The Outsiders By S.E. Hinton Summary and Analysis Chapter 12

Summary

The hearing with the judge wasn't what Ponyboy had expected. Everyone except Pony was able to tell the judge what had happened that night; Pony is only questioned about his home life. The judge listens to everyone, acquits Pony, and closes the case. But things are not back to normal at home. Pony is having a hard time at school, and he is forgetful and clumsy. Fighting resumes with Darry as he continually has to berate Pony about getting his homework done. Nothing really matters to Pony any more, and getting through each day is a struggle for him.

At lunch one afternoon, Pony, Two-Bit, and Steve walk over to the gas station. Two-Bit and Steve go inside and a carload of Socs drive up and three get out. Pony feels nothing; he isn't scared or mad. The Socs accuse him of being the one that killed Bob Sheldon, and start coming toward him. Pony calmly breaks a bottle and threatens to "split" them if they don't get back into their car: "I've had about all I can take from you guys." The Socs retreat, and Pony picks up the broken glass.

Pony's English teacher assigns a semester theme for him to write, and if he does well on it, he will give him a C for the class even though his work has earned him a failing grade. The topic is to be Pony's choice and the theme is proving to be an overwhelming task for him to accomplish. Darry's constant nagging only results in arguments. When Darry and Pony try to bring Soda into the fight and ask him to choose sides, he runs out of the house.

Pony and Darry chase after him and finally catch him down at the park. Soda explains that he just can't stand it anymore — always being in the middle, always being torn from one side to the other. Neither Darry nor Pony had ever thought about how their fighting was impacting Soda. Soda reminds them that they should be sticking together, not tearing each other apart. All agree that they need to pull together, not apart.

At home that night, Pony cannot make himself work on his theme. He picks up Gone with the Wind and a note from Johnny falls out. Johnny writes that he had figured out what the poem Nothing Gold Can Stay really meant. The meaning is that one should not take things for granted, that everyone needs to continue to look at the world as if it is brand new in order to appreciate it. He also writes that Pony still has plenty of time to make something of himself. There is plenty of good in the world, and, most importantly, Pony should tell Dally these ideas as well. Dally really needs to hear them.

It is too late to tell Dally. Suddenly it dawns on Pony that a lot of Dallys live in the world. Someone should tell their side of the story, from their perspective, and then maybe other people wouldn't be so quick to judge. Pony decides that this is his theme topic. But how to start? Pony starts with the opening lines of Chapter 1.

Analysis

The lack of control that Ponyboy feels in his everyday life leads to his denial and depression that surfaces in these final two chapters. At the time of the hearing, Ponyboy thinks that he killed the Soc, not Johnny. But the text assures readers that Ponyboy eventually recovers his memory of the true events of the killing: ". . . the doctor was there and he had a long talk with the judge before the hearing. I didn't know what he had do with it then, but I do now." However, even after he recovers from his denial about the events and knows that Johnny killed Bob, Ponyboy remains emotionally shut down and depressed.

Ponyboy loses interest in life. The events that lead up to this breakdown are overpowering; the death of both Johnny and Dally in one day was too much. Plus, the earlier deaths of his parents and the instability of his daily life contributed to what he subconsciously perceives as his best route to his survival: shutting down emotionally, merely walking through life without actively participating in it. Unfortunately, he perceives distancing himself from others as the best way to handle this whole affair.

The author hints about how the other gang members are dealing with the violent events. For example, Two-Bit gripes about losing his prize switchblade, only because that loss is easier to take than the loss of another friend. However, at this point, Ponyboy is not able to see beyond himself. The Ponyboy the readers see at the gas station picking up the broken glass is not a hopeless gang member. Even in his emotional shutdown, Pony subconsciously knows that the right thing to do is to pick up the broken pieces of glass, just as his subconscious knows that he will eventually have to pick up the broken pieces of his life and continue on.

Dally had been buddies with his two brothers as well, but as Darry said to Pony, "you just don't stop living because you lose someone." Darry's message of "you don't quit" and life goes on is universal, but it can be very hard to accept. In order to meet his own potential, Ponyboy must overcome his depression, take an active role in his life, and pursue his goals. Darry tells Pony, "You're not going to drop out. Listen, with your brains and grades you could get a scholarship, and we could put you through college." In other words, Ponyboy must stop denying the truth.

The recurring theme of the power of three dominates this chapter. And now this theme intersects with other themes. For example, family love — based on the three brothers — is the power that eventually turns Pony's life around. The stress of being the middle child has been overwhelming for Soda. He has been pulled in two directions, supporting Darry and listening to Pony. He announces that he just can't take the strain of taking sides anymore. His ability to see and understand both Darry's and Pony's points of view is what makes his position as mediator painful. He is not an outsider — he is right in the middle of everything. He should not have to choose sides, because they should choose to stick together — the three of them: "We're all we've got left. We ought to be able to stick together against everything."

This appeal for a truce between Darry and Pony makes sense to the brothers: "Sodapop would always be the middleman, but that didn't mean he had to keep getting pulled apart. Instead of Darry and me pulling apart, he'd be pulling us together."

Johnny's last request for Pony to tell Dally about his interpretation of the poem Nothing Gold Can Stay motivates Pony to write this book for all of the Dallys of the world. His reasoning is that maybe three people would be alive if someone had told their sides of the story: "One week had taken all three of them." Someone needed to give perspective to their three lives, three lives that were very different but remarkably the same: a Soc who was looking for some limits and someone to tell him no, a juvenile delinquent who believed he had nothing else but limits on his life, and a boy who had accepted defeat too early in life.

The novel concludes with its own opening line, "When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house . . ." and that is what happens to Ponyboy in this novel. A movie house is a dark place where life is reflected to passive observers. Ponyboy steps out of this place and into the real world to be an active participant and pursue his potential. The writing of this essay has been a catharsis for him.

The story has also been a roadmap for the readers to trace Ponyboy's growth. Pony was trapped in the darkness of his life; sinking into depression, denial, and, as Darry describes it, a "vacuum." The darkness symbolized his despair, his lack of understanding, and his feeling of being lost. This essay has forced him out of the darkness and into the bright light. He has taken back control of his life and has realized that he is responsible for taking that step and every one that follows it. Pony is no longer watching his life go by, as an outsider watches a movie on the big screen, but he is taking an active role. His development does not just happen, like a light switch being turned on. Pony takes it one day at a time as he relives this week for the reader.

Only once does he break form and address his audience directly, and that is out of anger and frustration. He is struggling with the unfairness in life and undoubtedly, like most people, he will continue to do so. Remaining in the dark may have been easier for Ponyboy — not caring, only existing, until someone or something pushed him over the edge. He could have been just like Dally, Johnny, and Bob — two greasers and one Soc, all three the same and all three dead. But Ponyboy is the one who finds the strength to step into the light from the darkness.

Glossary

Perry Mason a television drama from the l960s that featured a lawyer by the same name.

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A sub-theme in this novel is the power of three. Which of the following is not represented in The Outsiders?




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