us. . ."

"That's why we're separated," I said. "It's not money, it's feeling--you don't feel anything and we feel too violently."

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Social and economic factors in The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton contribute to the perceived and professed differences between the "Socs," whom Ponyboy calls "the jet set, the West-side rich kids," and the Greasers, the boys from the "East side." The Socs seem to have everything: money, possessions, cars and influence. As Ponyboy points out, "They may be a public disgrace one day and an asset to society the next."

In sharp contrast, the Greasers are more like "hoods" and come from average or poor backgrounds. They are perceived as troublemakers and instigators who are always causing a disturbance, even when the Socs, arrogant and superior, are to blame. The Greasers and the Socs hate each other for no reason except that they are from very different backgrounds and have become rival gangs, representing the class struggle.  

Cherry realizes that Ponyboy is a little different from the usual Greasers, and Ponyboy recognizes her from school but thinks "they weren't our kind. They were tuff-looking girls...." Cherry, who thinks that most Greasers are "trash," throws her coke in Dally's face when he gets a bit too smug, but still she manages to hide her fear. She becomes friends with Johnny and Ponyboy because they defend her against Dally. She doesn't think of them as "innocent. Just not...dirty." She does, however, have respect for them all and, after hearing Ponyboy relate the story of how Johnny was beaten up by the Socs for no reason, she is anxious for him to understand that "not all of us are like that."

Cherry wants Ponyboy to understand that it is not necessarily easy for the Socs. Ponyboy has always thought that it is "money" that separates the Socs from the Greasers, but Cherry points out the different value set of the Greasers: "[Y]ou're more emotional," she says. It is all very well for the Socs to be sophisticated, but Cherry knows that their kind of sophistication makes them shallow and that "nothing is real with [them]." Socs are, according to Cherry, "always searching for something." From Cherry's explanation, Ponyboy recognizes that, just as the Socs feel nothing, the Greasers feel too much and feel "violently." 

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Cherry tells Ponyboy that the Greasers have a different set of values and that Greasers are more emotional than the Socs. Cherry says the Socs are so cool and sophisticated that they feel nothing, and they don't mean half of what they say. She says the Socs have everything, so they keep looking for something else to satisfy them. They're numb to feeling anything, and, in contrast, the Greasers feel things too much, too violently.

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