What is the historical context in the exposition of The Outsiders?

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In the exposition of The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, there are several pieces of information that indicate that the novel is set in the late 1950s or early 1960s. When the novel opens, the narrator has just left a movie starring Paul Newman. Newman's most popular movies were in theaters...

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In the exposition of The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, there are several pieces of information that indicate that the novel is set in the late 1950s or early 1960s. When the novel opens, the narrator has just left a movie starring Paul Newman. Newman's most popular movies were in theaters during the 1950s and 1960s, providing the reader with a wide time frame for the setting.

As Ponyboy's story continues to unfold, he refers to his own group of friends as the Greasers and the rival gang as the Socs. These terms can help to further narrow the time frame of the novel. Greasers was a term that was more commonly used in the 1950s to describe boys of the middle to lower class who typically worked on cars. Based upon these indicators, it would be acceptable to presume that the novel is set somewhere around the late 1950s to early 1960s.

With that being said, one of the compelling elements of The Outsiders is its ability to transcend time periods and social settings to become applicable to a wide array of readers. While the setting of the novel may have been the 1950s or 1960s, the struggle of the boys to figure out who they are and where they belong in the world is one that readers can understand and connect with no matter when the book is read.

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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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