What happens in The Outsiders?

  • Ponyboy lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma with his brothers, Darry and Soda. His parents died in a car crash, leaving Darry, the eldest, in charge. Darry tries to keep Ponyboy safe, but, as a member of the greasers, Ponyboy often comes into conflict with a rival gang, the Socs.
  • One night, Ponyboy goes to a drive-in with his friends Dally and Johnny. Dally harasses two girls, Cherry and Marcia, who happen to be dating Bob and Randy, members of the Socs gang. When Bob and Randy show up, Cherry and Marcia go with them to prevent a fight.
  • Later that night, Bob and Randy confront Ponyboy and Johnny in a park. When the Socs try to drown Ponyboy in a fountain, Johnny pulls a switchblade and kills Bob. Frightened, the two greasers turn to Dally, who tells them to hide out in a church in Windrixville.
  • A week later, Dally comes to visit and tells them there's going to be a "rumble." When the church catches fire, all three boys risk their lives to save some school children. Johnny dies. Ponyboy returns to "normal life," but he's unable to adjust to the loss of his friend. His English teacher asks him to write an essay for extra credit, and he starts writing this very novel.

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The Outsiders is a coming-of-age novel by S.E. Hinton published in 1967. Ponyboy Curtis and his gang of greasers regularly fight with the upper-class Socs. When a member of the gang kills a Soc, Ponyboy learns valuable lessons about belonging, friendship, family, and goodness.

Plot Summary

Walking home after seeing a Paul Newman movie, narrator Ponyboy Curtis is jumped by Socs, but his gang arrives in time to scare them off. Dally Winston invites the gang to see a movie the next night, and Ponyboy agrees to go with Johnny. At the movies, they befriend two Soc girls, Cherry Valance and Marcia. Cherry and Ponyboy head to the concession stand. Once there, Ponyboy shares Johnny’s experience of being beaten by Socs, explaining Johnny’s decision to carry a knife.

Two-Bit shows up at the movies and offers to drive the Soc girls home. Cherry and Ponyboy talk about why Socs and greasers are different and discover they have things in common. Ponyboy tells Cherry that his oldest brother, Darry, who assumed responsibility for him after their parents died in a car accident, doesn’t like him. A group of Socs, including the boyfriends of the Soc girls, arrive in a blue Mustang. To prevent a fight, Cherry and Marcia ride home with the Socs. Ponyboy and Johnny hang out and fall asleep in a vacant lot. When Ponyboy gets home late, Darry slaps him, causing Ponyboy to run away with Johnny. After running for a few blocks, Ponyboy changes his mind.

Ponyboy and Johnny spend time cooling off in a park when the Socs from earlier show up. After exchanging words, a Soc named Bob begins to drown Ponyboy in the fountain. Ponyboy blacks out, and when he regains consciousness, he finds himself lying next to Johnny and Bob, whom Johnny has killed to scare the Socs away. Ponyboy and Johnny find Dally, who gives them clothes, a gun, and money. He tells them to take the train to an abandoned church.

Ponyboy and Johnny hide in the church for five days. Ponyboy reads Gone with the Wind and recites Robert Frost’s poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay” for Johnny. Dally arrives on the fifth day with a letter from Ponyboy’s brother Sodapop, who says Darry is worried about Ponyboy, and Dally takes Johnny and Ponyboy to a Dairy Queen.

At the Dairy Queen, Johnny announces that he plans to turn himself in. Dally doesn’t like Johnny’s decision, but when they return to the abandoned church, they find it on fire. Ponyboy discovers that there are children trapped in the church. Ponyboy decides to save the children, and Johnny follows him.

They manage to rescue every child, but Johnny gets trapped. Dally knocks Ponyboy unconscious before saving Johnny, and the three boys are taken to the hospital. Deemed fine by hospital staff, Ponyboy sits in the waiting room when Sodapop and Darry arrive, and Ponyboy...

(The entire section is 2,196 words.)