The Outsiders Questions and Answers
by S. E. Hinton

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In what way is there a sense of futility in "The Outsiders?"

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The most effective way to convey a sense of "futility" in literature is to depict individuals attempting to break through institutional barriers that are entrenched, protected by interests and overall inertia.  I think that Hinton does this in her work in a couple of ways.  In depicting the world between the Socs and the Greasers as one of economic reality, the fact of the matter becomes that the Greasers will never be able to defeat the class system that has relegated them to the periphery.  It is a futile reality that is constructed, but the Socs have all of the resources.  To quote Warren Zevon, they have "the lawyers, guns, and money."  The Greasers can try to defeat this configuration, but in the end, they will only be reaffirming the exclusionary practices that benefit the Socs and disempower them.  Dally's quest is a forgotten one, and for each one of him, greater marginalization occurs.  This becomes the futile existence that is conveyed through Hinton's work.  Adolescent frustration is evident, in part, because of a socio- economic reality that silences voices.  The real interesting element is that the Greasers are right.  They are the victims of class warfare and economic modes of silencing voices.  Yet, it is the adolescent group that points this out to the reader.  The recognition achieves even greater futility when one recognizes that American society, a reality that espouses fairness and equality in opportunity, is constructed in a contrary manner and not adults, but adolescents have discovered this and live it.  In this light, Hinton is able to convey the sense of futility that is lived out by these adolescents and one that forces us, the reader, to reexamine our own settings and practices.

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