Discussion Topic

An analysis of key character traits and roles in "The Outsiders"

Summary:

Key characters in "The Outsiders" include Ponyboy Curtis, who is thoughtful and introspective, and Johnny Cade, who is sensitive and vulnerable. Dallas "Dally" Winston is tough and hardened, while Darrel "Darry" Curtis is responsible and protective. These traits shape their roles within the Greasers, highlighting themes of family, loyalty, and the struggle between social classes.

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Who is the most honest character in The Outsiders?

This is a great question to consider. Of course, the good thing about a question like this is that you can actually answer it by suggesting any character you like, as long as you can back it up from the text. Of course, this novel does contain characters who are more honest than others, and there are definitely a number who learn more about themselves as the novel progresses. In my opinion, however, the character who I feel is most honest is Soda. Consider how he gives this frank assessment of himself at the end of the novel:

Ponyboy, I'm telling you the truth. I dropped out because I'm dumb. I really did try in school, but you saw my grades. Look, I'm happy working in a gas station with cars.

Soda is the one brother who is openly able to acknowledge his feelings for his brothers and his own situation, and is happy to declare it. It is his honesty that helps Darry and Ponyboy to overcome their problems and to work on their relationship. This is why I think there is a good argument for Soda being the most honest character.

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Who is the most heroic character in The Outsiders, and why?

Johnny Cade proves himself to be a heroic character in The Outsiders because of his selfless decision to charge into the burning church to rescue the trapped children.  Even though Johnny has had an exceedingly difficult family life with an abusive father and neglectful mother, the young man shows both love and courage when he braves the flames to save people that he has never even met before.  In the end, Johnny also saves the life of Ponyboy as well; Dally had shouted that the roof was going to cave in, and Johnny pushed Ponyboy out at the last minute. 

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Who is the protagonist in The Outsiders?

In a literary work, the protagonist is the main character. Their interests are central to the outcome of the plot, and they stand in opposition to the antagonist. The protagonist may exhibit heroic characteristics or could even be an anti-hero. Some works use an ensemble or episodic format, in which there are multiple protagonists and antagonists.

In The Outsiders, the protagonist is Ponyboy Curtis, who is also the first-person narrator. Ponyboy is both part of a family of brothers, to whom he is very close, and a member of a group, often referred to as the Greasers gang. This novel does not have a singular antagonist, although Bob Sheldon does sometimes target Ponyboy. Rather, the Greasers are enemies of another group of boys: the Socs. The conflict between the two groups drives the action.

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Who is the most loyal character in The Outsiders?

Loyalty is an important theme in The Outsiders, and there are many times that loyalty is both demonstrated and tested in the book. The illustrations of how loyal the gang can be to one another are contrasted against how disloyal some individuals can be and how disloyal others outside of the gang are. This shows why the greasers have chosen to be in this gang, which is like a family and offers them physical and emotional safety.

The most loyal of the characters in S. E. Hinton's book is Johnny Cade, who is loyal to the group almost to a fault. Ponyboy often touts the importance of loyalty when in a gang like theirs. Loyalty is key to survival: it is necessary in order to keep them together and safe. There are several times in the book where the greasers are dependent upon one another, and Johnny usually comes through as the one who can be counted on.

When Ponyboy is being taunted and abused by the Socs, Johnny comes to his defense, sticking up for him and protecting him from them. Even when Dally is in the wrong and is harassing Cherry and Marcia at the drive-in, Johnny stands up for Dally instead of the Soc girls. He believes that they should be there for each other no matter what. Johnny even helps Ponyboy when Ponyboy goes into the burning building to save the children, because he won't let his friend go in alone. Tragically, this act leads directly to Johnny's death.

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Who is your favorite character in The Outsiders and why?

My favorite character in The Outsiders is Darrel Curtis. In the aftermath of the death of his parents, he has stepped up for his younger brothers, Ponyboy and Sodapop, in ways that not many 20 year old men would. He has forgone the opportunity to go to college on a football scholarship, despite having both the sporting ability and the brains to have excelled in this environment, in favor of working two jobs to keep him and his brothers together.

Despite the fact that he has many conflicts with Pony, it is evident that he cares a great deal about his brothers. When he is tough on Ponyboy, it only because he loves his brother and does not want him to get hurt. He is both strong willed and in possession of the serious nature required to hold the family together. He takes on just about all the housework and cooking and takes responsibility for his orphaned minor brothers in every way possible.

In spite of his current circumstances, it seems very clear that Darry will achieve something with his life. Despite being a Greaser, he has Soc-like characteristics, such as a clean-cut appearance, and fights only to showcase his athletic stature rather than for the sake of violence.

Darry is little more than a boy himself, yet he has been thrust into a man's role, and I would argue that he does a more admirable job than most people his age would have.

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Who is your favorite character in The Outsiders and why?

Ponyboy Curtis, the protagonist and narrator of The Outsiders, is a likely choice for favorite character. Because Ponyboy is the first-person narrator readers might expect him to present a positive and even boastful self-portrait. Instead, the author has created an effective characterization of a sensitive and introspective person. Ponyboy spends a fair amount of the narrative seeking insights into his personal situation and the deeply divided social world in which he is growing up.. Ponyboy’s natural intelligence is combined with modesty so that his character seems genuine. The family problems with which he struggles, as his brother tries to guide him in their parents’ absence, offer a believable background for the decisions he makes.

Through his eyes, the reader comes to understand the class divisions that underlie the Soc versus Greaser antagonism and why he feels compelled to support his friends in challenging, even violent circumstances. His relationships with the other youths, especially Dally and Johnny, show that he values loyalty and is willing to go the extra mile to support his friends. When he and Johnny are in legal trouble, Ponyboy is so concerned with the children trapped in the church that he goes back inside to free them rather than try to escape. Ponyboy’s intelligence combined with his insightful nature enable him finally to take advice from his older brother and his teacher. The reader can appreciate the difficult choices he made as reasons that he can now write about them and share his moving story.

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Who is your favorite character in The Outsiders and why?

Personally, I find Cherry Valance to be the most interesting, fascinating character in S. E. Hinton's The Outsiders. Cherry's authenticity and sincerity are what make her such an intriguing character, and many young girls can relate to her. As a popular Soc cheerleader, Cherry must maintain her reputation among her friends and present herself as a confident, attractive girl. Although Cherry seems like a poised teenager in control of every aspect of her life, she is vulnerable and reveals her insecurities to Pony when they meet at the drive-ins. I admire the way Cherry does not judge Pony for being a Greaser and opens up to him about her personal issues.

Many readers can relate to Cherry's experience in high school by being a participant in one big rat race and constantly competing in a popularity contest. Her character gives Pony a peek behind the Socs' curtain of aloofness when she explains that things are "rough all over." I am also fascinated by Cherry's love for Dally, the classic bad boy, and willingness to help the Greasers before the rumble. The fact that she is a wholesome, vulnerable girl attracted to bad boys contributes to her authenticity. Cherry Valance's genuine nature, vulnerability, and tolerant personality are what make her my favorite character in the story.

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Who is your favorite character in The Outsiders and why?

In my opinion, I would have to say my favorite character in The Outsiders is Dallas Winston. Dally is the toughest member of the Greasers and lives by his own rules. His unapologetic attitude and wild lifestyle are intriguing. Dally is more than just a typical thug. As the novel unfolds, Dally's true character is revealed. Similar to most adolescents who grow up in broken homes and are exposed to the street life at a young age, Dally develops a callous personality to protect his spirit. Dally's outlandish behavior and anti-establishment disposition make him one of the novel's most memorable characters. His affinity for Johnny and willingness to help Ponyboy in a time need displays his loyalty and character. Dally tells Johnny that he doesn't want him to go to prison because he will end up like him. Dally's comments portray him as an introspective individual. Dally is aware that he has become emotionally unattached and lives a fast life because he has no purpose. His understanding of himself and compassion towards his fellow gang members make him a sympathetic character. Also, Dally's anger makes him an unpredictable character, which is why he is exciting to read about. One could not predict that Dally would pull an unloaded gun out in front of police and get shot. Dally's death also makes him a tragic character. Dallas Winston is one of literature's most intriguing characters and is my favorite person in the novel The Outsiders.

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How can each of the Greasers in The Outsiders be considered a "hero"?

Dictionary.com defines hero as "a person noted for courageous acts or nobility of character." That seems like a pretty safe place to start, so we'll use that as our basis of determination.

Ponyboy: Ponyboy is willing to see beyond class boundaries, reaching out to Cherry and Marcia at the movies. He also perseveres through the deaths of his parents and in trying to maintain a difficult relationship with Darry. Most notably, he is a true friend to Johnny and helps save the kids from the fire, literally putting his life on the line to do so. It doesn't get much more heroic than that. An example of a heroic Ponyboy quote is in Chapter 9:

There isn't any real good reason for fighting except self-defense.

Darry: As the oldest brother, Darry is left in charge when the boys's parents die. Before this, he had a different life. He is extremely good looking, had a chance to go to college, and was incredibly athletic. At one point, he had the chance to move beyond Greaser existence. However, now he is pretty much stuck (at least for now) making sure Soda and Pony are taken care of. This creates a serious, moody, and even sometimes violent Darry, but in the end, he is sacrificing a lot for his family, and that is certainly noble.

Sodapop: Pony adores Soda, who is warm and open with him. Sodapop drops out of high school to help support their family, which snows nobility in character. When he finds out Sandy is pregnant with another man's baby, he offers to be the father she needs—again quite noble. And Soda really values the family he has left and is willing to do anything to make sure that they not only stay together but stay close. A heroic Soda quote that shows this is found in Chapter 12:

It's just . . . I can't stand to hear y'all fight . . . Sometimes I have to get out or . . . It's like a middleman in a tug o' war and I'm being split in half . . . We're all we've got left. We ought to be able to stick together against anything. If we don't have each other, we don't have anything.

Two-Bit: Two-Bit keeps the gang laughing and enjoys going to school even though academics are not among his strongest talents. Still, it is easy to see how a social, easygoing guy would enjoy hanging out with lots of other kids at school. It would be easy to pass Two-Bit over as he doesn't seem to do anything especially heroic individually, but he does take care of Pony. He is compassionate to the loss Pony has suffered and takes Pony under his wing like a bonus big brother.

Steve: Steve is Soda's best friend, and he finds Pony an annoyance. He makes it clear that he'd rather not have Pony in the vicinity of their fun. Steve is a follower of the group and a static character overall. He doesn't really do anything himself to advance the plot, so I'm not sure you could make a case specific to his individual actions to classify him as a hero.

Dally: Dally likely isn't considered a hero for most of the book. After all, he has quite a long history with breaking the law and has even been known to "jump small kids." However, at the end, he does risk his life to save Johnny, and that shows a noble and courageous character. A courageous Dally quote is in Chapter 9:

I was crazy, you know that, kid? Crazy for wantin' Johnny to stay out of trouble, for not wantin' him to get hard. If he'd been like me he'd never have been in this mess.

Johnny: Johnny has lived a difficult life. His parents often abuse him, and Ponyboy notes that the gang is the only real sense of family that Johnny has ever known. In spite of that, Johnny believes in treating people kindly. When his idol, Dally, is giving Cherry and Marcia a hard time at the movies, it is Johnny who has the courage to put him in his place. He listens to all Ponyboy's dreams and supports them, and then he saves Pony's life by killing Bob. Whether that act is heroic or not is up for debate. However, he does save the children, which is certainly noble, and ends up losing his because of it. A courageous Johnny quote is in Chapter 6:

It ain't fair for Ponyboy to have to stay up in that church with Soda and Darry worryin' about him all the time.

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How can each of the Greasers in The Outsiders be considered a "hero"?

A hero is usually defined as a person "of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities," and most of the greasers share at least a portion of this description. The three Curtis brothers all have heroic qualitities. Ponyboy shows his courage when he enters the burning church to save the children. Soda shows a heroic nature by his willingness to accept responsibility for Sandy's unborn child, even when it is not his. Darry takes over as the head of the family, working two jobs to see that he and his brothers stay together; at the rumble, he alone volunteers to take on all comers. Johnny and Dally both show courage when they join Pony inside the burning church, living up to the gallantry shown by the Southern gentlemen in Gone With the Wind. Even Two-Bit shows his bravery when he stands up to the Socs who harrass them following the movie. 

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