The Outsiders | Study Guide

S. E. Hinton

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The Outsiders | Chapter 2 | Summary

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Summary

Ponyboy and Johnny meet up with Dally and go to the drive-in movie theater. On the way, they stop in a store where Dally shoplifts some cigarettes. Once they arrive at the Nightly Double, Dally talks "awful dirty" to two Soc girls who are there but not in a car. Annoyed, one of the girls, Cherry Valance, strikes up a conversation with the much more respectful Ponyboy. Dally buys her a Coke, but she throws it in his face. Johnny and Cherry's friend Marcia join the conversation. Then Two-Bit shows up at the drive-in and merges into the group too. They all watch the movie together.

Analysis

When Two-Bit first arrives, he sneaks up on his friends and imitates a "snarling Soc." Johnny turns white and has trouble breathing, until he recognizes Two-Bit. Later when she is alone with Ponyboy, Cherry asks if Johnny's "been hurt bad sometime." Ponyboy confirms her suspicion and relates the whole sordid tale of Johnny's mugging by four Socs in a blue Mustang. Four months ago, Johnny was beaten badly, his face "cut up and bruised and swollen," and left for dead in a vacant lot. "Jumpier than ever," he has not been himself since, and now carries a switchblade in his back pocket. During the flashback, Ponyboy wonders about Dally's "sick expression" when he sees the bloodied and mutilated Johnny, given that Dally has "seen people killed on the streets of New York's West Side," where Dally used to live.

Readers gain a greater understanding of the significance of the greaser gang to Ponyboy, and to the other members of the gang as well. Ponyboy tells readers, "You take up for your buddies, no matter what they do." When Cherry objects to "Dallas's dirty talk," mild-mannered Johnny sticks up for Dally. It's clear Ponyboy doesn't condone Dally's behavior, and may even be a little afraid of his bad-boy antics at times, but Ponyboy stands behind Dally too, nodding when Johnny claims, "Dally's okay." Ponyboy acknowledges gang members have to stick together no matter what because "if you don't stick up for them, stick together, make like brothers," then it isn't a gang. Instead "it's a pack. A snarling, distrustful, bickering pack"—like, he says, "the Socs in their social clubs or the street gangs in New York or the wolves in the timber." From this declaration, readers see that Ponyboy feels like the greasers are additional brothers to him.

Within the greaser gang, there is a hierarchy readers see in this chapter, and subsequent chapters bear this out as well. Dally is clearly at the top of the pyramid. When Johnny tells Dally to leave Cherry alone, Ponyboy's observation of Dally's reaction informs readers of Dally's position within the gang: "If it had been me, or Two-Bit, or Soda or Steve, or anyone but Johnny," Ponyboy says, "Dally would have flattened him without a moment's hesitation." Ponyboy conveys the unique position of Johnny within the gang, as well as Dally's power. The other gang members revere Dally, even envy his disdain for authority. But Ponyboy recognizes that Dally's wild streak comes with a price. After Cherry throws the Coke in Dally's face, Ponyboy observes Dally's reaction and says, "If I had been Cherry I would have beat it out of there. I knew that smile."

Meanwhile, Ponyboy and Johnny are at the bottom of the greaser hierarchy. Ponyboy is the youngest member of the greaser gang and therefore lacks the status of the older, more established greasers, like his brothers, Dally, and even Two-Bit. In the case of Johnny, his lack of standing among the gang is due to his withdrawn personality, his abusive family situation, and the violent beating he endured by the Socs four months previously. About Johnny, Ponyboy admits, "We thought we were doing good if we could get him to talk at all." But Dally and the other greasers treat Johnny deferentially, even more so after the brutal mugging. "Johnny was the gang's pet," admits Ponyboy. But Johnny also seems to be the greaser Ponyboy is closest to, except for his own brothers.

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