What does Cherry mean when she says "things are rough all over" to Ponyboy in The Outsiders?

Cherry means that everyone has issues, even her privileged Soc friends. Cherry realizes that Greasers like Ponyboy think Socs have pleasant, carefree lives. She explains to Ponyboy that Socs experience a significant amount of peer pressure and must maintain their reputations at all times. She compares her peer group to a "rat race" and tries to make Ponyboy realize that being a Soc is not as easy as it seems.

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Near the end of chapter 2, after Ponyboy tells Cherry about Johnny’s violent clash with the Socs, Cherry tells him, “Things are rough all over.” Before she says this to Ponyboy, she lets him know that not all Socs are terrible; even with their money, they still have problems that he isn't aware of. Thus, the quote substantiates Cherry’s claim that people face issues regardless of their friend group or their economic status. Additionally, the quote signals Cherry’s contention that the Socs are not a monolithic faction. Yes, some Socs act contemptuously, but that doesn’t mean that all Socs are automatically vile people.

The quote could also carry a gendered meaning. It’s possible that she’s trying to say that things aren’t only difficult for the teenaged boy Socs but they’re tough for the teenaged girl Socs as well. The gender element might be why she looks him in the eye and says, “We have troubles you've never even heard of.” Ponyboy, raised in an all-male environment, perhaps isn’t so familiar with the specific hardships of being a young woman. Cherry has to negotiate a complex sexual terrain that Ponyboy, for all his perceptiveness, might not fully comprehend. Ponyboy’s platonic relationship with Cherry reinforces the idea that he doesn’t yet understand how worrying sexuality can be—especially for a woman in a culture dominated by men.

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At the beginning of the story, Ponyboy is a narrow-minded teenager with strong views about Socs. As a Greaser, Ponyboy is used to being considered an outcast and subscribes to the belief that all Socs have easy-going, carefree lives. His perception of the Socs is solely based on their appearances and reputation. Ponyboy knows they are wealthy and automatically equates their privileged status with peace of mind and a drama-free life.

After meeting Cherry Valance at the drive-ins, Ponyboy is surprised to discover that she is more down-to-earth than he thought and confides in her about Johnny being viciously assaulted by several Socs. Cherry listens to Ponyboy's story and tells him,

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? ... Things are rough all over.

Cherry is trying to convey that the Socs have their own unique set of problems. Although they are economically privileged, Socs experience significant peer pressure to maintain their reputations and conform to their social group. Cherry describes being a Soc as one big "rat race," where everyone is trying to outdo everyone else.

She also explains to Ponyboy that most of her friends are superficial, shallow, and insincere. This information surprises Ponyboy, who believes the Socs have nothing to worry about. Later on, Ponyboy gets to know another Soc named Randy Adderson and realizes that Cherry was telling the truth about it being "rough all over."

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Cherry is an unusual Soc, in Ponyboy's experience, and she displays unexpected depth in this exchange. As well, she treats Ponyboy like an equal, respecting him by sharing her honest words and her genuine feelings about life.

At this moment in The Outsiders, Ponyboy is talking openly with Cherry about Johnny's story and his terrible experiences; Cherry listens sympathetically, and she is authentic and real in her response, which is to remind Ponyboy that everyone struggles and no life is easy, no matter how it looks from the outside: "things are rough all over."

Ponyboy, in his earnestness and his loyalty to his friends and to his greaser family, thinks that they have to work the hardest, against the hardest odds, and therefore, their wins are perhaps more deserved. For example, Ponyboy believes that when Johnny survives a night sleeping outdoors, he is a hardier, stronger, more resilient person than a typical Soc who sleeps comfortably in a soft bed. Cherry explains to Ponyboy that his assumptions about the Socs are wrong and narrow-minded, and this conversation marks the start of Ponyboy's emotional growth. He begins to learn that problems aren't the domain of just greasers, and money does not guarantee happiness and security.


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Pony tends to feel a little sorry for himself when he describes the problems the greasers have: They are poor families from the wrong side of the tracks, forced to take to the streets because of their poor family lives; he also blames the Socs for many of their problems, and it is obvious that he believes the rich kids don't have a worry in the world.

     "Big-time Socs, all right"... It wasn't fair for the Socs to have everything.  (Chapter 3)

But Cherry is quick to point out that the Socs have their own problems. They have too much going for them, with no boundaries and no one to tell them "no."

     "Rat race is a perfect name for it... Did you ever hear of having more than you wanted? So that you couldn't want anything else... It seems like we're always searching for something to satisfy us, and never finding it."  (Chapter 3)

The Socs have "troubles you've never even heard of," and after Pony's story about the brutal attack on Johnny, Cherry realizes that she has a new problem of which she was previously unaware: It was her boyfriend, Bob, who was the boy with the rings who had delivered the severe beating to Johnny; and Cherry now is faced with the reality that Bob is no better than the worst greasers, like Dally Winston. That is why "things are rough all over"--for both greasers and Socs, rich and poor.

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In Chapter Two, Johnny tells everyone what happened the night four Socs beat him up. It is an emotional moment for Johnny, and Pony relates that the beating has left Johnny habitually nervous in his daily life.

After Johnny finishes his story, Cherry pipes up that not all Socs are as indiscriminately violent as the ones who beat up Johnny. She implores Pony to believe her assertions, proclaiming that Pony would be surprised if he knew the real state of affairs. She maintains that, even though the Socs come from the well-to-do West side of town, they have their own problems to deal with, problems that Pony would never even guess at. This is when she pronounces that 'things are rough all over,' meaning that each community has its own set of problems, no matter which side of town it's situated in.

Later, in Chapter Seven, Pony finally comes to understand what Cherry's words mean when he converses with Randy, a Soc. In the conversation, Randy admits that he is tired of all of the fighting and killing that occurs between Socs and Greasers. He contends that the fighting will never solve anything in the long term. In an emotional confession, he divulges that Bob's mother had a nervous breakdown after her son's death. Randy relates that Bob needed his parents to set limits on his behavior and to hold him accountable for his actions when he was alive. However, his parents never rose to the occasion; they were too afraid that they were to blame for their son's incorrigible behavior.

Randy maintains that Bob might still be alive if his parents had laid down consistent boundaries. After Randy's anguished confession, Pony realizes that wealth doesn't erase the very human challenges individuals and families face in their respective communities; life is rough no matter which side of town one resides in.


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Cherry Valance makes this observation after listening to Pony's story about Johnny getting jumped and beaten by four Socs in a blue Mustang. One of the boys "had lots of rings on his hand," and when Pony had finished the story, Cherry was "as white as a sheet." The boy with the rings was her boyfriend, Bob Sheldon.

"I believe you," Ponyboy told her, but he didn't really understand what she meant until after the movie when they were walking home. Cherry wishes the Socs could be more emotional, like the greasers.

"We're sophisticated--cool to the point of not feeling anything. Nothing is real for us."

Cherry told Pony that the Socs were caught up in a

"Rat race... always going and going and going, and never asking where... It seems like we're always searching for something to satisfy us and never finding it. Maybe if we could lose our cool we could."

Pony recognized this as "the truth," seeing that the Socs' money did not solve all of their problems, and that their "aloofness" was only a cover so they did not "let their real selves show through." The story about Johnny's beating also opened Cherry's eyes about her boyfriend's dark side, creating another conflict for the beautiful cheerleader who seemed to have it all.

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In Chapter 2 of The Outsiders, a novel written by S.E. Hinton, Cherry Valance discusses her social group, the Socs, with Ponyboy Curtis after meeting him at The Dingo, a drive-in movie theater.  Cherry is shocked when Johnny Cade, a Greaser, tells his story of being attacked by a "blue Mustang full" of Socs.  When Johnny is done telling his story, Cherry is insistent that Ponyboy realize that not all Socs are like those who beat Johnny.

When Ponyboy does not seem to believe that some Socs are better that Johnny's attackers, Cherry is saddened.

..."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?...Things are rough all over."

Cherry wants Ponyboy to understand that everyone has problems, and that even though the Socs do not have to worry about financial matters and are give whatever material possessions they want, they do not all have easy lives.  In Chapter 7 of the novel, Randy explains how hard life can be as a Soc.

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