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Tension in the Curtis Family
Note: All quotations come from the Puffin Platinum edition (2006). ISBN: 014240733X
The three Curtis brothers are growing up together, after the death of their parents in a car accident. Darry, the oldest brother, gave up his dreams of college to support Sodapop and Ponyboy, and having a brother in the role of a parent makes things tense, as the following two quotations from The Outsiders show.
"He's as hard as a rock and about as human...he thinks I'm a pain in the neck. He likes Soda -- everybody likes Soda -- but he can't stand me." (Page 42)
This is Ponyboy talking to Cherry Valance, the Soc cheerleader who ends up being the greasers' spy among the Soc crowd, at the drive-in movie theater. Darry is very strict with Ponyboy, and Ponyboy sees this as hardness, even dislike. Later, the reader will discover that Darry is strict because he is afraid of losing another member of his beloved family, but at this point in the novel, Ponyboy can't see that.
"It was my house as much as Darry's, and if he wanted to pretend I wasn't alive, that was just fine with me." (Page 52)
This is Ponyboy again, in narration (the book is told in first person, from Ponyboy's point of view). Here the reader can see the conflict that Ponyboy feels having to obey his brother. They had formerly been equals in the family structure, until the death of their parents. Having to obey Darry makes Ponyboy resentful.
Prompts for Student Writing:
Do you feel that your parents are too strict with you? In what way would you like them to be easier? Why?
Where are you in birth order in your family? If your parents passed away, where would you go to live? What changes would take place in your living situation? How would you feel about that?
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Two Disillusioned Groups
It's surprising to the greasers, who struggle against poverty and prejudice, that the Soc's feel disillusionment and depression, just like they do. After all, the Soc's have money, their parents have power, and they seem to have all of the advantages lined up for them. However, as Ponyboy learns by talking to Cherry Valance, the Soc's face problems as well. These two quotations from The Outsiders show the two perspectives.
"It's not just money...we're sophisticated to the point of not feeling anything. Nothing is real with us." (Page 38)
This is Cherry Valance, talking with Ponyboy at the drive-in. Her quote reflects the distance that money can give its owners from the reality of others, particularly those without money. "Sophistication" refers to exposure to so many opportunities that the Soc's have stopped feeling joy at experiences that are beyond the means for the greasers, except as a special treat. When money removes limits from one's life, reality tends to distort a bit.
"I wanted to cry, but greasers don't cry in front of strangers. Some of us never cry at all. Like Dally and Two-Bit and Tim Shepard -- they forgot how to at an early age." (Page 102)
A lot of the greasers come from chaotic, abusive homes. Johnny, for example, regularly sleeps out of doors because of the abuse he faces when he's in his house. No one wants to show weakness, but the terrible environments that greet so many greasers when they enter childhood are apparent in the way that so many of them face the world as teenagers and young adults.
Prompts for Student Writing:
Do you feel any sympathy for the perspective of Cherry Valance in her quotation above? Why or why not?
Give an example, either from personal experience or from a figure you've seen in the media, of situations where money has caused people to lose touch with reality. How did the situation turn out for all involved?
Important Quotations from "The Outsiders"
This is a series of articles designed to help students of middle-school age who are reading The Outsiders.