In S.E. Hinton's novel The Outsiders, what does Cherry mean when she says to Ponyboy, "I'll tell you something, Ponyboy, and it may come as a surprise. We have troubles you've never even heard of. You want to know something? She looked me straight in the eye. Things are rough all over."
S.E. Hinton’s 1967 novel The Outsiders is the story of the conflict between the Greasers, the children from low-income, often broken homes, who are at a perpetual state of war with the Socs, the children from upper-class communities who flaunt their material wealth and look down upon the Greasers. The conflict between the two groups reaches new heights when one of the younger boys from the Greasers, Johnny, kills one of the Socs, Bob, in an effort at saving the life of the story’s narrator, Ponyboy Curtis. There, however, instances of shared humanity, mainly involving exchanges between the bright, sensitive Ponyboy, and a beautiful, wealthy Soc named Cherry Valance. It is during one of these exchanges where Cherry addresses Ponyboy’s prejudices and assumptions regarding the seemingly carefree existence of the upper-class families to which Cherry belongs:
“I’ll bet you think the Socs have it made. The rich kids, the West-side Socs. I’ll tell you something, Ponyboy, and it may come as a surprise. We have troubles you’ve never even heard of. You want to know something?”” She looked me straight in the eye. “Things are rough all over.”
As The Outsiders progresses, Ponyboy becomes increasingly aware of that the Socs, like the Greasers, are imbued with many of the same human frailties, and that material wealth is not a shield from all of life’s hardships. Another Soc with whom Ponyboy relates on a human level is Randy. In discussing Johnny’s killing of Bob, a Soc who had been holding Ponyboy’s head underwater, precipitating Johnny’s knifing of him earlier in the story, Randy discusses his murdered friend:
“I’m sick of all this. Sick and tired. Bob was a good guy. He was the best buddy a guy ever had. I mean, he was a good fighter and tuff and everything, but he was a real person too. You dig?
“He’s dead – his mother has had a nervous breakdown. They spoiled him rotten.”
Later, Ponyboy is again exposed to the common humanity within most people, again in an exchange with Randy during which Ponyboy relates his unfortunate home-life, including the death of his parents and his brothers’ struggle to keep the three sons together:
“I didn’t know that” Randy looked worried, he really did. A Soc, even, worried because some kid greaser was on his way to a foster home or something. That was really funny. I don’t mean funny. You know what I mean.”
Cherry’s remark to Ponyboy regarding the human dimension behind the trappings of wealth is intended to convey the sense that material wealth does not insulate one from life’s inevitable sorrows. Nobody gets a free ride.