1. The Outsiders takes place in Tulsa, Oklahoma, during the 1960s. What are the demographics of Tulsa during this time period? Why did Hinton choose this locale? There are no minorities in this story. Did Tulsa have a substantial minority population at that time, and, if so, what ethnic background were they? Why do you think that Hinton did not include any minorities in this story?
2. In 1961, West Side Story won the Academy Award for Best Picture. This movie is also about gangs. Hinton would have been 11 years old when the movie first came out, and she wrote The Outsiders five years later. Do you think that she was influenced by the movie? How? Are these two stories similar? Are they different?
3. Ponyboy likes to go to movies to escape the reality of his own life. If you were to choose a movie that best gives you the opportunity to escape your own life, what movie would you select and why?
4. The timeline of this story has several inconsistencies. For example, the brothers' parents passed away eight months prior to the beginning of this novel. Hinton states that Darry is 20 years old and has missed out on college because of his responsibility to his brothers. Eight months ago would have possibly made Darry 19, but he should have already started college by that time. Also, the text isn't clear about when the boys joined the greasers. Write a page theorizing when the brothers became greasers and why. If their parents were so wonderful, why did they need a gang?
5. Darry assumes guardianship over his brothers in this story. What does that really mean? They live on their own, so what expenses would the boys have to be responsible for? Write a budget, using today's prices, showing what living on your own would cost for you and your siblings (if you have any). Could you do it? What other expenses are never mentioned? A car? Anything else?
6. The lament that life isn't fair is a major theme in this story. Pick one topic that Ponyboy sincerely feels is unfair and write about the relationship it has with your own life. For example, the fact that Ponyboy's parents were killed in an automobile accident is unfair. Have you ever suffered a family loss that you consider unfair? Choose any topic from the book and write at least one page.
7. Pony and Johnny read from the book, Gone with the Wind, while they are hiding out, and Johnny asks for it while he is in the hospital. Upon his death, he gives the book to Pony. What is the significance of this book? Why did Hinton choose this novel and how are the story lines similar?
8. Dally and Cherry are the Romeo and Juliet of this story. Why are they drawn to each other, and if they had gotten together, would their ending have been as tragic as Romeo's and Juliet's in Shakespeare's play?
9. When Pony returns to school after Johnny's and Dally's death, he is unable to function at the level he did before. His grades drop, he's clumsy, and nothing is easy for him. Why does this change occur? Is it a permanent change? How do we know?