Last Updated on January 11, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1057
Born: July 22, 1948
Writing an essay?
Get a custom outline
Our Essay Lab can help you tackle any essay assignment within seconds, whether you’re studying Macbeth or the American Revolution. Try it today!
Birthplace: Tulsa, Oklahoma
The Outsiders (1967)
That Was Then, This Is Now (1971)
Rumble Fish (1975)
Taming the Star Runner (1988)
S. E. Hinton is the author of the classic 1967 novel The Outsiders. The coming-of-age tale about a group of working-class boys in 1950s Oklahoma was her first novel and is widely considered a major influence in the development of the young adult genre due to its frank, nonidealized look at the lives of teenagers and its confrontation of serious subject matter. Hinton went on to write other well-known novels for teens, including Rumble Fish (1975), Tex (1979), and Taming the Star Runner (1988). In 1983, Hinton teamed up with the director of The Godfather (1972), Francis Ford Coppola, to create a movie adaptation of The Outsiders; the film was recut and rereleased in 2005. The pair adapted Rumble Fish the same year. Director Tim Hunter adapted Tex for film in 1982, and Christopher Cain made That Was Then, This Is Now (based on Hinton's 1971 novel of the same title) in 1985. Hinton won the Margaret A. Edwards award for lifetime achievement in young adult literature in 1988.
Susan Eloise Hinton was born on July 22, 1948, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She grew up in a working-class neighborhood on Tulsa's North Side. Her father, Grady, was a door-to-door salesman, and her mother, Lillian, worked on an assembly line. Hinton did not get along with her parents, and has described her mother as physically and emotionally abusive. At home, she kept to herself, writing stories about horses. As a teenager, Hinton attended Will Rogers High School, where the poor “Greasers” duked it out with the wealthy “Socs” (short for “social”). The violent conflict between the two social classes would provide the basis for The Outsiders, which she began after one of her friends was badly beaten by a gang of Socs while walking home from school. It was a difficult period in Hinton's life; her father was dying of a brain tumor, but Hinton grew her story draft by draft. When she was seventeen, she showed her manuscript to a friend's mother, a writer who was connected to a literary agent in New York. The agent loved the manuscript, and sold it to Viking, the second publisher that read it.
The Outsiders was not an immediate best seller. The novel fared poorly when it was marketed as a drugstore paperback, but Viking noticed that teachers appeared to be buying the book to teach in their classrooms and began marketing it directly to young adults. Hinton was not the first to write about teenagers smoking, drinking, and engaging in gang violence, but previous books and movies of the sort had been marketed to adults, not to teenagers themselves. Books actually aimed at the teenage audience tended to be lighter, less realistic, and, Hinton felt, less interesting—her dissatisfaction with the books available for young adults was part of what spurred her to write her own.
Meanwhile, Hinton suffered a short period of writer's block and depression. She met her future husband, David Inhofe, in a freshman biology class at the University of Tulsa, and has said that he helped her to start writing again. She published That Was Then, This Is Now in 1971 and Rumble Fish in 1975. By 1979, the same year she published the best-selling novel Tex, The Outsiders had sold over ten million copies.
Hinton continues to write. She lives in Tulsa with her husband, who is a software engineer. They have an adult son named Nick.
The Outsiders takes place in the Tulsa of Hinton's youth, and is told from the perspective of a fourteen-year-old Greaser named Ponyboy. Both of Ponyboy's parents are dead, and he lives with his older brothers, Sodapop and Darry. Outside of his immediate kin, Ponyboy counts the handful of Greasers—among them Two-Bit, Dally, Steve, and Johnny—as his extended family. When Ponyboy is walking home from school one day, he is attacked by a group of Socs wielding a switchblade, but his Greaser family comes to his rescue. Later, when Ponyboy unwittingly captures the attention of a pretty, popular girl named Cherry, Cherry's Soc boyfriend, Bob, and his gang try to drown Ponyboy by holding his head underwater at a park fountain. Afraid that Ponyboy might die, Johnny stabs Bob and kills him. The two boys become fugitives, and with Dally's help, try to make a life for themselves hiding in an abandoned church. The plot continues to twist—one could argue, in increasingly implausible directions—but the enduring appeal of the novel lies in Ponyboy's own journey to find what is good in himself and in others and hold onto those things in a cruel world. Those themes have continued to resonate with teenagers throughout the decades following the book's publication.
Tex, published in 1979, is Hinton's favorite among her own novels. The book looks a lot like The Outsiders on the surface, with a restless teenage boy, a small town beset by rural poverty, and absent parents. Tex lives with his older brother, Mason, and the two boys become entangled with a drug dealer and an escaped murderer. Like The Outsiders and Rumble Fish, Tex is about finding value in people whom society has deemed valueless.
- Lang, George. “S. E. Hinton Recalls ‘The Outsiders’ 45 Years Later—E-book Due in Spring 2013.” Oklahoman. NewsOK.com, 26 Apr. 2013. Web. 23 May 2015. <http://newsok.com/s.e.-hinton-recalls-the-outsiders-45-years-later-e-book-due-in-spring-2013/article/3770291>.
- Michaud, Jon. “S. E. Hinton and the Y. A. Debate.” New Yorker. Condé Nast, 14 Oct. 2014. Web. 23 May 2015. <http://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/hinton-outsiders-young adult-literature>.
- Peck, Dale. “‘The Outsiders:’ 40 Years Later.” New York Times. New York Times, 23 Sept. 2007. Web. 23 May 2015. <http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/23/books/review/Peck-t.html>.
- Carter, Ally. “Rich Kids, Greasers and the Life-Changing Power of ‘The Outsiders.’” National Public Radio. NPR, 28 Jan. 2013. Web. 25 May 2015. <http://www.npr.org/2013/01/28/151966146/rich-kids-greasers-and-the-life-changing-power-of-the-outsiders>.
- Michaud, Jon. “That Was Then, This Is Now: S. E. Hinton in the Twitter Age.” New Yorker. Condé Nast, 8 Nov. 2013. Web. 23 May 2015. <http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/that-was-then-this-is-now-s-e-hinton-in-the-twitter-age>.
- Smith, Dinitia. “An Outsider, Out of the Shadows.” New York Times. New York Times, 7 Sept. 2005. Web. 23 May 2015. <http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/07/movies/MoviesFeatures/07hint.html>.
- Rev. of Tex, by S. E. Hinton. Kirkus Reviews. Kirkus Media, 1 Oct. 1980. Web. 25 May 2015. <https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/se-hinton/tex/>.