Post-Traumatic Stress and Grief in The Outsiders: an essay by Sarah
Many times in life, there are people broken. Completely broken from the inside out. Often what causes these devastating feelings are life-changing events, not just some silly teenage breakups. Maybe a death, maybe a divorce, and maybe someone moving away. You will see how characters in The Outsiders show symptoms of post-traumatic stress and grief, how they are broken by life.
There are many ways to deal with the feeling of great loss. In The Outsiders, Ponyboy chooses to brainwash himself into believing that Johnny never died. This symptom is known as denial. The one in pain often acts as if it “didn’t happen” or constantly denies that they are hurting. Johnny, a long-time friend of Ponyboy’s, was killed in the novel and chose to pretend that never happened. When Randy came to speak to Pony, Pony not only stated, “Johnny is not dead” (165) but also took all the blame for killing Bob, which shows another symptom: bargaining. In Pony’s case, “If I take the blame for killing Bob, then Johnny will still be alive.” And so this is what he tried to do when Randy visited him. Pony was not mentally read to accept the fact that Johnny was dead. But the realization would come.
Some people do not make it through the stages of post-traumatic stress and get caught up in depression. Dally did not make it to acceptance. He started with anger The night Johnny died, Dally could not deal with his overloaded emotions. The minute Johnny died, Dally filled with rage. Johnny was the only thing Dally had stayed around for and now that he was gone, what was the point of staying? In his eyes, there was none. After running out of the hospital and robbing a bank, Dally got chased by cops to the point where he was under gunfire. Under his own power, Dally took out his unloaded heater. “He was dead before he hit the ground. But I knew that was what he wanted” (154).
It is not all gloom, though. Some people do make it through all the stages of post-traumatic stress and they are better people because of it. It may have been a rough journey, but they overcome probably the worst hard times of their lives and are stronger, more independent people because of it. Ponyboy’s journey to joy all had to do with his teacher’s help. Pony had to write a report, and with any theme from which to choose, he chose the one in which he could do the best. His story. About his life and what it was like to be a greaser. Acceptance demonstrates how “all will be joyful again.” It means that even though you took a rough road to get there, you are there now and you are happy once again.
In the end, Ponyboy made it through hard times, which is something Dally could not do. Now what was the difference between these two boys? Almost everything about these two was different. The way they were raised. Their personalities. And their past experiences. Pony had dealt with post-traumatic stress before, after his parents had died, and he had support from his loving brothers. This novel, The Outsiders, is very good example of how people deal with dramatic moments in their lives.
Click HERE and HERE to find more novels portraying people surviving stressful situations.