In his final essay for English class, Ponyboy writes about his own life because he wants to share his story of struggle and resilience. The first sentence of his essay concludes The Outsiders, and these words are the same words in the first sentence of the novel. The Outsiders has a circular structure, as it ends with the same words as it begins, with Ponyboy telling the story of being jumped by Socs after leaving a movie. This structure contributes to The Outsiders feeling like a self-contained universe, one in which the greasers and Socs will live over and over, struggling with their place in society.

One of the main themes of the novel is this struggle with the essential meaninglessness of life. The greasers are treated poorly by others, and only find solace with each other. However, by writing the story of Dally, Johnny, and the rest of the gang, Ponyboy aims to prove that his friends are worth remembering. Additionally, Ponyboy wants to write his story to provide solace for similar boys in other cities, those who “[jump] at their own shadows” and believe they will always remain outcasts.