The Outsiders

by: S. E. Hinton

Cherry Valance

“It’s not my idea of a good time to sit in a drive-in and watch people get drunk.”

Cherry reveals why she and Marcia are without a car at the movie: They walked out on their boyfriends, who brought booze to the movies. Cherry takes a hard stance on alcohol, on which she will later blame her boyfriend Bob’s violent behavior. Even within her own social class, Cherry is an outsider.

“Things are rough all over.”

When Cherry and Ponyboy first meet, she naively observes that life is hard for everyone in an attempt to find common ground between herself, a Soc, and Ponyboy, a greaser. Later, when Ponyboy explains just how much violence and injustice the Socs inflict on the greasers, she comes to see her observation as simplistic. Cherry’s perspectives, just like Ponyboy’s, are challenged and deepened by their meeting.

“Ponyboy… I mean… if I see you in the hall at school or something and don’t say hi, well it’s not personal or anything, but…”

Cherry explains to Ponyboy the terms of their friendship. Although she makes attempts to bond with Ponyboy, she can’t or won’t entirely embrace him into her life. She remains committed to circumscribing herself within the confines of her social class and obeying the “rules” by not talking to Ponyboy at school. Cherry feels caught between being a Soc and being an individual.

“I could fall in love with Dallas Winston,” she said. “I hope I never see him again or I will.”

Cherry’s self-awareness shows her character’s complexity. Even though she regards drinking alcohol as disgusting, and obeys the rules of being a Soc, she finds herself drawn to crude, violent guys like Dallas Winston. Cherry recognizes her weakness for the sex appeal of lawless men, even though she is a classy girl who drives a Corvette.

“I could just tell. I bet you watch sunsets, too.” She was quiet for a minute while I nodded. “I used to watch them, too, before I got so busy…”

During their talk on their walk from the drive-in, Cherry picks up on Ponyboy’s thoughtful nature. She correctly deduces he reads books, and she guesses he also watches sunsets, meaning he sees beyond the stress of daily life. Here, she identifies with Ponyboy and, at the same time, reveals she misses a more innocent time in her life. Cherry and Ponyboy share a level of sensitivity to the world around them that forges a bond and broadens their understanding of themselves, their situations, and each other.