The Outsiders/Hero's Journey Essay
My Essay Reflection
1. This year, I learned to write formally (no contractions, avoiding first or second-person pronouns, and using present-tense verbs.) Also, I learned to write better thesis statements.
2. I think my writing strengths are writing summaries and topic sentences. I have improved on determining main ideas/supporting details from a book a lot over the past few years.
3. Next year, I would like to continue working on essay organization and writing commentary. Commentary is something we started working on this year and I feel that I am not very good at it.
4. The part I enjoyed most about this assignment was reading the novel because I thought it was a really good book. The plot was engaging and I have never read a book about greasers/Socs before so it was new and unusual for me.
The Outsiders/Hero’s Journey
What is the first thing that comes to mind when someone says the word “hero”? Batman? Spiderman? Superman? That is what comes to mind for many people - a fictional character with the ability to climb and lift anything. Batman, Spiderman and Superman are certainly heroic, but there are other non-fictional heroes that are ordinary people, like Ponyboy Curtis. He travels through a Hero’s Journey, and returns still as a normal boy, but this time with a gift. In the realistic fiction novel The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, the protagonist, 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, a Soc. When Johnny and Ponyboy run away from home, they encounter a group of Socs who have come to beat them up. After the fight, Johnny says,“I killed him (Bob)” (56). In the Hero’s Journey, The Separation from the Known is when the hero exits their comfortable zone and goes into the unknown outside world. Usually, the hero feels discontent about something in his or her life. When a sudden change occurs, the hero starts the journey. In The Outsiders, The Separation from the Known occurs when Johnny kills Bob, a Soc. This is a sudden change for Pony because two hours ago, he and Johnny were having fun at the movies, and suddenly, they are considered criminals. For Ponyboy to see his best friend kill a person is certainly a traumatic event because he has never experienced this level of violence before. Before the boys take action, they go to Dally, one of the older boys in their gang. Dally acts like a Threshold Guardian, giving the boys supplies and advice. A Threshold Guardian is an essential part of the Separation from the Known, proving that Pony is going through his journey. After going to Dally, the boys walk through the door and step into the darkness of the night. This symbolizes the unknown outside world the hero is entering.
Ponyboy experiences The Initiation when he has to cut his hair. When Johnny and Pony run away and hide in the abandoned church, they have to cut their hair so that they will not match their descriptions in the newspaper. Pony says, “‘Oh, no!’ My hand flew to my hair. ‘No, Johnny, not my hair!’” (71). In the Hero’s Journey, the first part of The Initiation is when the hero travels into either a physical or psychological change, a challenge. In The Outsiders, The Initiation occurs when Ponyboy has to cut his hair so that he will not be recognized from his description in the newspaper. This is both a physical and psychological unknown. Pony’s physical appearance changes because of his new hair cut and color. Pony also goes through a psychological change because he has to leave his old identity behind and accept the fact that he won’t be as “tuff” anymore. This is a challenge for Ponyboy because he has to realize that if he does not change his identity which he is so proud of, he might not survive. However, this new identity is uncomfortable for him - he has never been anything except a greaser before, and now, all of a sudden, he has to step out of his old identity and allow himself to go through a major change in who he is.
Ponyboy continues to experience The Initiation when the doctor tells Pony that Johnny is dying. After the burning church incident, Pony knows that Johnny is severely injured, but he does not realize that Johnny might actually die until the doctor tells him straight that Johnny is not going to get better. Now Pony takes in the reality of the situation and faces the fact that his best friend is dying. He narrates, “He was in critical condition. His back had been broken when that piece of timber fell on him. He was in severe shock and suffering from third degree burns” (102).In the Hero’s Journey, the second part of The Initiation is when the hero experiences the Abyss, Transformation, Revelation and Atonement. The Abyss is when the hero reaches a low point, and he must go face to face with his biggest fear. In The Ousiders, the Abyss occurs when the doctor tells Ponyboy that Johnny is dying. This is a very low point for Pony because at this moment he realizes that his best friend is dying. He is so scared to believe the truth that he starts lying to himself and saying that Johnny will be okay, that his best buddy in the gang will return tomorrow and everything will be the same as before. This shows that Ponyboy’s greatest fear is death. The death of his parents is still a recent memory, and Pony is afraid to lose more of his “family”, especially someone close to him, like Johnny.
Ponyboy experiences The Return to Everyday Life when he starts writing his theme. After Johnny’s and Dally’s death, Ponyboy is scared to even think about them, but over time, he realizes that if he shares his experience with others, they will understand his perspective better and will have more compassion for greasers. Ponyboy narrates, “Someone should tell their side of the story, and maybe people would understand then and wouldn’t be so quick to judge…” (179). In the Hero’s Journey, The Return to Everyday Life is when the hero comes back to the known world, with a gift, which can be a new knowledge, acceptance, or perspective. Usually, the hero finds a way to share his or her gift with the world. In The Outsiders, the Return to Everyday Life occurs is when Pony starts writing his theme. Because of all the events he has experienced - Bob’s death, running away from home, saving the dying kids from the burning church, the rumble, Johnny’s death, Dally’s death - he acquires a lot of wisdom. Ponyboy realizes that life is not perfect, there will always be violence in the world, and he has to stay tough, like Dally taught him. However, life is not all bad, there is still good in the world, and Pony has to stop and acknowledge the beauty of the world, like Johnny taught him. Before, Pony thought of the world as black and white, bad and good, socs and greasers. Now, Pony understands that the world is a fuller spectrum, there is gray, not just black and white. Meanwhile, Pony goes back to school and his English teacher assigns him to write a theme, or essay. Ponyboy decides to write about all his experiences, from being jumped by Socs to Dally’s death. This essay is how he shares his gift, and ultimately The Outsiders.
In conclusion, Pony goes on a Hero’s Journey because he experiences each of the three monomyth phases. Pony travels through the Separation from the Known when Johnny kills Bob, a Soc. He goes through the first part of the Initiation when he has to cut his hair. Ponyboy experiences the second part of the Initiation when he is told by the doctor that Johnny is dying. Finally, Pony travels through the Return to Everyday Life when he starts writing his theme for English. People often think that only superhumans like Batman, Spiderman and Superman can become heroes. Although these superheroes have impressive abilities, they do not exist in real life. There are other heroes, though. In fact, anyone can go on a Hero’s Journey and come back with a gift to share with the world!