When Pony asks what kind of a world it is, what comment is he making about how society judges people in The Outsiders?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

According to Ponyboy, the narrator of Susan E. Hinton's teen novel, The Outsiders, greasers may not have much, but they do have two things of which to be proud: their "rep" and long hair. As Ponyboy waits for his brothers to head to the site of the rumble, he already understands that the big fight will not decide anything. Randy, the Soc who has decided not to participate in the rumble, has told him: 

"Even if you win you'll still be at the bottom. And we'll still be the lucky ones with all the breaks. It doesn't matter. The Greasers will still be Greasers and the Soc's will still be Soc's. It doesn't matter."

Ponyboy asks himself the question:

"What kind of world is it where all I have to be proud of is a reputation for being a hood, and greasy hair? I don't want to be a hood, but even if I don't steal things and mug people and get boozed up, I'm marked lousy. Why should I be proud of it? Why should I even pretend to be proud of it?"

Even at his young age, Ponyboy realizes how tough it is to shed a label once one is placed upon you. He has many outstanding qualities--heroic, handsome, intelligent, caring--but when people look at him, all they see is a greaser. Winning the rumble will not change this perception--even with the soon-to-be-loser Socs. At the end of the novel, however, Pony does make an attempt to show how he is different--by telling his story that will become The Outsiders.

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

At the beginning of chapter 9, Ponyboy and the Greasers are getting ready for the big rumble against the Socs. After applying an unnecessary amount of oil to their hair in order to show that they are Greasers, Ponyboy comments,

"Greasers may not have much, but they have a rep. That and long hair. (What kind of world is it where all I have to be proud of is a reputation for being a hood, and greasy hair? I don't want to be a hood, but even if I don't steal things and mug people and get boozed up, I'm marked lousy. Why should I be proud of it? Why should I even pretend to be proud of it?)" (Hinton, 113)

In Ponyboy's opinion, he and the other Greasers are "marked lousy" simply because of their appearance. Pony understands that the majority of society judges individuals on their outward appearance and is commenting on the callous nature of the world in general. Instead of recognizing the inherent positive qualities of each member of the Greasers, society applies negative stereotypes to each Greaser and makes broad, inaccurate generalizations about each member.

As a poor Greaser with limited economic opportunities, Ponyboy is discouraged and disappointed that the only thing he can be proud of is his greasy hair. He also finds it ridiculous to even pretend to be proud of his negative reputation and wishes to be identified by his inherent qualities. 

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The Outsiders

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