Why is it important for the characters Johnny Cade, Bob Sheldon, and Ponyboy Curtis to belong to a group in The Outsiders?

Expert Answers

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

All three of the boys you mention have dysfunctional yet vastly different home lives: Johnny's parents fight all the time, and his father beats him regularly. Ponyboy's parents are dead, and he is in constant conflict with his older brother, Darry. Bob is spoiled rotten by his wealthy parents, who provide him with all the luxuries of life but no boundaries. Closer to their friends than their parents, all three of the boys would rather spend their time away from home--Pony and Johnny with their greaser pals, and Bob with the Socs (and his cheerleader girlfriend, Cherry). All three of the boys yearn for the love and support of their parents: Johnny likes

"... it better when the old man's hittin' me," Johnny sighed. "At least then I know he knows who I am. I walk in that house, and nobody says anything. I walk out, and nobody says anything. I stay away all night, and nobody notices. At least you got Soda. I ain't got nobody." (Chapter 3)

Pony loves his brother, Sodapop, but he has mixed feelings about Darry, who works to support his brothers and does his best to keep them out of trouble. Pony doesn't understand that Darry's strict rules are meant to be in his best interest, and that his hot temper flares out of love and not hatred.

     "It was Darry. He hit me. I don't know what happened, but I couldn't take him hollering at me and hitting me too. I don't know... sometimes we get along okay, then all of a sudden he blows up on me or else is naggin' at me all the time. He didn't use to be like that... we used to get along okay... before Mom and Dad died. Now he just can't stand me."  (Chapter 3)

It is Randy Adderson who reveals the most about Bob, the Soc who has previously beaten Johnny and who tries to drown Pony. Violent and hot-tempered, Bob is Randy's best friend. Randy tells Pony that Bob's parents

"... spoiled him rotten... they gave in to him all the time. To have somebody lay down the law, set the limits, give him something solid to stand on. That's what we all want, really... If his old man had just belted him--just once, he might still be alive.  (Chapter 7)

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
Approved by eNotes Editorial