The Outsiders | Study Guide

S. E. Hinton

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The Outsiders | Chapter 9 | Summary

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Summary

Ponyboy, Soda, and Darry eat dinner together at home. They shower, change their clothes, and grease their hair to look good for the rumble. Ponyboy takes five aspirin, hoping they will relieve his headache. Darry is hesitant to allow Ponyboy to attend the rumble this evening because he's out of shape—he has lost weight since being injured—and Darry thinks he looks kind of sick. Plus Ponyboy is distracted with worry over Johnny, who is still in the hospital fighting for his life. But Ponyboy presses Darry to let him fight, and Darry gives in.

After Steve and Two-Bit arrive, they all head over to the vacant lot, where they are joined by Tim Shepard's outfit and another gang from a suburb called Brumly. After four carloads of well-dressed Socs arrive right on time, tall and muscular Darry steps forward and offers to "take on anyone." A husky guy named Paul from Darry's old high school football team steps up to accept the challenge. Everyone is distracted as Dally runs up, yelling, "Hold it!" Paul takes advantage of the diversion and lands the first punch, which starts the rumble.

The Socs are the first ones to leave the rumble, which declares the greasers the winners. Steve is doubled over on the ground, groaning from the pain of three broken ribs. Two-Bit looks the worst of the bunch with blood pouring down the side of his face and a hand broken open. Darry has a black eye blooming and a cut across his forehead. Ponyboy lies limp on the ground from being kicked in the head and sports numerous bruises on his face and back.

Dally grabs Ponyboy, drags him home, and shoves him in Buck Merril's borrowed T-Bird. They race over to the hospital, but a cop stops them for speeding. Dally talks his way out of a ticket, claiming he is taking the injured Ponyboy to the hospital. The officer provides a police escort, so they arrive at the hospital in record time. Still Johnny is clearly dying when they arrive. Dally delivers the rumble results to Johnny, who responds by saying, "Fighting's no good." Dally tells Johnny all the greasers are proud of him, just before Johnny dies. Dally pounds on the wall, then takes off into the night.

Analysis

Before the rumble, Ponyboy takes a survey of his brothers and fellow greasers about why they like to fight. He figures out that "Soda fought for fun, Steve for hatred, Darry for pride, and Two-Bit for conformity." But Ponyboy doesn't agree with any of those reasons. In fact Ponyboy decides "there isn't any real good reason for fighting except self-defense." Ponyboy pretends to be proud that he and "the quiet black-headed kid were the ones who killed that Soc" when Tim Shepard asks him about it. But then he remembers Cherry and Randy, the two Socs he's had conversations with and gotten to know as people, and he feels like vomiting.

Despite his realization that violence doesn't solve anything, Ponyboy begs his older brother Darry to let him participate in the rumble. Before the fighting starts, Ponyboy examines their allies and comes to another important conclusion. Some of the greasers, like the Shepard and Brumly gangs, enjoy being hoods and will "just get worse as they g[e]t older." But he decides his oldest brother Darry will rise above his situation. "Living the way we do would only make him more determined to get somewhere," Ponyboy thinks. Ponyboy wants to emulate Darry, and declares he's not "going to live in a lousy neighborhood all [his] life."

Losing Johnny is a real blow for the greasers. Dally, the most hardened criminal type of the bunch, takes it even worse than Ponyboy. Johnny seems to be Dally's one soft spot, his vulnerability, the one person in the world who makes Dally feel. Losing this connection to the world cracks open Dally's tough exterior, and whatever he finds inside himself overpowers Dally.

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