The Outsiders By S.E. Hinton Summary and Analysis Chapter 2

Summary

Ponyboy and Johnny meet up with Dally (Dallas) and go to the Nightly Double drive-in theatre. They sneak into the drive-in, although the admission is only 25 cents if you're without a car. They enjoy the challenge of sneaking in because Dally hates to do anything the legal way. Once inside, they sit in the chairs by the concession stand, where they meet up with two good-looking female Socs. Cherry (Sherri) Valance and Marcia have left their boyfriends here at the drive-in because the boy's want to drink and the two girls do not. The girls are the target of Dally's nasty and rude comments, but he buys them sodas to "cool them off." Cherry throws her soda into Dally's face and the situation is tense until Johnny steps in to defend her, which is surprising given that Johnny worships Dally and considers him his hero. Fortunately, Johnny is the gangs' pet, so Dally just stalks off without confrontation. Two-Bit joins Ponyboy and Johnny, and he and Marcia hit it off.

Cherry is impressed with Johnny's courage, but she senses something else in Johnny. She quizzes Ponyboy about Johnny. Cherry's accurate assessment that Johnny's "been hurt bad sometime" prompts Ponyboy to retell the story of Johnny's beating by the Socs. About four months ago, Johnny was out in a field hunting a football to practice a few kicks, and four Socs drove by in a blue Mustang. They stopped and jumped him, beating Johnny half to death. One of the Socs wore several rings and the rings badly cut Johnny. The beating wasn't what had changed Johnny, it was the fact that they had scared him. Johnny never walked alone anymore, and he vowed that he would kill the next person who jumped him.

The story of Johnny's beating visibly upsets Cherry. She tells Ponyboy that not all Socs are like that, just like all greasers are not like Dally. She tells him that Socs have their troubles, too, but Ponyboy cannot imagine what worries a Soc might have. The chapter concludes with the line, "I know better now."

Analysis

This chapter introduces the importance of perspective. The lament that life isn't fair runs throughout this chapter, but now a Soc also brings it forth. Cherry Valance represents the perfect life to Ponyboy. She is a good-looking cheerleader, but she states that the Socs have troubles, too. Her life appears perfect to an outsider looking in, but that apparently is not the case.

After listening to the story of Johnny's beating, Cherry does not feel a need to defend the Socs who attacked Johnny, but she feels the need to qualify the fact that not only the greasers have difficulties: "'We have troubles you've never even heard of. You want to know something?' She looked me straight in the eye. 'Things are rough all over.'" Ponyboy states that he believes her, but he later confides to the reader that he doubts her outlook. This viewpoint is a measure of his perspective that readers can watch grow and change as the novel continues.

The gang is defined again as family: "When you're a gang, you stick up for the members. If you don't stick up for them, stick together, make like brothers, it isn't a gang anymore." This extended family is a very important element of safety. Seemingly, none of the families represented by Ponyboy's gang have stuck together. Whether because of death (in Ponyboy's case), the departure of a parent or child (in Dally's case), divorce, or child abuse, the greasers are searching for a family atmosphere that supports them. Within the gang, the notion of sticking together, of one unified all, is one of the most important rules. Pony sincerely believes that it's the gang's responsibility to defend one another. The code of honor that protects Ponyboy's gang is held by all: "When you're a gang, you stick up for the members."

The gang rule that members must stick together is also part of the driving force of Ponyboy's family. The boys must stick together if they are going to make it on their own — that is, without adult supervision. Ponyboy continues to struggle with the expectations that he holds for his own family members.

Pony craves unconditional love and support from Darry; he also wants Darry to trust that he will do the right thing, not berate him for his lack of common sense. The fact that Soda is a high school dropout is very disturbing to Pony. He feels that Soda is not living up to his potential and is embarrassed by it: "I never have gotten over that. I could hardly stand it when he left school."

Cherry knows Sodapop, because he works at the gas station, and she asks why she hasn't seen him in school. Ponyboy is embarrassed to admit that Soda is a dropout. This admission "made me think of some poor dumb-looking hoodlum wandering the streets breaking out street lights — it didn't fit my happy-go-lucky brother at all."

The name Cherry Valance is great fun. The word cherry can be slang for both perfect and red. Cherry is a Soc and she is perfect in Ponyboy's eyes. The fact that "cherry" also means red highlights the author's use of color as a theme in the book. She associates warm colors with Socs and cool colors with greasers. Warmth usually is associated with inside and cool with outside. The colors represent the groups' positions in society: The greasers view the Socs as insiders and themselves as outsiders.

Hinton uses the color white twice in this chapter to describe fright. Initially, she uses the color to describe Johnny at the drive-in when Two-Bit surprises him by sneaking up behind him and impersonating a Soc. Hinton also describes Cherry as "white as a sheet" after listening to Ponyboy's version of Johnny's attack. The use of this color as an apt description for both groups continues the merging of colors. The world is not quite so black and white when the colors begin to cross lines.

The final sentence of the chapter tips the reader off that the narration technique is retrospective. Ponyboy is retelling this story and is, therefore, able to include foreshadowing, which not only teases readers, but allows them to witness his character's growth.

During Chapter 2, Pony's character is not able to see Cherry's point of view that the Socs have their own troubles. But the last sentence of the chapter, "I know better now," not only foreshadows upcoming events, but also shows Ponyboy's own personal growth. Later, he develops a better understanding of the Socs and changes his own perspective. With hindsight, in the retelling of this story, he is able to see the Socs in a different light: "I really couldn't see what Socs would have to sweat about — good grades, good cars, good girls, madras and Mustangs and Corvairs." This sentence was written in the past tense, "really couldn't see," with an implied correction of understanding. This notes a change in Ponyboy's perspective.

Foreshadowing is heavy within Johnny's story. This tale of injustice reveals the impact that the beating by the Socs four months ago had on Johnny's life. The physical wounds have healed but his terror is still obvious. The emotional scars that Johnny is left with from this beating are almost a roadmap to his destiny. Ponyboy says of Johnny, "He would kill the next person who jumped him. Nobody was ever going to beat him like that again." This statement foreshadows the later attack by the Socs. In the life of a greaser, it is inevitable that another fight will take place.

Glossary

the fuzz [Slang] a policeman or the police.

chessy cat [Slang] Cheshire cat, a proverbial grinning cat from Cheshire, England, especially one described in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

weed [Informal] a cigar or cigarette.

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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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