The Outsiders is a title that can be viewed a few different ways. The most obvious is that the Greasers are outsiders in that they come from the bottom rung of the socioeconomic ladder in their community. The main characters are teens and young adults growing up in the poorest...
The Outsiders is a title that can be viewed a few different ways. The most obvious is that the Greasers are outsiders in that they come from the bottom rung of the socioeconomic ladder in their community. The main characters are teens and young adults growing up in the poorest part of town with parents who are either abusive (as in the case of Johnny), neglectful or dead. Darry is old before his time, working overtime to keep a roof over the heads his brothers, Soda Pop and Pony Boy. He clearly cares very much for his brothers and has taken on the role of mother and father in place of his dead parents. Despite his efforts, the three brothers still live in fear of the state taking away Soda and Pony Boy to go live in a boy's home.
This threat illustrates a major way in which the Greasers are outsiders—the law does not exist to protect them like it does for the Socs. The Greasers form gangs to have a sense of belonging and mutual protection in the face of a society that is overtly hostile but for this very reason they are considered dangerous hoodlums and misfits. Where the law and public opinion is concerned when trouble arises, they are assumed guilty. When Pony Boy and Johnny are attacked by the Socs and Johnny kills Bob, it is, objectively, an act of self-defense. Bob is older boy, drunk and backed by his friends. He clearly initiates the fight and beats the skinny Pony Body with his ringed-fist. He is actually drowning Pony Boy when Johnny stabs him. Despite all this, because they are Greasers, Johnny and Pony Boy know that society will come down on Bob's side. It is only by publicly saving school children from a fire and by the testimony of Cherry that Pony Boy avoids prison. Johnny only escapes in death.
The term Outsiders can also be interpreted to refer to the way that both Socs and Greasers can transcend their group identities. Pony Boy never fits in as a Greaser. He is intelligent, thoughtful and studious. Darry worries that he's too much of a dreamer and too soft. It is because of these very qualities, however, that Pony Boy befriends Cherry. As Bob's girlfriend and a Soc, she's beautiful, wealthy, and popular. That said, she rebels against Bob's rudeness. She finds Dally attractive and thinks Pony Boy is sweet. She's willing to put herself on the line to tell the truth about Bob's death. Pony Boy summarizes the kindred humanity that draws them together despite the social pressures that would keep them apart by noting how you can see the sunset on the north side of town as well as the south.
There are other such instances of Socs and Greasers defying class. At the Rumble Darry initially greets Paul, the leader of the Socs. It's explained that the two once played football together and they hold one another in mutual respect.
Randy, Bob's best friend, seeks out Pony Boy to ask about Johnny and why he and Pony Boy would risk their lives to save children they don't know. Such heroism is clearly out of keeping with the stereotype he previously held about Greasers. Randy is also torn because he wants the Socs to win the rumble and he's upset that his friend is dead, but he knows that Bob was in the wrong and realizes that Pony Boy is a decent person. In this conversation, Bob gets to drop his guard and not have to play the role expected of him by his fellow Socs. He offers one token of respect to his rival when he says, "Thanks kid."