Novel Study: The Outsiders

 The Outsiders

Read the assigned chapter before coming to class so you will be prepared to participate in the discussion. Please take notes and answer the questions at home if you are absent for a lesson. Hand in your notes and paragraphs when you return.

Chapter 1

“When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home.”
What can you tell about the novel from the very first sentence?
• a contrast between the darkness of a fantasy world and the brightness of reality
• Paul Newman = beautiful, handsome, fantasy world full of admiration
• ride home = real world
• novels tell the story of change in a character
• change is painful just like sudden light after being in the dark is painful
• the main character will change but it will not be easy
List all the characters.
Briefly describe them.
Note the two main social groups:
    – Greasers versus Socs (short for ‘Socials’)
    – Poor and powerless versus rich and powerful
Note the main features of the novel:
    – conflict: person versus person
    – point of view: first person
Write a paragraph, making a connection:
What group do you belong to at school?
What do you have in common with others in that group?

Chapter 2

This is not a novel for young children.
How can you tell?
Now look at the conflict between the two groups: Greasers and Socs.
How is Ponyboy not like other Greasers?
How is Cherry not like other Socs?
How is the conflict moving away from group versus group to person versus person?
Notice the theme emerging: in the movies, conflict might be between groups but in real life, it is between people.
How is conflict shown in Johnny’s own family?
How has that conflict affected him?
Think: how do you sometimes feel like you do not belong in your own social group or own family?
Write a paragraph, describing a conflict in your own life.  How does it affect you?


Chapter 3

1. How are the first sentences of the first and third chapter alike?
2. How do they prepare readers to compare the lives of Ponyboy and Cherry?
3. Make a list of four of the main characters, summarizing their experiences in life and how those experiences have affected them.
4. Do some research from reputable sources and take notes on post-traumatic stress disorder..
5. Write a paragraph: how do characters in The Outsiders show signs of PTSD?

Chapter 4

What is the most important event to remember in this chapter?
What could the characters have done differently so as to have changed the outcome?
Write a paragraph: How is Ponyboy changing? (Click HERE to see ideas on how characters change.)

Chapter 5

Why is the first sentence so important?
How does it reflect Ponyboy’s life?
Why is the first sentence of the second paragraph so important?
What is the author going to emphasize in this chapter?
One of the themes of the novel, Gone with the Wind, is that sometimes people grow up with a fantasy about life which is not true.  Sometimes people learn too late that reality does not match their fantasy.  How is this theme being shown in The Outsiders?
How are Dally and Ponyboy different?
Write a paragraph: Why do you think the author included the poem by Frost in this chapter?

Chapter 6

Why do Johnny and Ponyboy go into the church to save the children?
Do you think they are heroes?
Do you think their behaviour is admirable?
Write a paragraph: Do you think the two boys are morally obligated to save the children?

Chapter 7/8

Notice how Randy describes Bob’s home life.
Recall how Johnny’s father and mother treat him.
How are Johnny’s and Bob’s parents alike?
How do poor parents behave?  How do good parents behave?
Write a paragraph: What is the most vivid scene, in your mind, from these two chapters?

Chapter 9/10

Notice the references to ‘Nothing Gold Can Stay’ and ‘Gone with the Wind’.
There is a movement from innocence to wisdom, from fantasy to reality, from childhood to adulthood.
The bridge between those two places often includes suffering.
Sometimes, that bridge involves four stages: want the truth, accept the truth, make a plan, follow the plan.
Is Dally able to cross that bridge?
Did Johnny cross that bridge?
Write 4 short paragraphs:
What have been your fantasies of life?
What is the reality of your life?
Who is helping you cross that bridge from innocence to wisdom?
What character traits are you developing to help you cross that bridge to wisdom?


Chapter 11/12

Notice how Ponyboy and his brothers are grieving various losses in their lives.
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, a Swiss-American psychiatrist, observed people going through various stages of grief. How do the brothers exhibit these stages?
1. Denial – the terrible event did not really happen; “I’m fine.”
2. Anger – it’s not fair; “Why me?”
3. Bargaining – promises to change if reality will change; “If I…, then maybe you…”
4. Depression – great sadness; “Why go on?  What’s the point?”
5. Acceptance – acknowledge reality and be willing to move ahead in life; “It was terrible but my life will continue.  How shall I live?” 
How does Ponyboy’s teacher help him manage his grief? 
Write a paragraph: How has grief affected your life?  Who has helped you?

 Culminating Activity: The Journey to Joy

Write these words in the correct places in the diagram:
1. Plain of Childhood              2.  World of Adulthood
3. Canyon of Despair              4. Bridge of Character
5. Wisdom                                 6. Innocence
7. Generosity                            8. Forgiveness
9. Pride                                     10. Self-sacrifice
11. Stubborness                       12. Doubt
13. Humility                            14. Perseverance
15. Honesty                             16. Impatience
17. Entitlement                       18. Faithfulness
19. Teachability                       20. Apathy
21. Kindness                            22. Self-centredness
23. Disinterest                         24. Joyfulness
25. Hope                                   26. REALITY
27. “The universe focuses on me.”
28. “I am part of the universe.”      
29.  A helper will come.       30. JOURNEY TO JOY


 Final Exam

A. Organize all your work – your notes and your paragraphs – from this novel and hand it in for final evaluation.
B. Choose one of the following questions and write a 400-600 word essay in response.

1. Those who love you are not fooled by mistakes you have made or dark images you hold about yourself. They remember your beauty when you feel ugly; your wholeness when you are broken; your innocence when you feel guilty; and your purpose when you are confused.–African saying. How does this quotation apply to relationships in ‘The Outsiders?’

2. What is a central theme in ‘The Outsiders’?  Explain the meaning of the theme, provide evidence from the novel, and tell how the theme connects to life today.

3. Life is a journey from self-centred innocence to joyful wisdom. How is this true in ‘The Outsiders’? How is this true in your life? How can people successfully navigate this journey?

4. How are parents portrayed in ‘The Outsiders’? Compare Bob’s parents, Johnny’s parents and Darry, who acts as a parent for Ponyboy. What are the qualities of a good parent?

5. How do characters in ‘The Outsiders’ show symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and grief? How do they cope with their pain?  What enables some of them  to overcome their pain?

6.  Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved. – Helen Keller. How does this quotation apply to Ponyboy in ‘The Outsiders’?

[This page may be copied for use with students if the following credit is provided: ©2013 Sophie Rosen.]

A Sample Outline

Paragraph 1: Explain how life is tough for everyone in life, the rich and the poor in our society. Give examples.
Paragraph 2: Explain how life is tough for everyone in ‘The Outsiders’, both the Socs and the greasers. Provide quotes if possible.
Paragraph 3: Explain how everyone is a human being with difficulties. We all have challenges to overcome. Use examples from the novel and from real life.
Paragraph 4: Explain how people should never give up but instead be good to each other because life is tough. And we need each other.


The Outsiders Final Exam by Alanna

 Some people are good at parenting. Others are poor at parenting. In ‘The Outsiders’ there are Bob’s parents, Johnny’s parents, and Darry, who acts like a parent. Bob’s parents think everything is their fault. Every single thing that goes wrong with Bob, they blame on themselves. Johnny’s parents’ either think everything is Johnny’s fault or they completely ignore Johnny. Darry is like a parent to Ponyboy; after their mom and dad died, Darry took care of everything. ‘The Outsiders’ show examples of both good and bad parenting.

 Bob’s parents are an example of poor parenting. Bob’s parents were too nice to Bob. When he made mistakes, they’d blame themselves, never laying down the law. “One time he came home drunker than anything. He thought sure they were gonna raise the roof…They thought it was something they’d done. They thought it was their fault – that they’d failed him and driven him to it or something. They took all the blame and didn’t do anything to him” (102-103). All Bob wanted was someone to tell him what to do, and make him realize his mistakes. “That was what he wanted. For somebody to lay down the law, set the limits, give him something solid to stand on”(102). Bob’s parents also gave into everything and let him do whatever he wanted. “They spoiled him rotten… but they gave into him all the time. He kept trying to make someone say ‘No’ and they never did” (102). Bob’s parents are on the extreme side of being nice. To be a good parent, you have to be balanced.

 Johnny’s parents are another example of poor parenting. Johnny’s parents’ were too mean. When Johnny’s parents noticed him, they beat him. His mom cussed and reprimanded Johnny for anything she could think of. His dad beat him bloody when drunk. “We were used to seeing Johnny banged up…”(31). “His father was always beating him up, and his mother ignored him, except when she hacked off at something, and then you could hear her yelling at him clear down at our house”(14). Johnny’s parents are also full of themselves, thinking they have done so much for Johnny. Parenting is more than giving children a house, food, clothes and water. “But I have a right to see him. He’s my son. After all the trouble his father and I’ve gone to raise him, this is our reward! He’d rather see those no-count hoodlums than his own folks…”(108). Jonny’s parents make him feel unimportant and when they do notice him, they beat him. “ ’I think I like it better when the old man’s hittin’ me.’ Johnny sighed. ‘At least then I know he knows who I am. I walk in that house, and nobody says anything. I walk out, and nobody notices. I ain’t got nobody’ “(47). Johnny’s parents are extreme, too, on the mean side.

 Darry is an example of good parenting. He sacrificed his dreams of college and got a job to support the family. “Darry didn’t deserve to work like an old man when he was only twenty. He had been a real popular guy in school; he was captain of the football team and he had been voted Boy of the Year. [He] even [won an] athletic scholarship. And now he didn’t have time between jobs to even think about college” (18). Darry is very protective of Ponyboy; even when he’s angry, he’s actually worried. “Where the heck have you been? I reckon it never occurred to you that your brothers might be worrying their heads off and afraid to call the police because something like that could get you two thrown in a boys’ home quick” (45-46). Darry also wants the best for Ponyboy. He wants Ponyboy to be able to have a better life than Darry. “He would have hollered at me if… I brought home B’s, he wanted A’s, and if I got A’s he wanted them to stay A’s” (15). “Ponyboy you don’t think enough, you don’t realize all Darry’s giving up just to give you a chance he missed out on” (152). Darry has many great parenting qualities.

 Good parenting is about balance. You can’t be too extreme like Bob’s and Johnny’s parents. Kids need to be nagged and told what to do and sometimes reprimanded. But you also have to be gentle with them, treating them like a plant. First for a plant you have to give them the right soil, sunlight and water. Same with kids: you have to give them the right tender, loving care. Each plant needs different amounts of water, soil, sunlight, just like kids need different amounts of everything. Parents should also be patient, not hurrying along the kid to get the ‘reward’.  Kids mature and grow at their own pace. Parents should also be understanding and learn not to jump to conclusions. The way kids are raised affects them. Johnny got beaten and turned out to be soft-spoken and scared all the time. Bob’s parents always took the blame, making Bob want trouble so someone would lay down the law. Parenting is different with every child, but all children need a balance.

Click HERE and HERE to see more essays.


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