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The Outsiders

S. E. Hinton

Chapters 7–8

Summary Chapters 7–8

On the way home, Ponyboy and Two-Bit see Cherry Valance in her Corvette. She says that the Socs have agreed to fight with no weapons. Ponyboy asks her to go see Johnny, but she says she cannot because Johnny killed Bob. She says that Bob had a sweet side and was only violent when drunk, as he was when he beat up Johnny. Ponyboy calls her a traitor, but he quickly forgives her. He asks her if she can see the sunset on the West Side, and when she says she can, he tells her to remember that he can see it on the East Side too.

Analysis: Chapters 7–8

Family becomes increasingly important in the second half of the novel—both the biological Curtis family and the makeshift greaser family. Events begin to threaten the Curtis’s cohesion, since a good chance exists that that state will take Ponyboy from his brothers and put him in a boys’ home. This threat is especially heartrending for the brothers because Ponyboy is finally learning to appreciate Darry. It becomes important to Ponyboy to stay with his brothers as a matter of greaser pride. If the Curtis brothers can stay together, they can prove that greasers have the capability to overcome great odds and be functional, even successful.

For boys such as Johnny, fellow greasers are far more caring and stable than biological parents, and provide a more trustworthy family. His preference for the greasers and disdain for his dysfunctional family become evident when he allows Ponyboy and Two-Bit to visit him in the hospital but will not see his own mother. He refuses her, not because he is callous or because he wants to hurt her, but rather because he does not consider her an important part of his life. She has failed as a mother, denying him the nurturing that every child needs, and Ponyboy and Two-Bit have provided Johnny with an alternative source of support.

Ironically, the closer Johnny comes to death, the more he participates in his own life and considers his individual desires. He has long been involved with the greasers and led his life according to their principles, including disliking the Socs. Like a member of any group, however, Johnny needs an identity that is not wholly confined by the group to which he belongs. Being close to death affords Johnny a new perspective on life, one that is different from that of other greasers. He realizes not only that violence is futile but also, more important, that it doesn’t have to make up his whole identity.

Ponyboy’s conversations with the two Socs, Randy and Cherry, in this section emphasize his new appreciation of interpersonal connections—all people are individuals, as Ponyboy reminds Randy, while he reminds Cherry that the sunset can be seen just as well from the West Side as from the East Side. This discussion of the sunset illustrates yet another similarity between the two sides: no matter where one lives, whether one is a greaser or a Soc, one can still appreciate beauty. These conversations also allow an earlier topic to resurface, which is the discussion of cycles of nature that Ponyboy introduces through the Robert Frost poem. In this section, Ponyboy realizes that natural cycles, specifically life and death, apply to members of all social groups. This emphasis on commonality and connection occurs just as the characters are preparing for the rumble, their moment of sharpest division.