Alyssa Leong

The Outsiders /Hero's Journey Essay

The Outsiders/ Hero's Journey Essay

Picture a hero. Now, was it someone with superhuman powers? Or someone strong or buff-looking? Maybe even someone with a cape? Believe it or not, a hero does not have to have superhuman powers, or be super strong. Actually, anyone could be a hero by taking the Hero’s Journey. Even an outcast, an outsider, like Ponyboy Curtis. He is not looking for any superhuman powers, or a special object that will give him worldly power; he just wants to return as a normal 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 he runs away after Darry hits him. He then finds his friend Johnny, but a group of Socs find them and almost kill Ponyboy. In response, Johnny kills a Soc, Bob. Ponyboy and Johnny then escape to an abandoned church by train. After Johnny kills the Soc, he and Ponyboy go to Dally for help. After giving them some supplies and advice, Dally says this to them,“‘Git goin’!’ He messed up Johnny’s hair. ‘Take care, kid,’ he said softly. ‘Sure Dally, thanks.’ and we ran off into the darkness” (62). The hero experiences a sudden or traumatic change that forces him into action and encounters Helpers (in this case, Dally) who provide assistance and wisdom (Threshold of Adventure). In The Outsiders, Ponyboy and Johnny have to run away from the police after Johnny kills Bob, a Soc. This is a sudden and traumatic change because Socs are the more wealthy people, and they have power over greasers, meaning they could severely punish Ponyboy and Johnny. This quote shows that after the help of Dally, they “ran off into the darkness” or in other words, the unknown.

Ponyboy experiences The Initiation when he has to cut his hair. Right after Johnny tells Ponyboy they have to cut and bleach his hair, he thinks, “Our hair labeled us greasers, too- it was our trademark. The one thing we were proud of. Maybe we couldn’t have Corvairs or madras shirts, but we could have hair” (71). 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, Ponyboy and Johnny have to disguise themselves by cutting and bleaching their hair. This represents the initiation because they are proud of their hair, it is part of who they are. By cutting it off, they are changing their identity from greasers and becoming fugitives. While greasers are just people from the bad side of town, and are not as wealthy as others, fugitives are downright criminals. It represents one of the many challenges they will face in the Hero’s Journey.

Ponyboy continues to experience The Initiation when he realizes that not all Socs are bad and they have problems even though they have money and power. Ponyboy and his gang have just met the Socs and are about to start the rumble, when Ponyboy thinks: “They used to be buddies… they used to be friends… They shouldn’t hate each other… I don’t hate the Socs anymore… they shouldn’t hate…” (143). In the Hero’s Journey, the second part of The Initiation is when the hero “dies” to make way for courage, enlightenment, and independence. In The Outsiders, Ponyboy is watching a Soc and a greaser, both waiting to make the first move in the rumble. They used to be friends. Pony realizes that just because they are different social classes, they do not need to be separated, they can still be friends. In that moment, Ponyboy realizes that Socs are human too, and they have their own problems, even though they have money and power. He also realizes that the two social classes are not that different, and there is no reason for hate between them.

Ponyboy experiences The Return to Everyday Life when he writes a paper (the novel) to tell the “Dally’s” of the world that there is still good in the world. Ponyboy is reading a letter Johnny wrote to him before he died. Ponyboy reads, “I’ve been thinking about that poem… he meant you’re gold when you’re a kid… like the way you dig sunsets, pony. That’s gold...tell Dally to look at one” (178). In the Hero’s Journey, The Return to Everyday Life is when the hero returns to everyday life, typically with a “gift” - leadership, enlightenment, acceptance, etc. With his struggle over, the hero can focus on “giving back” to the world. In The Outsiders, Ponyboy finds a letter written to him by johnny, before he died. Johnny is basically saying that watching sunsets, the viewer is seeing something new, something good, and is getting used to seeing good everyday. so if Dally watches sunsets, he will see the “gold”- the good in the world, something to live for. This is Ponyboy’s gift, his message, to spread to the world.

In conclusion, Ponyboy Curtis from The Outsiders, a realistic fiction novel by S.E. Hinton, takes a Hero’s Journey because he goes through the three required phases of a monomyth. Ponyboy experiences the Separation from the known when Johnny kills a Soc and they have to run away to an abandoned church. Shortly after, Ponyboy and Johnny have to cut their hair, which represents part one of the Initiation. Later, Ponyboy goes through part two of the Initiation when he realizes not all Socs are bad. Finally, he Returns to Everyday Life when he writes a paper (the novel) to tell the “Dally’s” of the world that there is still good in the world. Although the stereotypical hero has a cape, or superhuman powers, anyone can become a hero. How? All they have to do is take the Hero’s Journey. The only thing needed is to be prepared for the challenges, but it will all pay off in the end when the hero returns with a gift and benefits everyone.

My Essay Reflection

Compared to the beginning of the year, I think my writing has definitely improved. I am better at writing essays, and I am better at analyzing stories to find and define the steps of a monomyth, find themes, and more. Some of the things I consider as my strengths include writing interesting introductory and conclusion paragraphs and providing strong evidence, because I usually get good scores in that area. I would like to develop better use of spelling and grammar for next year, because I often make mistakes in that area. I liked reading this novel. I personally think S.E. Hinton is an excellent author. I also enjoyed watching the movie.    

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