Chapter 1 Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 666

Ponyboy Curtis comes out of a movie theater alone. He likes watching movies by himself, but now he is in danger. It is not safe for boys like him, greasers, to be alone on the streets.

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Greasers come from the poor side of town. They are tough kids who wear their hair long and dress in simple jeans and T-shirts. Greasers know how to steal and fight, and they are the enemies of the Socs, or “Socials.” Socs are rich kids who drive fancy cars, drink too much, and beat up greasers for fun.

As a lone fourteen-year-old greaser, Ponyboy is an easy target for the Socs, but he sees no choice but to walk home by himself. He knows he should have waited to go to the movies until one of his older brothers, Darry and Soda, finished work for the day. He simply did not think of waiting. Although he is a smart kid who gets good grades in school, Ponyboy never thinks properly about important things like protecting himself.

Three blocks from home, Ponyboy sees a red car following him. He speeds up, but he knows the car is full of Socs, and he knows they will catch him. Now he regrets walking alone. He thinks of his friend Johnny, who once got badly beaten by Socs; he regrets that it is too late to call a friend for a ride.

Five Socs get out of the car. They are all bigger and older than Ponyboy is, and they quickly surround him. He has no chance of fighting them off. One of the Socs pulls a knife and threatens to cut off Ponyboy’s long, greased hair. Ponyboy backs away and bumps into two other boys, who pin him to the ground and punch him. Ponyboy feels the knife at his throat and realizes the Socs could kill him. He struggles and screams. The Socs punch him several more times, but then Ponyboy hears running feet. Darry and Soda are coming along with their friends Steve, Two-Bit, Dallas, and Johnny. The guys fight off the Socs while Ponyboy lies gasping on the ground.

When the Socs are gone, Darry picks Ponyboy up and shakes him, asking if he is okay. Darry is twenty years old and the head of the Curtis family now that their parents are dead. He works all the time, trying to make enough money to keep the family together. Ponyboy feels he can never please Darry, who criticizes Ponyboy roughly for walking alone. Ponyboy feels himself starting to cry from pain and fear, but he tries not to let his tears fall in front of Darry.

Soda is more gentle, getting out his handkerchief to help bandage Ponyboy’s wounds. Soda is a lively, handsome sixteen year old who always makes people smile. Ponyboy soon finds himself grinning even though he hurts all over.

The Curtis brothers’ four friends surround Ponyboy to find out if he is okay, and Ponyboy reflects on each of them in turn. Seventeen-year-old Steve Randle is Soda’s best friend, but Ponyboy does not like him. Steve regards Ponyboy as an annoying little kid. Two-Bit Matthews, the oldest member of the gang, can never stop himself from putting his two bits into any conversation. He is well known for his sense of humor and for mouthing off to the police. Dallas Winston is a real hood; he has committed major crimes and joined real gangs in big cities like New York. Johnny Cade is a sad, nervous boy from an abusive family. Johnny gets his only love and acceptance from his friends.

Later that night, Soda tells Ponyboy not to feel bad about Darry’s criticisms. “He loves you a lot. Savvy?” Soda says. Ponyboy says he knows, but inwardly he is unconvinced. He thinks of Darry as a cold, hard person who loves nobody except Soda. As Ponyboy falls asleep, he tells himself he does not care about Darry, but he really does.

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