The Outsiders

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Divided Communities Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Divided Communities Theme Icon
Empathy Theme Icon
Preserving Childhood Innocence Theme Icon
Self-Sacrifice and Honor Theme Icon
Individual Identity Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Outsiders, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Divided Communities Theme Icon

Ponyboy stands in the middle of two major conflicts: the conflict between the Socs and greasers, and the conflict between Ponyboy and Darry within the Curtis family. In the gang conflict, the novel shows how the two groups focus on their differences—they dress differently, socialize differently, and hang out with different girls—and how this focus on superficial differences leads to hate and violence. Yet the novel also shows how the two groups depend on their conflict in order to continue to exist. The greasers, for instance, live by a pledge to "stick together" against the Socs. Without the conflict, the two gangs' individual members might go their own way.

The novel's other divided community is Ponyboy's immediate family. Like the conflict between Socs and greasers, the conflict between Darry and Ponyboy is fueled by misperceptions. Just as the Socs and greasers are unable to see past their superficial differences to their deeper similarities, Darry and Ponyboy can't see past their own limited view to understand each other's actions. Ponyboy misinterprets Darry's desperate desire to deliver Ponyboy from the poverty and strife of their neighborhood as antagonism, while Darry interprets Ponyboy's quest to escape his conflict-ridden existence as irresponsibility and lack of consideration.

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Divided Communities ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Divided Communities appears in each chapter of The Outsiders. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Divided Communities Quotes in The Outsiders

Below you will find the important quotes in The Outsiders related to the theme of Divided Communities.
Chapter 1 Quotes
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.
Related Characters: Ponyboy Curtis (speaker)
Page Number: 1
Explanation and Analysis:

Here we meet Ponyboy Curtis, the narrator and protagonist of The Outsiders. Ponyboy is a member of the Greasers; a gang of teenage boys in the poor neighborhood of a suburban town. In this opening scene, Ponyboy has spent an afternoon at the movies—one of his favorite activities—and has a long walk home. He prefers to go to the movies alone, but also fears that he may be jumped by the Greasers' rivals, the Socs, on his way home. After the movie gets out he instantly regrets not asking one of his brothers or friends to come with him.

Author S.E Hinton introduces her audience to the rough and tumble world of The Outsiders from this very first line. After the death of their parents, Ponyboy and his brothers, Darry and Sodapop, live alone together. Ponyboy's world is filled with violence and conflict. The Greasers live with a constant hatred for and fear of the Socs. However Ponyboy's personality doesn't seem to reflect that of the average "gang member." He is sensitive and introspective; he loves film and avoids trouble. Yet he was born into this divided community, and so he finds himself inextricably involved in it. 


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Greasers can't walk alone too much or they'll get jumped, or someone will come by and scream "Greaser!" at them...We get jumped by the Socs. I'm not sure how you spell it, but it's the abbreviation for the Socials, the jet set, the West-side rich kids. It's like the term "greaser," which is used to class all us boys on the East Side.
Related Characters: Ponyboy Curtis (speaker)
Related Symbols: Greaser Hair
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quote, Ponyboy outlines the class divide between rival gangs, the Greasers and the Socs.

"Soc" stands for "the Socials." The group is made up of wealthy kids that have grown up on the West side of town. The name "Greaser" is a reference to the greasy hair of the poorer kids on the East side of town. Ponyboy and his gang live in hatred and fear of the Socs, who constantly attempt to fight them.

Although Ponyboy is only 14, his sense of class divide is very clear. They are rich; he is poor. They are the haves; he is the have-not. Their affluence makes them a threat. 

I don't care, I lied to myself, I don't care about [Darry] either. Soda's enough, and I'd have him until I got out of school. I don't care about Darry. But I was still lying and I knew it. I lie to myself all the time. But I never believe me.
Related Characters: Ponyboy Curtis (speaker), Darry Curtis, Sodapop Curtis
Page Number: 18
Explanation and Analysis:

As Ponyboy and his brother Sodapop lay in the bed they share, Soda tells him that he plans on moving out and marrying his girlfriend. Ponyboy asks Soda to stay until he gets out of school so he doesn't have to be left alone with Darry. Soda then explains to Ponyboy that Darry does love him. Darry is only hard on him because he sees Ponyboy's potential; he is considered the smart one in the family, and so he has a future apart from being a Greaser. Darry is simply trying to push Ponyboy to work hard in order to have the life that he was never able to.

During this quote as narrator, Ponyboy acknowledges to the readers that he's lying to himself about Darry's sternness and tough love. He knows how hard it is for Darry to parent his two younger brothers. Darry's hardness and sense of dislike for Ponyboy is one of the many lies Ponyboy tells himself throughout the book to avoid facing the truth. 

Chapter 2 Quotes
Johnny never walked by himself after that. And carried in his back pocket a six-inch switchblade. He'd use it, too, if he ever got jumped again.
Related Characters: Ponyboy Curtis (speaker), Johnny Cade
Related Symbols: The Blue Mustang
Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:

Before this scene, Ponyboy, Dally, and Johnny are introduced to Cherry and her friend Marcia at a local drive in. Ponyboy takes Cherry to get concessions and she asks him why Johnny is so quiet and skittish. Ponyboy explains that a few months back, Johnny was jumped by four Socs. They snuck up on him in a blue Mustang. One, who we will later learn is Bob, was wearing rings on his fingers, and left a long scar across Johnny's face. Since that moment, the sweet, nonviolent Johnny never goes anywhere alone and carries a switchblade for protection. 

Here, Hinton highlights how dangerous the divide between the Greasers and the Socs truly is. This moment is also another instance of juxtaposing innocence and violence. Johnny and Ponyboy are young, introspective, and non-violent youths living in a world where they are forced to face and react with violence. 

The blade and the Blue Mustang become important symbols of the divided communities of the Socs and Greasers. For Johnny, there's no turning back, and if given the opportunity to use the blade on a Soc and kill him, he would. 

"Things are rough all over."
Related Characters: Cherry Valance (speaker)
Page Number: 35
Explanation and Analysis:

This one line reveals Cherry as a connector between the Socs and Greasers. After Ponyboy tells her the story of Johnny's brutal attack, she argues that not all Socs are like that. They may have nicer homes and fancier clothes, but money can't solve everything. Cherry humanizes the Socs for Ponyboy for the first time, and this moment begins a friendship between the two that will continue to develop. 

Cherry and Ponyboy are very similar characters. They are both sensitive people living in a rough and dangerous space, and both feel trapped by their surroundings and their personal ties to their own communities. Here we see a moment of empathy between Ponyboy and Cherry. By opening up to Ponyboy, Cherry helps him understand that regardless of class, gang allegiance, or anything at all, the Socs and the Greasers are all people. She will continue to encourage Ponyboy to be empathetic toward others throughout the book. 

Chapter 3 Quotes
It seemed funny that the sunset [Cherry] saw from her patio and the one I saw from the back steps was the same one. Maybe the two worlds we lived in weren't so different. We saw the same sunset.
Related Characters: Ponyboy Curtis (speaker), Cherry Valance
Related Symbols: Sunsets and Sunrises
Page Number: 40-41
Explanation and Analysis:

As Ponyboy and Two-Bit drive Cherry and Marcia home, Ponyboy sees that these women (Socs) aren't very different from him. They like the same music, they do the same things. Ponyboy resolves that maybe money is the only difference between the Greasers and the Socs. Cherry disagrees; She tells him that their differences lie in something deeper: feelings. She explains that the Socs are forced to wear a mask of sophistication and aloofness, hiding who they really are. The Greasers, on the other hand, are open with their emotions. They are honest and don't feel the need to perform. 

As they walk, Cherry asks Ponyboy if he likes watching the sunset at night. They realize that they share this love. The ever introspective and sensitive Ponyboy then realizes that while they may be on opposite sides of town, on different porches, in different gangs, they all watch the same sunset. In this moment, Cherry encourages Ponyboy once again to see his rivals as humans and to exercise empathy. Cherry is a window through which Ponyboy can understand the Socs. In addition, the sunset also becomes a unifying symbol, not just for the Greasers and Socs, but for people everywhere—when we step back, we're all just trying our best on the same earth.

It wasn't fair for the Socs to have everything. We were as good as they were; it wasn't our fault we were greasers...I felt the tension growing inside of me and I knew something had to happen or I would explode.
Related Characters: Ponyboy Curtis (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Blue Mustang
Page Number: 47
Explanation and Analysis:

As Johnny, Two-Bit, and Ponyboy walk Cherry and Marcia home, the Blue Mustang appears, revealing Cherry's boyfriend Bob and his Soc friends. Ponyboy realizes this is the same Mustang and same Soc that attacked Johnny. In order to prevent a fight, Cherry and Marcia get in the car and drive off with Bob. Cherry apologizes to Ponyboy. She can't say hi to him in school or speak to him anymore: it's not personal, it's just the rules.

Afterwards Ponyboy and Johnny lay out and look at the stars. The altercation has set Ponyboy over the edge. He doesn't understand why he has to live with his brothers, why he can't afford a car, and moreover why he can't have a friendship with Cherry. The Socs can have all of those things. Ponyboy is furious at their entitlement, privilege, and cruelty. He is also heartbroken; Cherry was the only person who ever understood him and yet she has to maintain her reputation and not speak to him. 

Here we see Ponyboy's frustration at his own position escalate to a potentially dangerous point. Instead of being fearful of the Socs, he resents them, and he's angry at the lines drawn by their wealth. The empathy that Cherry has instilled in him is diminished by his frustration at the divide between gangs. 

Chapter 4 Quotes
"You know what a greaser is" Bob asked. "White trash with long hair."…
"You know what a Soc is?" I said, my voice shaking with rage. "White trash with Mustangs and madras."
Related Characters: Ponyboy Curtis (speaker), Bob Sheldon (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Blue Mustang
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:

After getting slapped by Darry for coming home late from the Drive-In, Ponyboy decides to get Johnny and run away from home. As they approach the local park, the infamous blue Mustang appears. Bob and four other Socs pull up to the boys. They chastise Johnny and Ponyboy for "picking up" their girlfriends. Then, In a leap of faith and bravery, Ponyboy stands up to the Socs, sparking what will become a brutal fight. 

When Bob makes fun of his hair, Ponyboy responds to Bob's taunting with the same rhetoric, suggesting that the only difference between the two is their wealth. It is a superficial and pointless difference, and both are, in essence, "trash." This takes Bob over the edge, and he directs his gang of Socs to try to "clean" Ponyboy's greasy hair by shoving his face into a fountain in the park. In order to save him, Johnny uses the switchblade he's been carrying to stab Bob.

This scene shows Ponyboy somewhat bridging the divide between the Greasers and the Socs, but only in order to turn an insult back against his enemy. The closer the two communities get, the greater their hatred and need to define themselves against each other grows.

Chapter 6 Quotes
That was [Darry's] silent fear then—of losing another person he loved. I remembered how close he and Dad had been, and I wondered how I could ever have thought him hard and unfeeling. I listened to his heart pounding through his T-shirt and I knew everything was going to be okay now. I had taken the long way around, but I was finally home. To stay.
Related Characters: Ponyboy Curtis (speaker), Darry Curtis
Page Number: 98-99
Explanation and Analysis:

Ponyboy is sitting in a hospital waiting room. He has just been taken there in an ambulance. Hours before, he and Johnny found out that four children had set fire to the church they were hiding out in and were stuck inside. Instead of retreating, Johnny and Ponyboy ran through the flames to rescue them.

Darry and Sodapop arrive at the hospital in tears, hugging Ponyboy, thrilled that he is safe and devastated that he's been hurt. Ponyboy looks at Darry and sees the tears streaming down his face. He hugs him close, and in that moment Ponyboy realizes that Darry's sterness isn't doesn't come from a lack of love, but rather is his way of keeping his brother safe. Every day he must make the choice to mask the grief of losing their parents in order to be the caretaker of Sodapop and Ponyboy. He cannot afford to be the child that Ponyboy and Sodapop are—he must be the parent. This moment begins a healing process for the Curtis boys. It also reveals the level of self-sacrifice Darry has committed to in order to care for his brothers. 

Chapter 7 Quotes
I stared at the newspaper. On the front page of the second section was the headline: JUVENILE DELINQUENTS TURN HEROES.
"What I like is the 'turn' bit," Two-Bit said. ... "Y'all were heroes from the beginning. You just didn't 'turn' all of a sudden."
Related Characters: Ponyboy Curtis (speaker), Johnny Cade, Two-Bit Mathews
Page Number: 107
Explanation and Analysis:

The morning after Ponyboy returns from the hospital, Two-Bit and Steve visit. Two-Bit shows Ponyboy the article that has been written up about him in the local newspaper. He laments the headline JUVENILE DELINQUENTS TURN HEROES, saying that the newspaper was wrong about them "turning" into heroes. They were always heroes.

The headline of the article signifies the way Greasers are perceived by their own community, signifying another divide—this one between young gang members and the community at large. The Greasers (and probably Socs as well) are written off as criminals from the start, and not judged as normal young people. It is only in an instance of deep self-sacrifice and self-endangerment that Ponyboy and Johnny are considered "heroes." The article also outlines the entire story up until this point: the murder, the turf wars, an interview from Cherry and Ponyboy and Johnny's life story. The article ends with a suggestion that Ponyboy may be sent to juvenile court for running away. In this case, he may be put into a boys' home and taken away from Sodapop and Darry. 

Chapter 9 Quotes
They used to be buddies, I thought, they used to be friends, and now they hate each other because one has to work for a living and the other comes from the West Side. They shouldn't hate each other...I don't hate the Socs anymore...they shouldn't hate...
Related Characters: Ponyboy Curtis (speaker), Paul Holden
Page Number: 143
Explanation and Analysis:
The Greasers arrive at the rumble, followed by the Socs. The groups agree to only fight with fists. Darry steps forward and asks if anyone would like to fight him. Paul Holden emerges from the group. He is a Soc, who was on Darry's high school football team. The two were friends in school but now, at the rumble, are social enemies. Once again Ponyboy notices that the only difference between Darry and Paul, and thereby the Greasers and Socs, is their wealth. Paul was able to go to college after high school. Darry couldn't. This moment uncovers how easily friendships and relationships can be broken by allegiance to their respective gangs and social positions. Ponyboy follows up this moment by telling the readers that he doesn't agree with what has been happening, and he doesn't "hate Socs anymore." Because of his newfound empathy for his supposed enemies, he regrets being involved in the rumble, and now knows that fighting isn't the answer.
"We won," Dally panted. "We beat the Socs. We stomped them—chased them outa our territory."
Johnny didn't even try to grin at him. "Useless...fighting's no good..."
Related Characters: Johnny Cade (speaker), Dallas Winston (speaker)
Page Number: 148
Explanation and Analysis:
After the Greasers win the rumble, Dally takes Ponyboy to the hospital to see Johnny. When they arrive, the Doctor informs them that Johnny is dying. They go into Johnny's room and tell him that they've won the rumble. Johnny isn't impressed by this. He knows that fighting won't change anything. They will never "win" against the Socs. They will always be seen as the dirty low-lifes of the community, and there is very little that can change that. As he approaches the end of his life, Johnny also begins to realize what is truly important. It isn't gang wars or violence, but rather preserving one's identity, sense of self, and close community of friends and family.