What is an example of a lesson Ponyboy learned throughout The Outsiders and how it will affect him later in life?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Ponyboy learns that appearances and reputations can be deceiving, which is why he shouldn't judge people without fully getting to know them first. Pony also learns that he must be cognizant of his actions because they can have a significant effect on those around him.

In the novel, Ponyboy is introduced to Cherry Valance and Randy Adderson, who are two Socs members that he would have typically never spoken to. However, Ponyboy has enlightening conversations with both characters and learns that Socs have similar struggles. Ponyboy becomes aware that regardless of wealth, teenagers everywhere experience anxiety and deal with their own set of issues.

Ponyboy also learns from Johnny that Dally is a gallant, selfless person. Before getting into trouble with Johnny, Pony was under the impression that Dally was simply a callous, ignorant person, who enjoyed hurting people. After Dally helps them escape town and enters the burning building to save Johnny, Ponyboy understands Dally's positive character traits and ends up admiring him. 

Ponyboy also learns that his actions can significantly impact those around him. Pony learns that Darry truly cares about him after running away and Sodapop makes Pony aware that his arguments with Darry are taking a toll on the family. Overall, Ponyboy's experiences and increased perspective on life make him a more sympathetic individual, who will not be quick to judge others. 

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

An example of a lesson Ponyboy learned is that people can’t be labeled.  He realizes that just as he does not like being judged for being a greaser, he should not judge Socs.

When Pony meets Cherry, his attitude toward Scos changes.  His preconceptions are tested.  He has stereotypical views of Socs as spoiled rich kids, and knows that Socs and others stereotype greasers as well.  He realizes that while the two social classes are different, they have more in common than he thought.  Cherry is a decent girl, and is willing to listen to him.

Maybe the two different worlds we lived in weren't so different. We saw the same sunset. (ch 3, p. 41)

Pony realizes that although people belong to a group and share similar characteristics, all people cannot be considered the same.  Not all Socs act alike, and not all greasers act alike.  Pony even gets to know Randy later, and sees more nuances of similarity and difference.  Not all Socs want to fight.

As Pony gets older, he starts looking at people as individuals rather than members of their group.  He wants people to look beyond his long and greasy hair, and he realizes he has to do the same.