The Outsiders | Study Guide

S. E. Hinton

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The Outsiders | Chapter 12 | Summary

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Summary

The hearing is attended by Randy and his parents, Cherry and her parents, "a couple of the other guys that had jumped Johnny and [Ponyboy] that night," Darry, Soda, and Ponyboy. His doctor is also there, though Ponyboy doesn't understand why until later. The hearing is mostly low-key and doesn't resemble an episode of Perry Mason at all, which is how Ponyboy had imagined it would be. Ponyboy notes that "all the Socs told the same story and stuck mainly to the truth." The judge doesn't ask Ponyboy anything about Bob's killing but only questions him about his living situation, his relationships with his brothers, and his performance at school. When the judge asks Darry and Soda about Dally, they both proudly confirm he had been a good friend of theirs. Despite this, the judge is apparently satisfied with Ponyboy's home environment, and he is "acquitted and the whole case [is] closed."

Afterward Ponyboy continues to have difficulty adjusting. Ponyboy is more absent-minded than ever. In school his grades plummet, particularly in English, which used to be his best subject. At home Ponyboy and Darry pick at each other worse than ever.

One school day during lunch, Steve and Two-Bit are inside a store while Ponyboy sits on Steve's car fender. Three Socs get out of another car and harass Ponyboy because "[they] don't like nobody killing [their] friends, especially greasers." Ponyboy feels detached from his emotions and without fear. He breaks off the end of his Pepsi bottle and threatens to use it as a weapon. "You get back into your car or you'll get split," he warns the Socs, so they leave. Watching from the doorway of the store, Two-Bit tells Ponyboy he and Steve have Ponyboy's back and asks Ponyboy if he really would have used the broken bottle to hurt the Socs. When Ponyboy responds with "I guess so," Two-Bit admonishes him not to become violent. "You're not like the rest of us," Two-Bit tells Ponyboy, "and don't try to be."

Something is obviously bothering Soda, but he refuses to talk about it when Ponyboy asks him if everything is okay. Darry and Ponyboy get into another argument, "about the fourth one we'd had that week," he reports, causing Ponyboy to seek support from Soda, who dashes out the door—dropping an envelope on his way out. Darry picks up the envelope and announces it's Soda's letter to Sandy "returned unopened." Darry tells Ponyboy Soda isn't the father of Sandy's baby. "He wanted to marry her anyway, but she just left," Darry adds.

Darry and Ponyboy catch up to Soda at the park. Soda confesses how much he hates listening to Darry and Ponyboy fight. Even worse, Soda feels like "the middleman in a tug o' war" with his brothers trying to tear him in half. Soda explains it's impossible for him to choose a side because he understands both sides. "Darry yells too much and tries too hard and takes everything too serious," he says. But there's blame for Ponyboy, too: "You don't realize all Darry's giving up just to give you a chance he missed out on," Soda clarifies for his brother. Soda reminds Ponyboy that Darry could be working his own way through college while Ponyboy lives in a foster home, or worse. Darry and Ponyboy agree to stop arguing.

Ponyboy finally opens the copy of Gone with the Wind that Johnny gave him and finds a letter from Johnny tucked inside the book. Johnny writes to Ponyboy that even though he knows he is dying, he still feels rescuing those children was the right thing to do. Johnny says he'll miss the guys but "it's worth it" to have saved the kids because "their lives are worth more than [his]." Johnny asks Ponyboy to give Dally a message that there is still "good in the world," but it's too late for Dally, and Ponyboy doesn't believe Dally would have really taken the message to heart anyway. However, Ponyboy realizes there are a lot of other underprivileged guys struggling out there, so he wants to spread Johnny's message among a wider audience than just Dally.

In lieu of failing Ponyboy, his English teacher assigns a semester composition on any subject of Ponyboy's own choice. At first Ponyboy casts around for a subject and has many false starts. Then a brainstorm hits him—Ponyboy decides to write about the events of the past week of his life, a week in which Ponyboy loses two friends and another boy loses his life as well.

Analysis

In this final chapter, as in the other chapters, readers see Darry pulling strings and protecting his younger brother. Though Ponyboy doesn't understand his doctor's role at his hearing, the doctor has "a long talk with the judge before the hearing," and then the judge conspicuously fails to ask Ponyboy a single question about Bob's murder, or about Johnny.

Soda, Darry, Two-Bit, and Johnny (posthumously in a letter) all separately tell Ponyboy he is different, he can make something of himself, and that he can rise above being a greaser, but he must apply himself to achieve that. He finally takes the encouragement to heart and decides he wants to spread a message of hope to all the "greasers" in the world by writing about his experiences.

In a perfect arc, the book circles back to the beginning of the story: the first sentence of the book becomes the first sentence of Ponyboy's composition for school, which is also the last sentence of the story. Through this device, readers are assured that Ponyboy will be okay. Writing the story that readers have just read will be cathartic for Ponyboy. And maybe he'll study English in college, with the help of Darry and Soda, and become a writer.

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