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Historical context in a novel simply means what is the historical background of the story. Many times novels operate with a setting based on some historic event or time period. When Ponyboy walks out of the movie theater thinking about Paul Newman, Hinton automatically identifies the time period of the novel as occurring some time during the 1960s when Paul Newman had some of his biggest starring roles. Hinton plays on the idea of Paul Newman's toughness along with similar tough guy roles like James Dean's Rebel Without A Cause to showcase the teenage mindset of the 1960s--admiration for movies and rock 'n roll and teenage rebellion against the status quo. Hinton further elaborates on the historical context of the novel as Ponyboy begins to worry about Socs and his own role as a greaser; the circumstance of warring gangs in The Outsiders is yet another detail that adds to the historical context or placement of the novel in terms of setting.
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