The Outsiders Questions and Answers
by S. E. Hinton

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

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Lynn Ramsson eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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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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bullgatortail eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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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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