The Outsiders | Study Guide

S. E. Hinton

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The Outsiders | Chapter 3 | Summary

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Summary

When the movie ends, the group walks over to Two-Bit's house to pick up his car so he can drive Cherry and Marcia home. The usually quiet Ponyboy and Cherry discuss some personal topics, such as Ponyboy's brothers. Ponyboy's bitterness about Darry spills out, and he claims Darry can't stand him, that he wants to put Ponyboy in a home. Ponyboy makes a remark about Johnny not being "wanted at home" either, but then apologizes.

A blue Mustang drives by, containing Randy and Bob, whom Cherry and Marcia recognize. Johnny becomes nervous and turns white at the sight of the car, though it passes them by. However, the Mustang drives through again, and this time it pulls up beside them. Two Soc boys get out of the front seat. Johnny stares at one of their hands, "breathing heavily," and Ponyboy notices he is wearing "three heavy rings."

Bob tries to coax Cherry and Marcia into the Mustang, but Cherry insists to Bob she is "never going out with [him] while [he's] drinking." After Marcia also refuses to get in the car, the Soc starts picking on Two-Bit, who flips out a switchblade. He also breaks a bottle and hands it to Ponyboy to use as a weapon. Alarmed, Cherry relents, agreeing that she and Marcia will go with the Soc boys in the Mustang. Before she leaves with them, she admits to Ponyboy she "could fall in love with Dallas Winston" and hopes she never sees him again. But Two-Bit, who had hit it off with Cherry's friend Marcia, throws away her phone number, remarking it is probably a fake number. Johnny explains the girls left with the Socs in the Mustang "because we're greasers" and "could have hurt her reputation." Johnny wishes for somewhere "without greasers or Socs," someplace with just "plain ordinary people." Ponyboy agrees, expressing a desire to live out in the country. He complains the greasers get "all the rough breaks."

Ponyboy and Johnny accidentally fall asleep in the vacant lot. Ponyboy wakes up at 2 AM and arrives home two hours past his curfew. Darry, angry and upset, yells at Ponyboy and then slaps him hard. Ponyboy runs out of the house, though Darry yells after him that he "didn't mean to." He catches up with Johnny, still in the vacant lot, and tells him what happened. But it's cold out and Ponyboy's resolve to run away melts. He asks Johnny to walk over to the park with him so he can cool down before going home to face Darry.

Analysis

Ponyboy and Cherry hit it off as friends, despite their social class difference, and they discuss some very personal topics. Ponyboy reveals Johnny's violent mugging by the Socs in chapter 2 and, in chapter 3, he tells Cherry the personal story of the horse Soda loved but had to give up when he was younger. Both these experiences highlight the economic differences between the greasers of Ponyboy's neighborhood and the Socs of Cherry's side of town. They openly discuss other differences between the greasers and the Socs. Cherry seems almost envious when she concedes, "You greasers have a different set of values. You're more emotional. We're sophisticated—cool to the point of not feeling anything." Enamored of Cherry, Ponyboy agrees with her wholeheartedly; whether or not he really believes her explanation remains to be seen. But to Cherry's face, he acknowledges the reason for the rivalry between the greasers and the Socs is "not money, it's feeling—you don't feel anything and we feel too violently." Though he claims Cherry is "coming through to [him] all right," he soon formulates a conclusion of his own about the greasers and the Socs. "Maybe the two different worlds we live in weren't so different," Ponyboy muses to himself, because "we saw the same sunset."

A major theme in this novel, especially well demonstrated in this chapter, is the value of a chosen family versus the desire to connect with one's genetic family. Ponyboy confesses he isn't getting along so well with his oldest brother, Darry. When the other greasers act surprised to learn this, Ponyboy feels embarrassed and rats out Johnny's home situation as well, blurting out, "We all know you ain't wanted at home, either." Later, in an impulse of frustration and worry, Darry hits Ponyboy. While Ponyboy and Johnny are both miserable at home, they cling to one another and to the other greaser gang members when the Socs approach them, but they hang together in their everyday lives as well. The greasers know they can lean on one another, especially in tough times. Yet those relationships aren't quite a replacement for biological family ties. Johnny divulges that he "like[s] it better when the old man's hittin' me" because "at least then I know he knows who I am." When Ponyboy reminds Johnny he's "got the whole gang," Johnny rebuts, "It ain't the same as having your own folks care about you." As much as they value the brotherhood of the gang, Ponyboy regards his brothers as being the most important people in his life, and even Johnny craves a more stable, happier bond with his own family members.

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