Explain this quotation from S.E. Hinton's young adult novel The Outsiders:  "Ponyboy listen, don't get tough. You're not like the rest of us and don't try to be."

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lhc | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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Ponyboy Curtis is best described as a complex character, because the things that might, taken individually, make him one dimensional--being an orphan, being a greaser, being a good student and track athlete--are, taken together, an unusual combination.  Ponyboy runs with the "tough" crowd; however, he is anything but.  He enjoys reading, especially poetry, and he likes to see movies alone so that he can better focus and deconstruct the different components that have brought the story to the screen.  Ponyboy generally avoids conflict unless it finds him, as it does on the day he is walking home alone from the movies; this interaction with the "Soc" gang sets into motion a deadly chain of events that began when the Soc's beat up Johnny Cade, the gentlest of the greaser crew.  The impact of the trauma on Johnny is apparent immediately because he carries a switchblade and will do most anything to protect himself; when Two-Bit, another of the greasers advises Ponyboy that he is not tough and he should not try to be, he is basically trying to protect Ponyboy from changing the way Johnny had changed in response to the brutality he had suffered. To become like the others, Ponyboy would likely lose the characteristics that made him unique and special, such as his interest in literature and theatre, his thoughtful nature, his concern for others and his academic gifts. 

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