Julie Meng

The Outsiders / Hero's Journey Essay

My Essay Reflection

        At the beginning of the year, my expository writing was not very strong, but in English class this year, I have learned ways to improve it. I would describe my writing before as ineffective and not influential on the reader. Now, I would describe my writing as more powerful. I consider my strength to be connecting my writing back to the main idea of my essay. I consider this to be a strength because I have learned how to do that this year and I believe it helps my writing a lot. I would like to continue to build my vocabulary and making literary analysis essays more powerful next year. Knowing many words can help make a piece of writing more powerful, and literary analysis essays are very important. I liked reading the novel and then comparing it to the movie because it was interesting to see how the people who made the movie interpreted The Outsiders, especially since they have to fit most of the events of the book into an hour or two. I like this writing assignment because it lets me show what I have learned in English class this year.

The Outsiders / Hero's Journey Essay

The Outsiders/Hero’s Journey                                                                                       Julie Meng

May 5, 2014                                                                                                                           Period 2

        The stereotypical hero is a superhero with some kind of superpower. When people try to think of some, they might think of Spiderman, Batman, or Superman. This is probably because of all the movies and comic books with superheroes in them. These superheroes accomplish amazing feats, such as defeating evil to save the world, with their extraordinary abilities. However, a superhero is not the only kind of hero. There is also a less known and spectacular hero. Ponyboy Curtis is one of the unspectacular, more ordinary kind of heroes. A hero like Pony goes on a Hero’s Journey not to learn to fly to battle evil, but to return with a gift as a normal person. 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 and Johnny are attacked by a group of Socs and Johnny kills Bob the Soc, which causes them to run away. Pony runs away after Darry hits him, and Johnny and Pony go to a park. At the park, some Socs attack and they try to drown Pony. Johnny stabs Bob, and once Pony wakes up, he says, “I killed that boy” (56). Later, he says, “(w)e gotta get outa here. Get somewhere. Run away” (57). In the Hero’s Journey, The Separation from the Known is when there is a sudden or traumatic change in the hero’s life that causes him to be forced into action. Before the change, the hero often feels discontent with his life and feels like he needs to restore honor or justice. In The Outsiders, the Separation from the Known occurs when Pony wakes up and sees a dead Soc. First, Pony is hit by Darry, which is important because it causes Pony to run away to the park, and it is there that he is attacked. Bob the Soc is killed by Johnny because Pony was attacked. Waking up and seeing a dead Soc is sudden and traumatic event because it is not everyday that someone wakes up to stare into a dead person’s eyes. It is also a sudden change because Pony quickly goes from the comfortable, familiar feeling of being just an everyday person to an unknown feeling of being a fugitive. It causes action because Ponyboy feels like he and Johnny will get in a lot of trouble if they are caught by the police. Since Pony and Johnny do not want to get caught, they run away. This event of Johnny killing Bob proves that Pony is in phase one of the Hero’s Journey because a sudden and traumatic change that causes action is the definition of this phase. In order to run away, Pony and Johnny must get help from the Threshold Guardian, Dally. Once Dally tells them to leave, Pony goes through the door, which is the threshold. The definition of another step of this phase is crossing the threshold, so this also proves that Pony is in phase one of the Hero’s Journey. Finally, after Pony crosses the threshold, he takes a train into the country, which is an unknown place for Pony. He leaves his comfortable world of the known and goes to an unknown place. This proves that Pony is separated from the known.

        Ponyboy experiences The Initiation when Pony must cut off and dye his hair. To avoid being recognized as someone involved in the killing of Bob, Johnny tells Pony that “(w)e’re gonna cut our hair, and you’re gonna bleach yours” (71). In the Hero’s Journey, the first part of The Initiation is when the hero goes into a physical or psychological unknown and faces a challenge that he must react to. In The Outsiders, the first part of The Initiation is when Pony is told his hair is going to be changed. This is a psychological unknown because Pony has always been so proud of his hair, and he no longer has the appearance of a tough, “tuff” Greaser and now has a new identity. “Tuff” is the word Greasers use for “cool” or “sharp”. For example, a Greaser might describe a Mustang as “tuff”. This is a challenge because he must become his new identity. This challenge causes Pony to react by reflecting upon how he changes and how he looks like a “pansy” and a different person. This event proves that Pony is in phase two of the Hero’s Journey because a physical or psychological unknown, and in this case it is a psychological unknown, that the hero, Pony, must react to is the definition of the first part of the Initiation. Eventually, Pony becomes accustomed to his new look and overcomes the challenge. This proves that Pony went through the first part of The Initiation.

        Ponyboy continues to experience The Initiation when he realizes that he and his “family” are not hoods like the Shepard gang and the Brumly Boys, even though they are all Greasers. Because of the conflict between the Greasers and the Socs, there is a rumble, also known as a planned fight, between them. Pony’s “family” teams up with the Shepard gang and the Brumly boys against the Socs. As Pony talks with one of the boys from Brumly, he suddenly thinks that “... he [Darry] shouldn’t be here… I shouldn’t be here and Steve shouldn’t be here and Soda shouldn’t be here and Two-Bit shouldn’t be here. We’re Greasers, but not hoods, and we don’t belong with this bunch of future convicts” (140, 141). In the Hero’s Journey, the second part of the Initiation is when the hero experiences a dramatic change in the way he views life and a part of the hero dies to make way for enlightenment. In The Outsiders, the second part of The Initiation occurs when Pony is at the rumble and Pony feels like his “family” should not be there. This is a dramatic change in the way he views life because before, he just thinks that he is a Greaser and therefore he hates Socs. Before, he feels like life is as simple as that, but now, he realizes it is one thing to be a Greaser and another to be a hood. When someone has a very different perspective on something, it is a dramatic change in the way that person views life. This proves that Pony is in the second part of The Initiation because a dramatic change in the way the hero views life is part of the definition of this phase of the Hero’s Journey. Another part of this phase is when a part of the hero dies to make way for his enlightenment. This occurs when Pony has a concussion. The part of Pony that believes Darry is mean and cares about no one dies and makes way for a new part of Pony that believes Darry loves him and his “family”. These events prove that Pony goes through the second part of The Initiation.

        Ponyboy experiences The Return to Everyday Life when he comes out of his concussion and starts doing what he normally did before his Hero’s Journey. Pony returns to school but starts living in a vacuum because he loses two members of his “family”, Johnny and Dally. Johnny is burnt and breaks his back while saving children from a burning church, and after Johnny dies, Dally commits suicide by pointing an unloaded gun at the police after robbing a grocery store. At school, Pony’s English teacher talks to him about his grades and how he is failing the class, but says he can pass Pony with a C grade if he writes a good semester theme. Late at night, Pony starts writing it. “I sat down and picked up my pen and thought for a minute. Remembering. Remembering a handsome, dark boy…, a tough, towheaded boy…, [and] a quiet defeated-looking sixteen-year-old… One week had taken all three of them. And I decide I could tell people, beginning with my English teacher” (179, 180). In the Hero’s Journey, The Return to Everyday Life is when the hero returns to his everyday life with a gift, and he gives back to the world by sharing his gift. In The Outsiders, Pony returns to everyday life when he comes out of his concussion and returns to school. His everyday life includes school, so he does not return to everyday life until he returns to school. On his hero’s Journey, Pony realizes that the world is more complicated than he previously thought. His gift is the experience of his story, and he shares it by writing it as his semester theme. Letting other people know about the conflict between most Greasers and Socs is Pony’s way of giving back to the world. Pony hopes his gift will affect the boys living on the poor side of cities, boys scared of their own shadows like Johnny is, boys who hope for something better, boys who feel like there is no more good in the world, and people who just do not understand the problem all those boys face. He hopes the boys will believe that even though the world may be unfair at times, the world is still a good place. He hopes other people will understand these boys and not treat them like dirt for being extremely poor. This is how Pony hopes his gift will help the world. Returning to everyday life and sharing a gift gotten from the journey of the hero is the definition of this phase. By doing these actions, Pony returns to everyday life.

        In conclusion, in this novel, Ponyboy goes through the three required phases of a monomyth and goes on a Hero’s Journey. Pony goes through the first phase when he is separated from the known because Johnny kills Bob the Soc. Pony then goes through the second phase, The Initiation, first when he cuts his hair and changes his identity and later when he realizes that just because he is a Greaser does not mean he is a hood. Finally, Pony goes through the third and last phase when he comes out of this concussion and returns to everyday life. It is not impossible for someone to become a superhero by some incident, but it is not likely. However, anyone can go on a Hero’s Journey. He or she just has to accept The Call of Adventure and face the challenge. Both the hero and others benefit from the gift the hero returns with.

Comment Stream