The Outsiders Summary

The Outsiders is a young adult novel written by S. E. Hinton about Ponyboy and his gang of friends, called greasers, who fight against a rival gang called the Socs.

  • One night, Ponyboy and his friend Johnny are attacked by Socs. Johnny kills one of them, and he and Ponyboy flee to an abandoned church to hide.
  • When the church catches fire, the boys risk their lives to save a group of children trapped inside. Johnny dies as a result. 
  • Ponyboy grieves the loss of his friend and decides to write about his experiences.

Summary

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Last Updated on November 5, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 886

Introduction

The Outsiders is a coming-of-age novel by S. E. Hinton published in 1967. Ponyboy Curtis and his gang of greasers regularly fight with the upper-class Socs. When a member of the gang kills a Soc, Ponyboy learns valuable lessons about belonging, friendship, family, and goodness.

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Plot Summary

Walking home after seeing a Paul Newman movie, narrator Ponyboy Curtis is jumped by Socs, but his gang arrives in time to scare them off. Dally Winston invites the gang to see a movie the next night, and Ponyboy agrees to go with Johnny. At the movies, they befriend two Soc girls, Cherry Valance and Marcia. Cherry and Ponyboy head to the concession stand. Once there, Ponyboy shares Johnny’s experience of being beaten by Socs, explaining Johnny’s decision to carry a knife.

Two-Bit shows up at the movies and offers to drive the Soc girls home. Cherry and Ponyboy talk about why Socs and greasers are different and discover they have things in common. Ponyboy tells Cherry that his oldest brother, Darry, who assumed responsibility for him after their parents died in a car accident, doesn’t like him. A group of Socs, including the boyfriends of the Soc girls, arrive in a blue Mustang. To prevent a fight, Cherry and Marcia ride home with the Socs. Ponyboy and Johnny hang out and fall asleep in a vacant lot. When Ponyboy gets home late, Darry slaps him, causing Ponyboy to run away with Johnny. After running for a few blocks, Ponyboy changes his mind.

Ponyboy and Johnny spend time cooling off in a park when the Socs from earlier show up. After exchanging words, a Soc named Bob begins to drown Ponyboy in the fountain. Ponyboy blacks out, and when he regains consciousness, he finds himself lying next to Johnny and Bob, whom Johnny has killed to scare the Socs away. Ponyboy and Johnny find Dally, who gives them clothes, a gun, and money. He tells them to take the train to an abandoned church.

Ponyboy and Johnny hide in the church for five days. Ponyboy reads Gone with the Wind and recites Robert Frost’s poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay” for Johnny. Dally arrives on the fifth day with a letter from Ponyboy’s brother Sodapop, who says Darry is worried about Ponyboy, and Dally takes Johnny and Ponyboy to a Dairy Queen.

At the Dairy Queen, Johnny announces that he plans to turn himself in. Dally doesn’t like Johnny’s decision, but when they return to the abandoned church, they find it on fire. Ponyboy discovers that there are children trapped in the church. Ponyboy decides to save the children, and Johnny follows him.

They manage to rescue every child, but Johnny gets trapped. Dally knocks Ponyboy unconscious before saving Johnny, and the three boys are taken to the hospital. Deemed fine by hospital staff, Ponyboy sits in the waiting room when Sodapop and Darry arrive, and Ponyboy realizes how much Darry cares about him. The next day, Two-Bit shares a news article that calls Ponyboy, Johnny, and Dally heroes. The reports also state that Johnny will be charged for manslaughter for the murder of Bob. Two-Bit and Ponyboy visit Dally and Johnny in the hospital and tell them about a rumble between the Socs and greasers. Ponyboy sees Cherry by the vacant lot. She says she won’t visit Johnny, because he killed Bob.

Ponyboy surveys the gang and their reasons for fighting. After the greasers win the rumble, Dally brings Ponyboy to the hospital to tell Johnny about their victory. Johnny tells Ponyboy to “stay gold,” and dies soon after. Dally begs Johnny not to die before bolting from the hospital.

Ponyboy doesn’t believe that Johnny is dead. He finds the gang at his house and tells them the news. Dally calls to say that he has robbed a grocery store, and the gang race to meet him at the lot before the cops find him. The gang, Dally, and a police car arrive at the vacant lot at the same time. Dally pulls out a gun and the police kill Dally; Ponyboy faints.

When he wakes up, Darry says that Johnny left Ponyboy his copy of Gone with the Wind. Bedridden for a week, Ponyboy receives a visit from Randy, Bob’s friend. Still recovering from a concussion, Ponyboy tells Randy that it was he who killed Bob, not Johnny, and also says that Johnny isn’t dead, prompting Randy to leave.

After the court hearing, Ponyboy becomes clumsier and more forgetful. Because of his poor grades, Ponyboy’s English teacher says he can make it up by writing a good semester theme. Ponyboy and Darry argue over Ponyboy’s grades, and Sodapop runs out of the house. Darry and Ponyboy chase Sodapop down, who shares that it is difficult to be in the middle of his brothers’ fights. Back home, Ponyboy picks up Gone with the Wind, and a letter from Johnny falls out. In it, Johnny interprets Robert Frost’s poem and asks Ponyboy to share his insight—that there is good in the world—with Dally. Ponyboy realizes he can share this with hundreds of other boys just like Dally. He reflects upon his appearance once again and begins his semester theme with the opening line of the novel.

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