Both the Socs and the greasers sacrifice their individuality to the styles and sentiments of their groups. Greasers, for example, wear their hair long and oiled, and share a common hostility toward the Socs.
At the start of the novel, Ponyboy is a dedicated greaser even though he knows that certain aspects of his personality make him different from the rest of the gang. The gang provides him with too great of a sense of safety and strength to even consider life outside of it. But the events surrounding Bob's death cause Ponyboy to think more deeply about who he wants to be, and his conversations with Johnny, Cherry, and Randy lead him to reflect on the path his life is taking. He begins to question the reasons for conflict between Socs and greasers, and he thinks hard about the decision to participate in the rumble. Ponyboy's willingness to enter friendships with Socs signals the development of a distinct personal identity, one that includes association with the greasers but excludes total devotion to the greaser way of life. Darry encourages Ponyboy to pursue a life beyond gang membership, and the deaths of Johnny and Dally inspire the expression of his individual point of view in the English essay he writes. By the end of the novel, Ponyboy has committed himself to a life that will, at least in part, encourage other boys to find their own paths and voices, outside of the gang identity.
Individual Identity ThemeTracker
Individual Identity Quotes in The Outsiders
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
"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."
She blinked, startled, then smiled. "Real good."
"You can see it good from the East Side, too," I said quietly.
"Thanks, Ponyboy." She smiled through her tears. "You dig okay."
Johnny didn't even try to grin at him. "Useless...fighting's no good..."