Zage Strassberg - Phillips

The Outsiders/Hero's Journey Essay

My Essay Reflection

1.) How would you describe your writing at the beginning of the year and how would you describe it now?

    In the beginning of the year, my writing was clunky and long. I felt like I was beating around the bush instead of hitting my point. During the year, I progressed. Now, I straightforward, direct with my intention, and have a clear and concise "plot".

2.) What do you consider your writing strengths? Explain.

     When writing, I have organized structure. I use a good format, including, but not limited to, an introductory paragraph, body paragraphs, and a concluding paragraph. I have improved word choice, which makes my writing come alive and become vivid within the mind of the reader.

3.) What writing skills do you need and/or want to continue to develop next year? Explain.

     I must work on getting more to the point with less sentences. I also believe I need to work on punctuation in my sentences, and especially brevity. I hope to use less adjectives and adverbs in favor of more direct and descriptive nouns and verbs.  

4.) What did you like best about reading this novel and/or doing this assignment?

     The novel, The Outsiders, was interesting and intriguing. In addition, it was a good example of the Hero's Journey. The assignment, The Outsiders/Hero's Journey essay, helped improve my writing skills. I also felt that we, the class, went deeper into the book than I would have myself. The Outsiders helped me experience and understand the Hero's Journey.

The Outsiders/Hero's Journey Essay

The Outsiders/Hero’s Journey                                                             Zage Strassberg - Phillips

5/5/14                                                                                                                                        Period 6

     “POW!” Our hero flies through the air as fast as a bullet. “SWOOSH!” Our hero runs as fast as a cheetah. “BOOM!” Our hero fights as strong as a lion. But all heroes are not superheroes, they do not all have to be extraordinary people doing extraordinary things. Sometimes it is ordinary people doing extraordinary things that can be the most heroic. A young man can travel on the Hero’s Journey, not to gain incredible power nor to defeat an evil nemesis, but rather to change himself for the better. In the realistic fiction novel The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton the main character Ponyboy Curtis is just such a hero. He completes the Hero’s Journey as he travels through all the three required phases of this monomyth.

     Ponyboy experiences The Separation from the Known when Johnny and Ponyboy kill a Soc and might be charged for murder. As Ponyboy is being drowned in the fountain, Johnny quickly plunders his six inch switchblade into the Soc Bob, who is drowning Pony. Bob dies instantaneously. Johnny falls to the ground with the knife in his hand as the other Socs scatter. Still stunned by what he had done, Johnny states, “‘Yeah’{...} 'I had to. They were drowning you, Pony. They might have killed you. And they had a blade… They were gonna beat me up…’” (57). In the Hero’s Journey, The Separation from the Known is when the hero experiences a dramatic change which forces him into action, thus making him leave his comfortable and familiar world. The hero must venture into the unknown, or darkness. There he feels discontent in his current situation and learns that he is lacking something. The hero seeks justice or honor. During his adventure, the hero also encounters helpers who assist the hero throughout, offering wisdom. When Ponyboy is getting drowned, it is a sudden dramatic change between life and death which forces Johnny into action. He kills the Soc Bob. This forces them to seek aid from Dally, the helper/threshold guardian, who offers assistance by giving them food, clothing, and shelter. In addition, Dally offers wisdom by providing them the knowledge of when and where a train will be located, so that they may escape to a safe haven where Johnny and Ponyboy will not be caught. After they reach their destination - the old abandoned church upon Jay Mountain - it is an unknown that they have not ventured into before, the countryside. As they settle into this temporary new home, Ponyboy feels unease at having left his brothers and his gang. Ponyboy seeks justice and honor. He pursues justice by wanting to defeat the Socs for always beating up the Greasers. He pursues honor in his gang, by standing up for them, and also by being tough, which is much harder for him to muster. Ponyboy has begun the adventure of the Hero’s Journey.

     Ponyboy experiences The Initiation when he is facing difficult challenges after he runs away. The most dramatic change for Ponyboy is when he discovers that the old abandoned church is on fire. After Dally finds Ponyboy and Johnny, they are all very hungry and agree to go eat at a local diner. When they return, they see smoke rising from the church, Dally narrates, “‘Oh glory!’ he whispered. The church was on fire!”(90). In The Outsiders, when the church is on fire, it seems at first glance to be a physical challenge. However, it is also a psychological challenge. Ponyboy could have chosen the path of selfishness, like Dally, and have allowed the children to burn to death inside the church. Even though Ponyboy did not want to venture inside the burning church, a physical challenge, he knew this nevertheless was the right action to take. Ponyboy decides to face the test, going against his instincts and a human’s selfish needs, and reluctantly entered the burning church. He saved the lives of many helpless children. Throughout this event, the hero changed, not just on the outside but on the inside too, a psychological change. This difficult challenge, entering a burning building and going against his human instincts for self preservation, proves that Ponyboy is heroic. However, there is a sacrifice for being heroic, the death of Johnny. Ponyboy is a hero.

     Ponyboy continues to experience The Initiation when he achieves his goal of being tough and caring. Ponyboy is back home now, safe and sound, he goes with Steve and Two-Bit to the the neighborhood’s little grocery store. Then a Soc car rolls up near the lot and out step three teens. Ponyboy is ready to fight as he busts the end of his bottle on the fence and stands in defense. The Socs are shocked by Ponyboy’s ferocity, so they quickly drive off. “‘You really would have used that bottle, wouldn’t you?’ Two-Bit had been watching from the store doorway. ‘Steve and me were backing you, but I guess we didn’t need to. You’d really cut them up, huh?’{...}’What in the world are you doing?’ Two-Bit’s voice broke into my thoughts. I looked up at him. ‘Picking up glass.’ He stared at me for a second, then grinned” (171-172). In The Hero’s Journey, the second part of The Initiation is when the hero experiences a traumatic change in his life that makes him view his life in a different way, and makes him more appreciative and grateful for what he has. This is the Transformation and the Revelation. In The Outsiders, this quote shows that Ponyboy is tough and caring. When the Socs are ready to attack Ponyboy (a traumatic change), he acts cool and nonchalant, but busts the end of his bottle because he is tired of being run over by the Socs, the Transformation (being tough). After the Socs are scared off, Ponyboy bends over to pick up the fallen glass to make sure no one, or thing, gets damaged or hurt. This makes Ponyboy view life in a different way, the Revelation (being caring). In the beginning of the story Pony would have left the broken glass not caring what happened to it, however now he has become more aware and caring of others. Ponyboy goes from being a selfish and conceited boy to a selfless and humble young man. Ponyboy puts himself in others shoes and feels empathy for them. Ponyboy achieves his goal of being tough and caring. He has completed the Transformation and the Revelation.

     Ponyboy experiences The Returns to Everyday Life when he recovers from the illness, struggles to find himself in the same world, and begins the process of writing his theme. Ponyboy sits in his empty room thinking about how to start his theme, “It was too vast a problem to just be a personal thing. There should be some help, someone should tell them before was too late. Someone should tell their side of the story, and maybe people would understand, then wouldn't be so quick to judge a boy by the amount of hair oil he wore. It was important to me” (179). In The Hero’s Journey, The Return to Everyday Life is when the hero returns from his struggle with a “gift”. So now, with the adventure over, he can focus on “giving back”. In The Outsiders, Ponyboy realizes how much others face difficulties, and begins to understand the problems of others. He realizes how much worse off others are than himself, he feels empathy for them, and he shows gratitude for what he has in his own life. Ponyboy decides to share their side of the story by writing his theme. Ponyboy brings back a “gift”, writing his theme and sharing his wisdom, with the world. His wisdom is that there is no reason for hating and fighting with people because they are different, it is important to remember to see the beauty in the world, to stay gold, and to know that we are all just people - just people. Ponyboy has completed The Hero’s Journey.

     In conclusion, Ponyboy Curtis, the main character in The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, travels on a Hero’s Journey. He treks through the three mandatory phases and eight steps of a monomyth. Therefore, Ponyboy Curtis has completed the full circle of Hero’s Journey. When Johnny and him kill a Soc, he discovers the church is on fire, he achieves his goal of being tough and caring, and returns to everyday life struggling to find himself in the same world. Even though Ponyboy cannot run as fast as the wind or lift giant boulders, he is still a hero. He completes the Hero’s Journey, changing in the end, and returning with a “gift” to share with the world. To share his point of view, and help others change, Ponyboy’s gift is writing the book The Outsiders.

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