Why is the book titled The Outsiders?
Author Susan B. Hinton used the title of her famed adolescent novel to illustrate the isolation felt by the various gangs that she witnessed while growing up in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The greasers are particularly shown as outsiders: They grow up on the wrong side of the tracks on the poor side of town, and the boys find an identity only when hanging together looking for trouble on the streets. Most of the greasers realize they have little or no chance of escaping their dead- end lives: Soda, Steve and Dally are dropouts, Johnny never completes school, and even boys like Darry--a great athlete with a football scholarship awaiting him--are never able to fulfill their promise. Only Pony seems to have a chance to go on to college and get out of the lifestyle. But it is not only the greasers who are outsiders: The Socs also live outside the teenage norm. They are the privileged rich kids who have plenty of money and no boundaries set down by their parents. They also resort to a life of crime and violence, mostly out of boredom, and few of them live up to their societal expectations. Cherry recognizes that "things are rough all over" and, as Randy tells Pony,
"Sometimes I think it's the ones in the middle that are really the lucky stiffs..." (Chapter 7)
Part of the allure of the title in Hinton's work is the idea that social settings are constantly defined with insiders and "outsiders." Each social realm is predicated upon some level of exclusion. The terms of "right" or "wrong" might not be applicable in such a context because of the natural element of exclusion which is apparent in each social order. In the work, the "Socs" are the insiders, as they represent the "popular" or "accepted" values. Hinton's work delves deep into the voices of those who have the unfortunate distinction of being "on the outside." In entitling her work in the manner she did, Hinton seeks to bring voice to those who have been relegated to the periphery, where silence is most present. The book gives voice to those who might have been seen as not having one.
In society there are always going to be social groups that are accepted by a society and those that are not accepted. Hinton, the author, began writing "The Outsiders" when she was only sixteen years old. Adolescence is a time when children struggle hard to find the social group in which they are accepted. Some children in modern day society may associated themselves with Goth clothing, body piercings, and/or name brand clothing. It has always been a social myth that just because a child is a cheerleader, football player, has nice things, and is in the academically promising group, that the child is a benefit to society. Under the same myth, society looks to the opposite characteristics to stereotype those groups in which the style of dress, group behaviors, lifestyle, and economic status, as being outside of social acceptance. Hinton titled her book "The Outsiders" to demonstrate that the Greasers were considered to fall into this group.
"The Outsiders" refers to the idea that although Johnny and Pony-boy are both identified as "greasers" they don't fit into that stereotypical group any more than they would fit into the "soc" group. They can't relate to their own group in many ways so they are on the "outer" edge of their group but with the right opportunities they could have also fit with the other group. They are outside both groups and are having to learn to find their place.
The book is titled The Outsiders because the protagonist explores his sand others' roles as outsiders. Ponyboy thinks that to be an outsider you have to be a "greaser" but he discovers that people who are from more privileged groups also have feelings of isolation.