What is the plot line (climax, setting, rising action, resolution) of The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton?

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brandyhwilliams eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders, some information, like the setting, is a little vague. However, the following information catalogues the plot line for the story:


The town, and year are never actually named in the story. However, S.E. Hinton explains that she based the story on her hometown of Tulsa, Ok. What readers know is that the story is set in a small, unnamed town, where there are two distinct sides of town- rich, and underprivileged. Readers can infer that the story is set during the 1960s, based on dialogue (Rumble...golly gee), types of cars (Corvair), and clothes (Madras). 

Rising Action

Many people become confused by the rising action and climax of The Outsiders. Since the rising action is the point in the novel that leads into the main action, and starts to beat up the story, the rising action here is when Johnny kills a Soc for trying to drown Ponyboy. This is the point in the story where the conflict between the Socs and Greasers really gets interesting, and the gang must come to action. 


The climax to this story is a bit lengthy. It begins when Johnny and Ponyboy run into the burning house, and Johnny becomes trapped by the burning embers. The climax ends when Johnny dies. He explains that conflict is unimportant, and that the fighting should stop. 

Falling Action

The falling action happens just after Johnny dies, and Dallas gets shot by the police. It's at this point in the novel that the major conflicts begin to die. After all, the Greasers won the rumble, and Johnny still died, though he died a hero. 

Denoument (Resolution)

All of the conflicts are resolved when Ponyboy is cleared of all charges, and gets to remain in the care of his brothers. Readers see Ponyboy come full circle as the story ends, just as it began.

mlsldy3 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The setting of the story takes place in a large, unnamed town. Some say it is set in Tulsa, Oklahoma, because this where the author lived when she wrote the story. It is about a group of boys who are in a gang called The Greasers. They live on the east side of town, which is considered the wrong side of town. It is set in the 1960's.

The rising action of the story is when Johnny and Ponyboy are in the park and attacked by the rival game, The Socs. Johnny ends up killing Bob, with a six inch switch blade. They decide to they have to run away and go and stay in a church on Jay Mountain. They accidentally start a fire at the church and learn there are some children trapped inside. Johnny and Ponyboy rush inside and rescue the children, but Johnny is seriously injured in the process.

The climax of the story comes when the rumble between the Greasers and the Socs takes place. The Greasers easily win the rumble, but Darry comes to Ponyboy and tells him they have to get to the hospital, because Johnny is dying. Johnny wants to talk to Ponyboy and tells him that fighting is useless an no good. He also tells Ponyboy to stay golden, then he dies.

In the resolution of the book, The judge acquits Ponyboy for the murder of Bob. He also tells the brothers they can stay together. Ponyboy has a hard time readjusting school and Darry is on his case constantly. Ponyboy, Soda and Darry then realize that they need to stick together and be a real family.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

SETTING.  The Outsiders is set primarily on the city streets, and in and around a midwestern city, presumably that of Tulsa, Oklahoma (though the city is never specifically identified in the novel), where author Susan E. Hinton went to high school and college.

RISING ACTION.  The two main instances of rising action come when Johnny kills Bob Sheldon in the park, and when the three boys save the children from the church fire on Jay Mountain. 

CLIMAX.  The climax of the novel comes when Dallas Winston is shot dead on the streets by police, the culmination of an evening which also includes the dramatic greaser victory over the Socs at the rumble; and the death of Johnny Cade.

RESOLUTION.  The resolution, or denouement, comes when Pony is found innocent of any wrongdoing in court and then decides to tell his story in an essay (after being motivated by a letter left for him by Johnny) for his English class. The Curtis brothers make up and promise to fight amongst themselves no more.