The Outsiders/Hero's Journey
My Essay Reflection
Over the course of the year, I think my writing has improved a lot. When I first started seventh grade, writing, for me, was a chore. I wasn't very good at description or support and my grammar was pretty crummy. Now, I think I've improved in all of these areas, and while I'm still not the best writer, I've gotten a lot better. I still need to improve my support and make my writing more interesting and more eloquent, especially because I got a lousy score on my ERB. My favorite part about reading The Outsiders was that although Pony is a "hero" and goes on this hard, tedious Hero's Journey, he is still just a kid, around my age, and that makes him really relatable.
The Outsiders/Hero's Journey Essay
‘It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Superman!’ Many people think of superheroes when heroes are mentioned. These superheroes, like the famous Superman, Spiderman, and Wonder woman, possess superhuman strength or amazing abilities that can defeat the evil of the world. However, heroes do not always wear capes or bear superpowers. Heroes can be ordinary people. People like Ponyboy Curtis who go on a Hero’s Journey and do not return with some supernatural ability, but as a regular person with a gift. In the realistic fiction novel The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, the main character Ponyboy Curtis goes on a Hero’s Journey because he travels through the three required phases of a monomyth.
Ponyboy experiences The Separation from the Known when Johnny kills Bob and Johnny and Ponyboy run away. With no idea of what to do, Johnny and Pony go to Dallas for help. They find him at Buck Merril’s ‘place’, and Dally aids them in their escape. Pony narrates, “Dally walked us to the door, turning off the porch light before we stepped out. ‘Git goin’!’ He messed up Johnny’s hair. ‘Take care, kid,’ he said softly. ‘Sure, Dally, thanks.’ And we ran into the darkness” (62). In the Hero’s Journey, The Separation from the Known is when the hero leaves his familiar world and ventures into the darkness of the unknown. In The Outsiders, Ponyboy experiences the Separation from the Known when Johnny kills Bob and he (Johnny) and Ponyboy run away. The quote reinforces the idea of Ponyboy’s Separation from the Known because Pony and Johnny assume that they will be convicted as criminals. Ponyboy is separated from his familiar world because although he is a greaser, he has never considered himself as a hood or a criminal before. By running away, they are physically leaving their known world in the city and escaping to the countryside. As the quote states, “...And we ran into the darkness”, Ponyboy and Johnny actually run into the darkness of the unknown, leaving their familiar worlds, which is the exact definition of this phase. Also, the two boys go to Dally for assistance. Dallas gives them a gun, money, directions, and advice: he aids them on their journey. When the police question him about the whereabouts of Ponyboy and Johnny, he protects the boys by giving the police fake information. Both instances show that Dally acts as a threshold guardian, a helper who provides assistance and wisdom, which is another element of the Separation from the Known.
Ponyboy experiences The Initiation when he enters the burning church to save the children inside. As a result of killing Bob, Pony and Johnny run away to the country and hide in an abandoned church. Dally comes a week later and he takes them out to eat. They return to find the church on fire and hear muffled noises from inside. Johnny and Ponyboy go in to save the kids and Ponyboy recounts, “...we started stumbling through the church. I should be scared, I thought, with an odd detached feeling, but I’m not. The cinders and embers began falling on us, stinging and smarting like ants” (92). In the Hero’s Journey, the first part of The Initiation is when the hero journeys into a physical and or psychological unknown. In The Outsiders, The Initiation occurs when Ponyboy goes inside the burning church. This is a psychological challenge because Pony must make a choice. He must decide between being a hero or being a “Dally”. He can choose to be a hero and make the choice to be selfless and put others before himself, but that can also require sacrifice. Or, he can choose to be a “Dally” and be selfish, standing aside and putting himself first. For Ponyboy, this is a test of right and wrong, whether or not a greaser can be a hero. Ponyboy decides to be a hero and goes into the blazing church, possibly sacrificing his own life to save the kids. This is also a physical challenge. Entering a church is easy, it is not a challenge. However, entering a burning, collapsing church to save the lives of children trapped inside is no simple feat. Pony faces the challenge of risking his life, facing toxic smoke, falling timber, burning embers, and flame to save the children,the very definition of this phase.
Ponyboy continues to experience The Initiation when Johnny is in critical condition and may die. After saving the kids from the fire, Johnny and Dally are hospitalized and and Johnny is severely injured. Pony gets reunited with his brothers, and they all go to visit Johnny. Darry, Soda, and Pony are waiting in the hospital and finally Darry convinces the doctor to tell them about Johnny, “His back had been broken when that piece of timber fell on him. He was in severe shock and suffering from third-degree burns… since his back was broken he couldn't even feel the burns below his waist… Even if he lived he'd be crippled for the rest of his life” (102). Later, Pony, Johnny, and Dally are featured as heroes on the front page of a newspaper. Pony and Two-Bit go to visit Johnny and they talk about his condition. Ponyboy narrates, “He lay breathing heavily for a moment. ‘I'm pretty bad off, ain't I, Pony?’ ‘You'll be okay,’ I said with fake cheerfulness. ‘You gotta be. We couldn't get along without you.’ The truth of that last statement hit me. We couldn't get along without him. We needed Johnny as much as he needed the gang. And for the same reason.” (121). In the Hero’s Journey, the second part of The Initiation is when the hero experiences a low point where he must battle his greatest internal or external fear. In The Outsiders, this stage occurs when Johnny is in a bad condition. This represents an internal low point for Pony. Due to his parents’ death, Ponyboy’s greatest fear is losing the people he loves. After his parents died, not only did he lose his parents, he also “lost” his brother (Dally), and their relationship crumbled. Pony’s biggest fear is losing his “family” (his brothers and the “gang”), and with Johnny close to death, that is exactly what is happening. Johnny is like a brother to Pony, and if Johnny dies, he have to face losing someone he loves all over again. Pony is not only afraid of Johnny dying, but also of the gang falling apart. Johnny is the “gang’s” pet and the glue that sticks them all together. If Johnny is gone, the whole gang may fall apart, and even if they do not, life will never be the same.
Ponyboy experiences The Return to Everyday Life when he returns and brings back his gift of wisdom. After a big “rumble” between the greasers and the Socs, Johnny dies, leaving Pony his copy of Gone with the Wind. Inside, Pony finds a note from Johnny, telling him to “stay gold” and tell Dally that the world still has lots of good in it. After reading it, Ponyboy reflects, “Suddenly it wasn't only a personal thing to me. I could picture hundreds and hundreds of boys living on the wrong sides of cities… I could see boys going down under street lights because they were mean and tough and hated the world, and it was too late to tell them that there was still good in it, and they wouldn't believe you if you did. It was too vast a problem to be just a personal thing. There should be some help, someone should tell them before it was too late. Someone should tell their side of the story, and maybe people would understand then and wouldn't be so quick to judge a boy by the amount of hair oil he wore” (179). In the Hero’s Journey, The Return to Everyday Life is when the hero must return to his everyday life, typically with a “gift” to share with others or the world. In The Outsiders, Pony returns with a gift when he decides to write his theme. This is a gift because Ponyboy is giving his gift of wisdom. Returning with a gift to everyday life is the definition of this phase, and that is exactly what happens to Pony. Even though prior to writing his theme, Pony continues to live his everyday life, he still does not accept and fully understand the transformations he has undergone. His gift is all the experiences and the wisdom he has gained throughout the course of his journey. His gift is telling his story to all the Dallys and Ponyboys and Johnnys and people of the world that the world still has good, that everybody has problems, that there is a better future out there. When he decides to give this gift in the form of his theme, he is finally accepting all that has happened to him during his Hero’s Journey and understanding what he has learned.
In conclusion, Ponyboy Curtis proceeds on a Hero’s Journey because he experiences the three stages of a monomyth. Ponyboy experiences The Separation from the Known, the first phase, when he and Johnny run away. He faces The Initiation when he enters the burning church and when he may lose Johnny. Finally, he Returns to Everyday Life when he returns with his gift of knowledge in the form of a theme. Though it is possible for someone to build a robotic suit or create invisible devices or be inhumanly strong, it is extremely rare. However, regular people can go on a Hero’s Journey too. He or she must just be ready to face the challenges to return with a gift.