When Ponyboy asks what kind of world it is in The Outsiders, what comment is he making about society's judgments?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Pony is frustrated because in his world, class designations force people into specific roles.  You are either a greaser or a Soc.  The greasers are poor and come from the bad part of town.  They wear their hair long and greasy because it is part of the identity they have established for themselves.  It is something they can own, and be proud of.  They can’t buy fancy cars and wear designer clothes like the Socs, or socialites do.  So they find a cheaper but no less memorable way to establish a cool and meaningful identity.

Part of Pony’s identity crisis is that while he cares about his brothers and his friends, he does not fall for the greaser lifestyle.  He’s not a tough guy.

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? (Ch. 9)

Pony is more bookish, more sensitive, and more outward-looking than most of the guys in his neighborhood.  While many of them may not want to fight, quite a few of them do.  They enjoy the tough guy persona.  However, there are plenty of Socs on the other side that do as well.  They just don’t face the long term consequences that the greasers do.  They have rich parents to bail them out, and college funds waiting for them.  The greasers have nothing waiting for them.

The bottom line is that Socs are in it for fun, and greasers because it’s all they have.  The greasers have to fight when the Socs are after them.  It’s a never-ending cycle.  Greasers are considered dangerous, and Socs are just considered juvenile delinquents. 

Pony wishes that people were judged on their own merits, as his conversation with Cherry about everyone seeing the same sunset shows.  In some cases, whether you are rich or poor you have problems.  You can be a good person or a bad person.  Everyone should simply be judged on that.

durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Ponyboy, the narrator of The Outsiders by S E Hinton, feels that the "greasers," the gang of which he is a member is his family. Identity is very important and Ponyboy struggles with his throughout The Outsiders. He is very aware how society judges him and others like him; even the rival gang, the Socs, feel superior to the greasers. Cherry makes an observation: "You greasers have a different set of values... We're sophisticated—cool..." in revealing that even though they are both gangs, people see the members of those gangs differently. 

Ponyboy laments his situation when he questions why,  "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." Ponyboy recognizes how prejudiced society is and how preconceived ideas and presumptions mean that, no matter what he may do, he will always be a nobody. Even though Ponyboy is clearly intelligent and certainly more insightful than his friends, he is labelled as being just the same. Society has already judged him based on appearances and stereotypes and does not leave room to form an honest opinion. Ponyboy contemplates the reality of the situation when he comments that, "the sunset she saw from her patio and the one I saw from the back steps was the same one." He recognizes society's hypocrisy. 

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The Outsiders

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