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> The Outsiders
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Read on August 28, 2012
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(last edited Aug 28, 2012 04:14PM)
Aug 28, 2012 04:10PM
Set in Tulsa, Oklahoma in the mid-1960s, the Outsiders gives an insider's view of restless violent teen boys. Hinton places the blame partly in nature, partly in nurture and presents characters who are suprisingly complex, considering she was 16 years old when the bulk of her novel was composed.
With absent or abusive parents and few options out of the hand-and-mouth existence of unskilled labor, these boys take on each other as fictive kin turn to violence to find meaning and purpose. Even the youngest of them adopts drinking, smoking, shoplifting and fighting. The rougher boys carry switchblades and even guns. The alpha boy Dallas brags about his police record. They fight other boys from a rival gang, boys with more economic advantage, making the book about class warfare in a very literal way.
But these boys are more complex than mere hoodlums. They are also heroes in big and small ways. They have suprising self-awareness and often critique themselves and each other for being thugs.
The moral center of the book is contained in a couple of places. A girl named Cherry manages to have sincere conversations with boys from both gangs (Greasers vs. Socs). Throughout the book, many of the Greaser boys encourage the narrator to stick with school, but it's a classroom English teacher who ends the novel by pointing out writing as an act of salvation.
Even though the image of white gangsters goes against the images popularized by 21st century media, the problem of rootless boys is not limited to non-whites. Hinton has surprising insights for today's 21st century reader.
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