The Outsiders | Study Guide

S. E. Hinton

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The Outsiders | Chapter 7 | Summary

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Summary

Ponyboy, Darry, and Soda wait in the hospital for news of Dally and Johnny. Reporters come, take a lot of pictures, and ask a lot of questions. When the boys finally convince the doctor they are the closest thing to family that Dally and Johnny have, the doctor informs them that one of Dally's arms is burned badly and will be scarred forever but he'll regain full use of that arm after a couple weeks of healing. Johnny, however, is in critical condition. He is suffering from third-degree burns and severe shock. Even worse, his back is broken. "Even if he lived he'd be crippled for the rest of his life," the brothers learn from the doctor. Ponyboy falls asleep in the car on the way home.

Ponyboy wakes up the next morning before his brothers and starts to cook breakfast when Two-Bit and Steve barge into the house. They welcome Ponyboy home, making a fuss over him. They show Ponyboy the newspaper headline: "Juvenile Delinquents Turn Heroes." Nevertheless, the police are charging Johnny with manslaughter. Both Cherry and Randy admit in the article that the murder was self-defense. Ponyboy learns from the newspaper he has to appear in juvenile court.

There is also an editorial about Ponyboy and his brothers, about how hard Darry and Soda work to keep the family together, about the exemplary grades Ponyboy gets and Darry used to get when he was in school, and advocating that the boys get to stay together. This makes Ponyboy realize he and his brothers may be split up, that this whole mess could end with Soda and himself being put in a boys' home. When Ponyboy casually asks Soda about Sandy, he learns that Sandy "went to live with her grandmother in Florida" because she is pregnant.

Ponyboy tells Darry he had a nightmare last night, one he has had many times previously but never remembers the details of upon awakening. Darry is hesitant to leave Ponyboy home by himself, especially since he looks ill, but he and Soda both have to work, so Two-Bit, who doesn't have a job, agrees to hang out with Ponyboy. Though short of breath, feeling weak, and complaining of a headache, Ponyboy suggests cleaning up the house in case the police, reporters, or social workers show up there.

When they finish cleaning, they take a walk and run into the blue Mustang. Bob's friend Randy and the Soc who tried to drown Ponyboy get out of the car. Ponyboy's instinct is to run, but Two-Bit shakes his head "ever so slightly." Ponyboy feels hatred toward them; he inwardly blames them for Bob's death and Johnny's precarious medical condition. Surprisingly, Ponyboy and Randy end up having a civilized conversation about social class differences, about the reason why Bob was so aggressive, and about how violence doesn't solve anything. Randy says he's tired of fighting and isn't going to show up for the rumble that night between the greasers and the Socs.

Analysis

A major theme in this novel is the reality that every action, every decision, has consequences. Chapter 7 demonstrates this theme particularly well. When Ponyboy and Johnny ran away, Ponyboy had not thought at all about the possibility of being split apart from his brothers as a consequence. But now he faces a hearing to decide his future, and being put in a boys' home or reform school are very real possibilities for him. And when Ponyboy and Johnny decided to save the schoolchildren from the burning church, they didn't calculate the possible consequences, but now Johnny is lying barely conscious in a hospital room. Soda loves Sandy and wants to marry her, but now she is pregnant she has been sent away to live with her grandmother in Florida. Everything we do has consequences, whether those consequences are intended or accidental.

This cause-and-effect relationship is clearly illustrated in the character of Bob, the aggressive Soc who drinks too much. Randy divulges to Ponyboy that Bob's parents spoiled him rotten, gave him absolutely everything he ever wanted, and never said no to him. The reason Bob was always pushing boundaries, according to Randy, was because Bob never had any limits placed upon him. "To have somebody lay down the law, set the limits, give him something solid to stand on"—that's what Bob, and everyone else, really wants, according to Randy. Randy offers this as an explanation for the Socs' predatory behavior toward the greasers.

But individuals make choices based on very personal belief systems, not just whether or not they are part of the underprivileged greaser environment or belong to the financially well-off, socially prestigious world of the Socs. Ponyboy's conversation with Randy sheds light on this theme. When Randy asks Ponyboy why he rescued those children, Ponyboy assures him it was an individual choice, that "'greaser' didn't have anything to do with it." Randy remarks he "would have let those kids burn to death," but Ponyboy doesn't quite believe him. "Maybe you would have done the same thing, maybe a friend of yours wouldn't have. It's the individual," Ponyboy reasons. Learning this life lesson, understanding that not everything is black and white and few things in life really come down to a label shows tremendous character growth for Ponyboy.

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