Before Cherry Valance enters the narrative, Ponyboy paints the conflict between the greasers and the Socs as irreconcilable. The introduction of Cherry, however, suggests that individual friendships can chip away at group hatreds. Cherry gets along perfectly well with some of the greasers. She likes Ponyboy and Johnny because they treat her politely. Dally’s rude antics do not amuse her. Her disenchantment with Dally’s behavior suggests that she talks to Ponyboy and Johnny not because she is slumming and their greaser identity fascinates her, but rather because she likes them as individuals. For a short while at least, she cares more about how each boy behaves than about his West Side or East Side address.
Cherry is not just a sweet, simple girl. She finds herself sexually attracted to Dally, who is crass and unrefined but also sexy and charismatic. Despite all her attraction to the greasers, moreover, she is not completely free of group prejudice. She tells Ponyboy she probably will not say hello to him at school, acknowledging that she respects social divisions. Although Cherry plays a relatively small role in the novel, the ambiguity of her sympathies gives us something to which we can relate. She mirrors our own perspective as someone close to the action who is nevertheless an outsider and who does not always fully understand other characters’ emotions and motivations.
More characters from The Outsiders
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