The Outsiders

Individual Identity 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.
Individual Identity Theme Icon

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.

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Individual Identity ThemeTracker

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

Below you will find the important quotes in The Outsiders related to the theme of Individual Identity.
Chapter 5 Quotes
Nature's first green is gold,
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.
Related Characters: Ponyboy Curtis, Johnny Cade
Related Symbols: Sunsets and Sunrises
Page Number: 77
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 7 Quotes
"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:

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Socs were just guys after all. Things were rough all over, but it was better that way. That way you could tell the other guy was human, too.
Related Characters: Ponyboy Curtis (speaker)
Page Number: 118
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 8 Quotes
"Hey," I said suddenly, "can you see the sunset real good from the West Side?"
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."
Related Characters: Ponyboy Curtis (speaker), Cherry Valance (speaker)
Related Symbols: Sunsets and Sunrises
Page Number: 129-130
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 9 Quotes
Soda fought for fun, Darry for pride, and Two-Bit for conformity. Why do I fight? I thought, and couldn't think of any real good reason. There isn't any real good reason for fighting except self-defense.
Related Characters: Ponyboy Curtis (speaker), Darry Curtis, Sodapop Curtis, Two-Bit Mathews
Page Number: 137
Explanation and Analysis:
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"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:
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"Stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold..." The pillow seemed to sink a little, and Johnny died.
Related Characters: Johnny Cade (speaker), Ponyboy Curtis
Page Number: 149
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 11 Quotes
I had never given Bob much thought—I hadn't had time to think. But that day I wondered about him. What was he like? ... I looked at Bob's picture and I could begin to see the person we had killed. A reckless, hot-tempered boy, cocky and scared stiff at the same time.
Related Characters: Ponyboy Curtis (speaker), Bob Sheldon
Page Number: 162
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 12 Quotes
"Ponyboy, listen, don't get tough. You're not like the rest of us and don't try to be."
Related Characters: Two-Bit Mathews (speaker), Ponyboy Curtis
Page Number: 171
Explanation and Analysis:

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"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:

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I've been thinking about it, and that poem, that guy that wrote it, he meant you're gold when you're a kid, like green. When you're a kid everything's new, dawn. It's just when you get used to everything that it's day. Like the way you dig sunsets, Pony. That's gold. Keep that way, it's a good way to be...And don't be so bugged over being a greaser. You still have a lot of time to make yourself what you want. There's still lots of good in the world. Tell Dally. I don't think he knows. Your buddy, Johnny.
Related Characters: Johnny Cade (speaker), Ponyboy Curtis, Dallas Winston
Related Symbols: Sunsets and Sunrises
Page Number: 178-179
Explanation and Analysis:

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Suddenly it wasn't only a personal thing to me. I could picture hundreds of boys living on the wrong sides of cities, boys with black eyes who jumped at their own shadows. Hundreds of boys who maybe watched sunsets and looked at the stars and ached for something better. I could see boys going down under street lights because they were mean and tough and hated the world, and it was too late to tell them there was still good in it...There should be some help, someone to tell them before it was too late. Someone should tell their side of the story, and maybe people would understand then and wouldn't be so quick to judge a boy by the amount of hair oil he wore.
Related Characters: Ponyboy Curtis (speaker)
Related Symbols: Sunsets and Sunrises, Greaser Hair
Page Number: 179
Explanation and Analysis:

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One week had taken all three of them. And I decided I could tell people, beginning with my English teacher. I wondered for a long time how to start that theme, how to start writing about something that was important to me. And I finally began like this: 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), Johnny Cade, Dallas Winston, Bob Sheldon
Page Number: 180
Explanation and Analysis:

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