Reflect on the significance of the title—who are the outsiders, and what are they outside of? What does it mean to be an outsider and why has this become a twentieth-century phenomenon? Support your arguments with examples from recent history.
There are two famous novels with similar titles to Hinton's story. Both concern young men, circumstantial murder(s), and existentialism (the philosophy that the individual is solely responsible for his fate). The two novels are Richard Wright's The Outsider and Albert Camus's The Stranger (published in England as The Outsider). Compare Hinton's novel with one of these other "outsider" stories.
Many people deny that social or economic class plays a significant role in American society or government. Using examples from this novel and other teenage books or films (such as The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink through the recent Clueless), argue whether you think this is true or false.
Compare and contrast The Outsiders with another story of gangs, such as Boys in the Hood or West Side Story. Compare specific events, characters, and themes.
Juvenile crime and "youth predators" have become an obsessive political issue over the last decade. Are youth today really more violent than twenty or thirty years ago? Do some research into the phenomenon of youth violence and some of the following topics: trying youths as young as twelve as adults; incarcerating teens with adults; and increasing security at school versus increasing education spending increases. Good sources to start with are the National Center for Juvenile Justice (http://www.ncjj.org) and the Center on Juvenile Justice and Criminal Justice (http://www.cjcj.org).