In S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders, why is the meeting between Randy and Ponyboy significant?
The meeting between Randy Adderson and Ponyboy Curtis in S.E. Hinton's novel of the conflict between socioeconomic classes and the toll it takes on the young boys involved, The Outsiders, is significant precisely because it represents the potential for a resolution of this meaningless conflict. Randy is a Soc; Ponyboy is a Greaser. Both of these individuals represent their respective sides to the conflict. Randy is a typical Soc, hostile to the Greasers and willing to engage in violent acts solely for the purpose of perpetuating that conflict. Unlike many of the Socs, especially the ill-fated Bob, who is stabbed and killed by Ponyboy's closest friend, Johnny, precipitating their flight from town, Randy begins to question the assumptions that underlie the violent confrontations that invariably ensue whenever the two sides cross paths. After Ponyboy and Johnny have risked their lives to save the children from the burning church, these once-one-dimensional figures from the poor side of town are suddenly cast in a whole new light to the seeming heir-apparent to the leadership of the Socs. Taking Ponyboy aside, Randy is genuinely confused regarding his preexisting assumptions about the Greasers:
"Randy pulled out a cigarette and pressed in the car lighter. 'I don't know. I don't know anything anymore. I would never have believed a greaser could pull something like that.'
'Greaser' didn't have anything to do with it. My buddy over there wouldn't have done it. Maybe you would have done the same thing, maybe a friend of yours wouldn't have. It's the individual.'
'I'm not going to show at the rumble tonight,' Randy said slowly."
The meeting between Randy and Ponyboy is significant for the cracks it exposes in the mutually antagonistic environment that defines these boys' world. Prior to Ponyboy and Johnny's heroic actions, Randy would never have viewed a Greaser, any Greaser, as capable of a selfless act of sacrifice worthy of admiration. Now, however, he is forced to question his prejudices and the assumptions that heretofore had shaped his perceptions of the Greasers.
Ponyboy is surprised that Randy wants to talk to him but when they start talking, he realizes that he isn't just a Soc. He realizes that he's a normal guy and he isn't like all the mean Socs. In the inside, he really doesn't want to rumble and is sick of all the drama that goes on.