S. E. Hinton’s first three novels generated mixed reviews of her skill as a writer. While the critics could not deny that her stories were commercial successes, some of them felt that her characters and plot lines were not always believable. With the writing of Tex, Hinton challenged herself to prove the naysayers wrong. This time, Hinton’s goal was to write a book in which the plot events did not overshadow her hero’s journey. She sought to portray the maturation and growth of Tex McCormick over the story’s time line.
It took Hinton nearly three and a half years to write Tex. She was not suffering from writers’ block as she had after The Outsiders (1967) was published. Instead, Hinton took her time constructing the novel, taking great care to ensure that the flow of events and the characters’ interactions would be smooth and not forced. Hinton’s efforts paid off with the creation of Tex McCormick. Of all her characters, Tex comes closest to resembling a living, breathing human being.
In Tex, Hinton reexamines themes covered in her previous novels. The fortuneteller’s prediction about “people who go and people who stay” is another way of framing Hinton’s recurring theme of the loss of innocence. When Tex and Mason discuss going to the fair, Tex is surprised that Mason does not want to go. Mason has outgrown the fair. “I’ll think the Fair is fun no matter how old I get,” Tex responds. It is Tex’s way of retaining his innocence. The “people who go” are the ones who have grown up or are not content with life as it is. They need to move on.
In each of Hinton’s novels, many of the characters are figured as orphans. Some, like the Curtis brothers in The Outsiders, are literally orphans. Others have parents who are absent due to illness or an addiction such as alcoholism. This absence leaves them feeling empty and searching for a place where they belong. Some find solace in friendships. Some, such as Rusty James in Rumble Fish (1975), are incapable of finding a place where they fit in. Tex thinks he belongs because he has Mason and Pop. When he finds out that Pop is not his biological father, he becomes orphaned for a time....
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