Imagery is defined as the use of sensory details (descriptions that appeal to the five senses) in order to create a picture in the reader’s mind.
In S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, imagery is not a hallmark of the author’s character-driven style, but through the narrator Ponyboy Curtis, Hinton does use simplistic imagery.
The first example of imagery is found in the first line of the novel, in which Ponyboy describes stepping “out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house.” This example is used to show the contrast between Ponyboy’s inner and outer life. While he is rather unassuming on the outside (his Greaser style notwithstanding), Ponyboy has a rich inner life as a keen observer.
A stronger, more poetic example of imagery is used when the church catches fire. As Ponyboy observes the fire from within the church that he believes he is partially responsible for, he notes, “The cinders and embers began falling on us, stinging and smarting like ants.” This example shows that Ponyboy is somewhat in awe of the beauty of something so deadly. The twinge of pain that he feels also mirrors the slight guilt he feels.
A final example comes in the last few pages of the book after Johnny has died. Ponyboy discusses how he finally decided to stop fighting so much with Darry. He describes the night on which he and Darry had this conversation:
The moon wasn't out but the stars lit up everything. It was quiet except for the sound of our feet on the cement and the dry, scraping sound of leaves blowing across the street.
This example of imagery portrays a peacefulness that Ponyboy finally feels, even if just for a moment. All of the turmoil, hurt, and loss has wounded him, but this serene description shows that he still has hope that things will be all right.