What are some external conflicts in The Outsiders?

Asked on by mhmharper

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mercut1469's profile pic

mercut1469 | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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One of the external conflicts in S.E. Hinton's novel The Outsiders involves the greasers' negative image in the minds of most of the adults in the town which is the setting of the story. This conflict could be labeled as person vs. society. It is exemplified by the reaction of Jerry who witnesses the bravery of Ponyboy, Johnny and Dally during the church fire but is shocked by Ponyboy's explanation ("you're kidding") that he and his friends are greasers, similar to "hoods." This opinion is reinforced by the headline in the local paper which reads, "Juvenile Delinquents Turn Heroes." The headline is typical of what society thinks of the greasers. They are simply guilty until proven innocent. The character Two-Bit fittingly criticizes the headline and tells Ponyboy, "Y'all were heroes from the beginning. You just didn't 'turn' all of a sudden."

Another external conflict is the classic person vs. person. This conflict runs through the book in the individual skirmishes between the greasers and the Socs. Boys die because of the conflict, but it might be best portrayed in the final rumble when Darry challenges any of the Socs to fight. Ironically, a former friend of Darry's, Paul Holden, steps forward. The two "used to buddy around all the time" but are now mortal enemies, and Ponyboy describes what he believes to be hatred and jealousy in the eyes of his big brother. Darry hates Paul because his former friend comes from the privileged class and has a multitude of opportunities which are denied to Darry. Ponyboy reveals that Paul is now probably a junior in college. Darry, on the other hand, never got a chance to go to college because of financial constraints and the death of his parents. Ultimately, Darry bests Paul in the rumble, winning a bit of self-respect for the greasers. Unfortunately, the victory can never alter the economic and societal circumstances that remain the focus of the conflict between greasers and Socs.

npoore84's profile pic

npoore84 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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An external conflict is one in which a character has a conflict with other people in the story or nature itself. In the Outsiders, Ponyboy's parents are both dead and have to struggle to pay the bills and make ends meet for each other. Eventually Ponyboy learns that he must make a choice of continuing to act in a violent way or choose to make better choices. In a sense this can be seen as an internal conflict; yet he has to make external choices when he is confronted with other decision. 

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