The Outsiders / Hero's Journey
My Essay Reflection
Eleven years ago I couldn't write anything legible. Eight years ago, I had no idea what the term "expository essay" means. Five years ago I was sitting in a tiny chair at a tiny desk writing about imaginary adventures. Yet just yesterday I finished analyzing The Outsiders as a monomyth. It's amazing how much I've learned over the years. This year in particular I've learned a lot about analyzing novels, poems, and even nursery rhymes. At the beginning of this year we took the ERB and were told to write an essay describing what you would choose to bring on a expedition to the rainforest. I've always loved creative writing, so I used that as my strength as I wrote, and I tried to work around the "essay" requirement. If I rewrote that ERB today, I would have been able to better follow the prompt and write a strong essay. I think this is the biggest change in my writing over the course of this year. I've also learned smaller things, like how to properly format a quotation, and how to use Pathos, Ethos and Logos. This essay about The Outsiders as a monomyth showcases a lot of what I've learned this year.
The Outsiders / Hero's Journey
Hero. When people hear that word, most of the time superheroes come to mind. Heroes like Spiderman, swinging from web to web, or Superman flying in thin air and using his super strength to save people. Recent movies and comics cause Batman, Spiderman and Superman to pop into everyone’s minds. A person that can fly, or someone who has super strength. This is a typical person’s vision of a hero. However, there is a more common, everyday hero. A person that goes on a Hero’s Journey and returns to their lives with a gift. This kind of hero could be anyone. Ponyboy Curtis can be a hero. 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 in a struggle with the Socs, and they got to Dally, their threshold guardian, for help. After Dally gives them warm clothes, money, a gun and advice, he leads them to the threshold, they exchange goodbyes, and Pony narrates,
“Dally walked us back 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 the comfortable world he is used to and ventures into the unknown. The invitation to leave his known world is called The Call to Adventure. The Call to Adventure is usually triggered by a sudden, traumatic event. When he leaves his world, he travels into the Threshold of Adventure, which usually has Helpers to guide the hero. In The Outsiders, it all begins when Pony stays out late. He comes home well into the night and Darry, who is his older brother as well as caretaker, is angry. Darry slaps Ponyboy, causing him to get scared. Darry hitting Pony is a sudden, traumatic event, (which is a sign of the Call to Adventure), because Pony has never been hit by his brother before. Pony decides to run away, and he takes his good friend Johnny with him. The two of them are in park when the Socs arrive, and a fight breaks out. A Soc starts to drown Pony, but Johnny kills the head Soc, Bob, before Pony dies. This is another horrific event resulting in the Call to Adventure. Pony and Johnny know they are in trouble, so they go to their friend Dally for help. Dally gives them clothing, money, a gun and good advice. Dally is acting as the Threshold Guardian, because he is being a helper and assisting Ponyboy and Johnny through the Threshold. In the quote previously stated, it mentions Dally leading the boys to the door. This is a very literal use of the Threshold. The boys run into the darkness, which is the Unknown. Dally wishes them well, and the boys step through the door and into the darkness. This is clear evidence of the boys crossing the Threshold of Adventure and going into the unknown. Therefore, Ponyboy has gone through the Separation from the Known.
Ponyboy experiences The Initiation when he takes Dally’s advice and flees to Jay Mountain with Johnny. After getting to Jay Mountain, Pony is confused and homesick as he ventures into the spooky church, and he narrates, “So we’d have to be hermits for the rest of our lives, and never see anyone but Dally. Maybe I’d never see Darry or Sodapop again. Or even Two-Bit or Steve. I was in the country, but I knew I wasn’t going to like it as much as I thought I would. There are things much worse than being a greaser”(65). In the Hero’s Journey, the first part of The Initiation is when the hero experiences physical or psychological changes. In The Outsiders, one of Ponyboy’s main challenges is at the almost haunted church on Jay Mountain. Everything has been happening so quickly and begins to break down and worry about being in hiding all his life. This is a big change for him because he has never been a criminal and fugitive before. This change is forced upon him, which makes him uncomfortable. He misses his brothers and the gang, and he reflects on his situation in a negative way. This is both a mental and physical change because Pony is starting to break down emotionally and he is physically in a different place that he is not used to. This is another change because Ponyboy has spent his entire life in the city, and now he is facing the country. These changes show that Ponyboy has gone through the first part of The Initiation by facing challenges.
Ponyboy continues to experience The Initiation when he goes through the Revelation and wakes up to reality, making important realizations about his brothers. After returning from Jay Mountain, Pony gets a concussion from fighting in a rumble with the Socs. Shortly after he gets this injury, Johnny and Dally both die in the same night. After Pony witnesses Dally’s death, Ponyboy is suddenly overwhelmed and he faints. Pony goes delirious for a while, and when he wakes up, he understands more about his life. Ponyboy narrates, “When I woke up next, it was daylight and I was hot under all the blankets on me. I was thirsty and hungry, but my stomach was so uneasy I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold anything down. Darry had pulled the armchair into the bedroom and was asleep in it”(156). In the Hero’s Journey, the second part of The Initiation is when the hero goes through the following steps: The Abyss, The Transformation, The Revelation and The Atonement. During The Revelation, the hero overcomes a dramatic event that has happened to him and learns to be “one” with himself. In The Outsiders, Ponyboy literally wakes up from his adventure and mentions it being daylight. This is important because at the beginning of his hero’s journey, he is with Johnny and Dally and he is running into darkness, not knowing what to expect. Now, everything is clear to him, and the darkness is replaced with daylight. He is not quite settled with himself during The Revelation and he mentions physical discomfort. However, he has definitely changed, and his differences begin with Darry. He sees his brother asleep in a chair beside him and notices that Darry really loves him. This is a new thought for him. Previously, Ponyboy had said that Darry hates him and wishes he was not there. Now, Pony realizes that Darry not only does not dislike Ponyboy, but he loves him. Pony responds to this new idea by caring about Darry and his feelings, which is part of The Revelation because he is becoming settled with his new thoughts about Darry. These are all examples of the claim that Ponyboy went through the second part of The Initiation of the Hero’s Journey.
Ponyboy experiences The Return to Everyday Life when he shares his new wisdom and thoughts in his gift, The Outsiders. Pony realizes that parts of his culture and everyday life are not right, and he wants to share this idea. Pony feels, “Someone should tell their sides 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 has completely overcome his struggle and settled with his new self and returns to his regular life with a gift. Pony’s gift is his new wisdom and thoughts, which he chooses to record and share in The Outsiders. Pony’s ideas are about all boys being the same. He thinks that “Greasers” and “Socs” are labels that should not define who a person is. Ponyboy realizes that Greasers and Socs are extremely similar on the inside, and Pony thinks that where they live, or how much hair oil they wear, should not matter. Pony’s new thoughts are very similar to the old saying, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” He thinks that someone should share these ideas, and then maybe people would agree with him, and not judge people by their label. Pony says that it is too big a problem to not mention. All of these thoughts are part of Pony’s new wisdom, and they translate into the gift. This is evidence that Pony has gone through The Return to Everyday Life with a gift and wisdom.
In conclusion, Ponyboy goes through the three required phases of a monomyth, therefore completing the Hero’s Journey in the novel The Outsiders. Ponyboy has completed the phases of the Hero’s journey beginning with Johnny killing Bob, setting them into action. The boys soon travel to the next phase, following Dally’s advice to flee to Jay Mountain, and they find themselves facing challenges. Pony goes through The Revelation when he wakes up to daylight, which represents reality. Lastly, Pony ends with a gift, which he has shared with the world. The truth is, anyone can become a hero. Calls to Adventure happen all around, but people just do not realize. Everyone is stuck in their own world, depending on the same thing to happen everyday. When someone notices something strange or disturbing, they try to ignore it and push away the change. This is turning down the Call to Adventure, and this is the reason heros are rare. A person does not need superpowers to be a hero.