The Outsiders

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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.
Self-Sacrifice and Honor Theme Icon

Despite the greasers' reputation as heartless young criminals, they live by a specific and honorable code of friendship, and there are many instances in which gang and family members make selfless choices. These choices often reflect a desire to make life better for the next generation of youths. Darry forfeited a college scholarship for a full-time manual labor job in order to support his younger brothers. Dally, who seems not to care about anything, demonstrates great loyalty to and compassion for his friends and for strangers in need. He helps Johnny and Ponyboy slip away to the rural town of Windrixville after Bob's stabbing, and he plays a key role in the church fire rescue. Dally's death is the ultimate tribute to Johnny, without whom life seemed meaningless. Ponyboy's essay is a different and perhaps more powerful response to Johnny's death. He honors both of his deceased friends by telling their story, an act of generosity intended to benefit the greater community.

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Self-Sacrifice and Honor ThemeTracker

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

Below you will find the important quotes in The Outsiders related to the theme of Self-Sacrifice and Honor.
Chapter 6 Quotes
"Johnny," Dally said in a pleading, high voice, using a tone I had never heard from him before, "Johnny, I ain't mad at you. I just don't want you to get hurt. You don't know what a few months in jail can do to you. Oh, blast it, get hardened in jail. I don't want that to happen to you. Like it happened to me..."
Related Characters: Dallas Winston (speaker), Johnny Cade
Page Number: 89
Explanation and Analysis:

After five days of solitude, Dally arrives to the church where Ponyboy and Johnny are hiding out. Dally tells the boys that a massive war has broken out between the Socs and Greasers and that Cherry is acting as a spy, keeping the Greasers safe. Johnny feels guilty for putting Ponyboy in this situation, and tells Dally that he wants to turn himself in. Dally is frustrated that Johnny just didn't turn himself in five days ago when the incident happened. In this quote, Dally apologizes for being frustrated with Johnny. His anger is rooted in the fear that jail time will forever change the sensitive and sweet Johnny. 

This is the first time we see sensitivity from the tough Dally. He wants to make sure Johnny doesn't end up like him—he wants to protect Johnny's innocence as any parent or older brother would, but particularly one who has experienced the harsh loss of his own innocence. Similar to Darry's self-sacrifice for Ponyboy, Dally shows the same deep emotional tie to and protectiveness of Johnny. 


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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. 

"You would have saved those kids if you had been there," I said. "You'd have saved them the same as we did."
"Thanks, grease," he said, trying to grin. Then he stopped. "I didn't mean that. I meant, thanks, kid."
"My name's Ponyboy," I said. "Nice talking to you, Randy."
Related Characters: Ponyboy Curtis (speaker), Randy Adderson (speaker)
Page Number: 117
Explanation and Analysis:

Ponyboy has run into Randy, Marcia's boyfriend and a friend of Bob, the murdered Soc. Randy pulls Ponyboy aside and tells him that he would have never had the guts to save those children from the burning church. He also tells him that he wouldn't have ever believed a "Greaser" could do something like that. Ponyboy challenges him, saying that being a Greaser had nothing to do with it.

Randy tells Johnny he won't be coming to the Rumble between the Greasers and Socs that evening. He tells Ponyboy that Bob was so tough because he was never disciplined. He lived in a world of privilege where his parents took the blame for all of his actions. And, even if the Greasers won the rumble, they would still be poor and the Socs would still be rich. The Bobs of the world will always exist, and violence doesn't change anything. Randy turns to leave and Ponyboy then responds with this quote. 

Here, the humanity of both the Greasers and the Socs are revealed to Ponyboy. Once again, Ponyboy reinforces the idea that anyone can be a hero, and he is reminded of Cherry's perspective that things are truly "rough all over." Through these moments, Ponyboy and readers alike begin to see that empathy and understanding are the keys to resolving the conflict between the two groups. 

Chapter 10 Quotes
And even as the policemen's guns spit fire into the night I knew that was what Dally wanted...Dally Winston wanted to be dead and he always got what he wanted...Two friends of mine had died that night: one a hero, the other a hoodlum. But I remembered Dally pulling Johnny through the window of the burning church; Dally giving us his gun, although it could mean jail for him; Dally risking his life for us, trying to keep Johnny out of trouble. And now he was a dead juvenile delinquent and there wouldn't be any editorials in his favor. Dally didn't die a hero. He died violent and young and desperate, just like we all knew he'd die someday...But Johnny was right. He died gallant.
Related Characters: Ponyboy Curtis (speaker), Johnny Cade, Dallas Winston
Page Number: 154
Explanation and Analysis:

After returning with the news of Johnny's death, Ponyboy and his brothers set out to find Dally, who has run off. They meet Dally at a parking lot. He has just robbed a bank and the police are on his tail. He carries an unloaded gun and as the police get closer, he brandishes the gun and is shot by the police. Here, Ponyboy reflects on the look of satisfaction on Dally's face as he is shot down. He has always wanted to die, and now that Johnny is gone he has a reason to. 

Ponyboy then reflects on Dally's death. He will never be written up as a hero, but he died the way he wanted to, with a sense of bravery and for him, dignity. It was the last shred of honor he had. We also learn just how much Dally valued Johnny's life. Keeping him safe and out of trouble was the reason why Dally kept going. He failed at preserving Johnny's "gold"- his innocence. Without Johnny, Dally is simply a delinquent and has nothing to live for, except for the grandeur of his own death. In many ways, Dally has spent his life sacrificing himself for Johnny, and this moment is his grand finale. 

Chapter 12 Quotes
"We're all we have left. We ought to be able to stick together against everything. If we don't have each other, we don't have anything. If you don't have anything, you end up like Dallas...and I don't mean dead, either. I mean like he was before. And that's worse than dead. Please"—he wiped his eyes on his arm—"don't fight anymore."
Related Characters: Sodapop Curtis (speaker), Ponyboy Curtis, Darry Curtis, Dallas Winston
Page Number: 176
Explanation and Analysis:

Darry and Ponyboy have gotten into another argument and Sodapop can’t take it anymore. He runs off. Darry and Ponyboy then chase him down, and Soda tells them that he’s sick of being stuck in the middle of every argument. He understands both sides and feels like he's being torn apart by his two brothers. Darry has given up everything to make sure Ponyboy has the opportunities he never had, but he also can be incredibly critical and overprotective. Soda is left to manage the two of them and has reached a breaking point. 

Soda explains that they are all each other has left. He worries that they will end up like Dallas, tough and empty, with nothing to live for. They must live for each other. This is the only moment in The Outsiders where we see the bubbly, high-energy Sodapop break down. He is the link between Darry and Ponyboy, between the innocent and the father figure. He also makes it clear to Ponyboy how much Darry has sacrificed—a college education, jobs, a future—in order to protect him.