Arjun Lahiri

The Outsiders/Hero's Journey Essay

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

- At the beginning of the year, my writing skills were not as strong as they are today. My grammar, vocabulary and capitalization were weak at the beginning. My writing today has stronger vocabulary and better punctuation and sentence structure.

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

- My writing strengths are a strong use of descriptive words  and correct punctuation.

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

- I would like to improve my topic sentences, my thesis statements, and my conclusion.

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

-  The book had a very strong message and I was glad to have the opportunity to express this strong message using my own thoughts and ideas.

My Essay Reflection

The Outsiders/Hero's Journey Essay

        When we think of heroes, we think of people with incredible powers who do amazing things that most of us would not be able to do. An example of such an invincible hero is Spiderman who uses his web powers to save people from evil persons who like to terrorize his community. Harry Potter, a young wizard and Percy Jackson, a demi-god with superhuman powers are also great examples of heroes who use their superpowers to perform incredible deeds. However, it is not necessary to have spectacular powers to be a hero. There are some heroes in the world who do not perform miracles.They are ordinary people who just stand up for something that they think is right. They follow their dreams and try to achieve their goals by staying focused, believing in their ideas and staying courageous. Being a hero does not always involve using invincible powers and saving people in spectacular ways. It can mean overcoming challenges and changing the way of life for yourself and others. In The Outsiders, Ponyboy Curtis is in a dystopian situation where there is a conflict going on between two gangs, the Greasers and the Socs. Ponyboy goes on a Hero’s Journey by traveling through the three phases of a monomyth - Separation from the Known, Initiation and Return to Everyday Life - and returns with a gift which he then shares with his community.

         Ponyboy experiences The Separation from the Known after his friend, Johnny kills a Soc named Bob to save Ponyboy’s life. This event occurs when Pony runs away from home one night because Darry slaps him. When Pony reaches the park, a group of Socs come up to him and they start to drown him in a fountain because they are mad at him for talking to Soc girls at the drive -in movie theater. Luckily, Johnny is there to save his life. Unfortunately, he ends up killing a Soc boy called Bob. They decide to leave town to escape from the police and prison because as poor Greasers, they have no hope of ever being believed that it was self-defense. “A panic was rising in me as I listened to Johnny’s quiet voice go on and on. “Johnny, what are we going to do? They put you in the electric chair for killing people”’(57). In the Hero’s Journey, The Separation from the Known is when the hero leaves his comfortable and familiar world and ventures into the unknown. The hero experiences a sudden change that forces him into action. In the Outsiders, Ponyboy experiences this separation after this sudden traumatic event of Johnny killing the Soc boy forces him to leave his town and his brothers. He moves from his known comfortable world into an unknown territory.

         Ponyboy experiences Initiation when he escapes into the countryside and hides with Johnny in an abandoned church. “I woke up in the afternoon. For a second I didn’t know where I was. You know how it is, when you wake up in a strange place and wonder where in the world you are, until memory comes rushing over you like a wave”(68). In the hero’s journey, the first part of the initiation is when the hero journeys into physical and or psychological unknown. In the Outsiders, Ponyboy experiences this stage of the hero’s journey when he finds himself alone in the church. He realizes that he is away from his brothers and therefore in a situation he has never been in before. Being the youngest in the family, he has always been looked after and protected by his older brothers. Now he has to look after himself and make all the decisions by himself. This is the unknown for him and he is extremely nervous and frightened.

           Ponyboy continues to experience the Initiation when Johnny and he get injured in a fire at the church while trying to save a group of children. Ponyboy recovers quickly, but Johnny is badly injured and lies dying in the hospital. “I don’t want to die now. It ain’t long’s not fair”(121). In the Hero’s Journey, the second part of the initiation is when the hero experiences a low point where he must do battle with his greatest fear. His fear must die to make way for courage and independence. Finally the hero experiences a dramatic change in the way he views life and learns to become a new person. In The Outsiders, Ponyboy experiences this stage when he is faced with the prospect of losing Johnny. The thought of losing his best friend at such a young age makes Ponyboy realize how mindless all the fighting and the killing are. He realizes that most of the boys do not have any good reason to fight. In fact, there is never any good reason for fighting except for self-defense.

           Ponyboy experiences The Return to Everyday Life when he realizes that he has to accept the fact that he is a Greaser and that he cannot run away from his world. Ponyboy brings a gift to the world after coming home from his journey. “‘Yessir,’ I said, ‘I’ll try. What’s the theme supposed to be on?’ ‘Anything you think is important enough to write about. And it isn’t a reference theme; I want you own ideas and your experiences’” (170). In the Hero’s Journey, the hero experiences The Return to Everyday Life when he comes back from his mission and learns a valuable lesson that he then wants to share with the world. In The Outsiders, Ponyboy experiences The Return to Everyday Life is when he is back home recovering but starting to fail his English class and his English teacher is worried about his grades. The English teacher makes him write an essay on what he thinks is important to him so he can pass him with a C grade. What Ponyboy writes about are his experience as a Greaser, being in a gang, and the hardships he has faced during his adventure, including Johnny’s death. By doing so, he tells the world the Greasers’ side of the story and shows that they are not all bad. He also aims to show the Greasers that the world is not a bad place although it has treated them unfairly, that there are many wonderful, positive things in this world, so they should not lose hope and die like Dally did.

            In conclusion, Ponyboy Curtis in The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton goes through three phases of the hero’s journey - Separation from the Unknown, Initiation and Return to Everyday Life. He experiences Separation from the Unknown when Johnny kills a Soc and he and Ponyboy have to leave town to escape the police. The first stage of Initiation begins when Ponyboy and Johnny start living in an abandoned church in the countryside and have to face life on their own. The second stage of the Initiation begins when he and Johnny get injured in a fire while trying to save some schoolchildren. As Johnny lies dying in the hospital, Ponyboy realizes that all this fighting between the Greasers and the Socs is pointless and he has to do something to stop it. In the last stage of his journey, The Return to Everyday Life, Ponyboy decides to write an essay for his English Teacher in which he tells his own life story. By doing this, he hopes to tell the Greasers’ side of the story and also to show the Greasers that there are lots of good and positive things in life and that they should not lose hope. Heroes do not have to have super powers or do magical things. A real hero is a person who brings about positive change in the world. In that sense anyone can be a hero, although it is not easy and involves many challenges. But a hero is a person who does not give up and is ready to face those challenges. Ponyboy does not want to fight the Socs, he wants both gangs to be friends, and his way of bringing about this change is through his writing. One example of a real life hero in this world would be Mahatma Gandhi who wanted the Indians to be treated equally and fairly and chose to bring about that change in a peaceful and non-violent way. Ponyboy is doing a similar act where he wants `the Greasers to be treated equally and the Socs and the Greasers to be friends.

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