Editor's Choice

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

There are two ways in which S.E. Hinton foreshadows that the church will catch fire. One is that at the end of Chapter 4, Ponyboy says, "But this church gave me a kind of creepy feeling. What do you call it? Premonition?" When Johnny and Ponyboy first approach the church, Ponyboy feels that it's a creepy place, and he has a sense that something bad will happen there. He repeatedly describes it as an old, spiderwebby place that makes him feel scared.

Second, in Chapter 5, Ponyboy says that while he is hiding out at the church, he smokes a lot more than he usually does because he is bored. He says, "We were careful with our cigarettes---if that old church ever caught fire there'd be no stopping it." At this point, Ponyboy and Johnny have been hiding out for five days, and Ponyboy doesn't have any Pepsi (which he is addicted to). He smokes a lot and passes the time reading Gone with the Wind. These two passages foreshadow the fire in the church.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

S.E. Hinton uses a lot of foreshadowing throughout the novel "The Outsiders". In chapter 3, Ponyboy decides to run away from home after Darry slaps him. Ponyboy flees the house and runs to the vacant lot where he has left Johnny a short time before. The two share a cigarette and talk. Ponyboy briefly mentions that he:

"wonderd what it would be like to be inside of a burning ember."

This is an odd statement, but the reader must keep in mind that Hinton is giving us a peek into what is to come later on in the story.

The second example of foreshadowing comes in Chapter 4 when the boys first arrive at the church on, Ponyboy states that even though churches usually are calming places, this particular church gave him an eerie feeling. He flashes back to the last few times he had gone to church and actually enjoyed the services. Still, this church makes Ponyboy uneasy from the very beginning.

This type of foreshadowing by Hinton makes it easy for readers to infer that this church is going to play a big role in the progression of this story.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

How does author foreshadow that the church might catch fire in The Outsiders?

The author provides a few statements that foreshadow that the church might catch on fire. When Ponyboy first enters the church, he describes it as

"a small church, real old and spooky and spiderwebby...it gave (him) the creeps."

A few lines later, he repeats that

"this church gave (him) a kind of creepy feeling,"

 and wonders if what he feels is "premonition" (Chapter 4).

Ponyboy gives scattered details about the church which foreshadow the danger it presents as relates to fire. The boys enter the church by climbing in a small back window (Chapter 4), and the building itself is "old" and "wooden." As the days pass, Ponyboy's feeling of unease and foreboding does not diminish; he feels

"just a little spooky...really (doesn't) know what's the matter."

Perhaps the clearest examples of foreshadowing are the frequent references to the boys' smoking. The boys smoke because they are bored, and they smoke a lot. Ponyboy goes

 "to sit on the steps and smoke(s) a cigarette"

in the early morning before Johnny even awakes, and he is described as

"blowing a perfect smoke ring"

while he talks with Johnny. Ponyboy admits that he is

"smoking a lot more there than (he) usually did...because it was something to do - although Johnny warned (him) that (he) would get sick smoking so much."

Finally, Ponyboy notes specifically that he and Johnny 

"were careful with (their) cigarettes...(because) if that old church ever caught fire there'd be no stopping it" (Chapter 5).

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on