Why didn't Johnny want to see his mother while he was in the hospital in The Outsiders?

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kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In S.E. Hinton’s novel The Outsiders, about the difficulties of growing up and the conflict between the upper-class “Socs” and the downtrodden “Greasers,” there is a passage that, intended or not, is entirely relevant to one of the central problems with street gangs in the real world.  In the United States, membership in street, or youth, gangs number in the tens of thousands.  The sad reality is that gangs, for better or worse, and it is mostly for worse, provide many minority youths the only sense of family, and the only feeling of security, they have ever experienced.  Many come from broken homes in economically-destitute communities.  Gang life is the closest thing to a real family many of the children who are recruited to join various gangs have ever known.  The reason for this diversion is because of the aforementioned passage that is applicable to the question of why Johnny does not want to see his mother when he is in the hospital.  The pertinent passage, as narrated by Ponyboy, is as follows:

“His (Johnny’s ) father was always beating him up, and his mother ignored him, except when she was hacked off at something, and then you could hear her yelling at him clear down at our house. I think he hated that worse than getting whipped. He would have run away a million times if we hadn't been there. If it hadn't been for the gang, Johnny would never have known what love and affection are.”

Appearing in the story subsequent to this observation about Johnny’s parent -- "It ain't fair!" I cried passionately. "It ain't fair that we have all the rough breaks!"  I didn't know exactly what I meant, but I was thinking about Johnny's father being a drunk and his mother a selfish slob . . .” – it is clear that Johnny’s family is dysfunctional and that he has been the regular target of physical and emotional abuse.  That he would not view a visit by his mother as a positive development, then, is not surprising.  The emotional bonds between a mother and her son are often among the strongest in a family.  That Johnny responds to the nurse’s announcement that his mother has come to the hospital to see him by stating "She's probably come to tell me about all the trouble I'm causing her and about how glad her and the old man'll be when I'm dead. Well, tell her to leave me alone” is, under the circumstances, entirely understandable.

ik9744 | Student

In the book he said that she will just come in and tell him how much trouble he is in, how happy if he dies, etc. He also said in the book that his parents doesn't care about him and usually kicks him out of the house at night so he tend to sleep in the lot.