What is Ponyboy's physical appearance in The Outsiders?
One need not read far into S.E. Hinton's coming-of-age novel The Outsiders to find a self-description of the story's main protagonist and narrator, Ponyboy Curtis. The opening paragraph of Chapter One of Hinton's novel provides Ponyboy's description of his own appearance:
I have light-brown, almost-red hair and greenish-gray eyes. I wish they were more gray, because I hate most guys that have green eyes, but I have to be content with what I have. My hair is longer than a lot of boys wear theirs, squared off in back and long at the front and sides, but I am a greaser and most of my neighborhood rarely bothers to get a haircut. Besides, I look better with long hair.
Later in this opening chapter, we are privy to Ponyboy's age courtesy of the following passage in which this young man is contrasting his two older brothers:
Soda is different from anybody; he understands everything, almost. Like he's never hollering at me all the time the way Darry is, or treating me as if I was six instead of fourteen.
So, from these two passages, we now know that Sodapop is a fourteen-year-old boy with two older brothers who watch out for him, especially oldest brother Darry, who has assumed the role of parent following the tragic deaths of their parents in an automobile accident. As Chapter One continues, we learn other important details about Ponyboy, his brothers, and their friends, all "Greasers," the poorer kids from 'the wrong side of the tracks,' who remain in a perpetual state of war with the well-to-do offspring of the more economically affluent "Socials" or "Socs," for short. The novel, then, is defined by its distinctions between the Greasers and the Socs, two categories of mutually antagonistic teenaged boys from opposite ends of the socioeconomic spectrum.
Finally, Ponyboy's physical description is enhanced by his reference to his somewhat diminutive size, as when he discusses the limitations inherent in his smaller frame relative to most of those he encounters on the street and who wish to do him harm: "I'm kind of small for fourteen even though I have a good build, and those guys were bigger than me." Hinton's novel is, of course narrated in the first-person by Ponyboy, but it includes copious insights into this intelligent, sensitive boy's physical and emotional demeanor.
In Chapter One, the narrator of the novel, Ponyboy, identifies himself as from Oklahoma. He describes himself as having longer hair that is cut straight across the back and is also long in the front and on the sides. Pony remarks that he infrequently gets haircuts; his hair is a light brownish-red, and he has greenish-gray eyes. He dresses, as do the others, in dress in blue jeans with white T-shirts. Sometimes they wear their shirttails out with leather jackets over them. He and his friends wears tennis shoes or boots. "Almost like hoods."
Further, Ponyboy describes Greasers as "almost like hoods; we steal things and drive old souped-up cars and hold up gas stations" and have gang fights.
When the Socs encounter the Greasers later in the chapter,
"Hey, grease," one said in an over-friendly voice. "We're gonna do you a favor, greaser. We're gonna cut all that long greasy hair off."
Ponyboy gives the reader a physical description of himself at the very beginning of the novel. According to Ponyboy, he may be no Paul Newman, but his "own looks aren't so bad" (1). Ponyboy has reddish, light brown hair, "greenish gray" eyes and long greaser hair. The other greasers think that Ponyboy has "tuff" hair, a signature greaser look; however, in chapter five, Ponyboy has to cut his hair in order to hide his identity better when he is on the run with Johnny.
Ponyboy also reveals that he is "kind of small for fourteen," even though he does have a good build. The reader can also infer that he looks younger than his age, because when Cherry and Marcia meet him and Johnny at the movie theater, they thought both boys were younger.