Calvin Yan

The Outsiders

My Essay Reflection

  1. In the beginning of the year, my writing was very simplistic. I had a tendency to follow a certain essay template, never attempting to deviate from the norm. My English projects utilized primitive sentence structure and basic word choice, and were generally uninteresting to read. As time progressed, however, I tried to add a sense of artistic freedom to my writing. I used more sophisticated vocabulary, varied sentence structure, and more creative transitions to make my essays more pleasing to read.
  2. I think that I have a sophisticated word base as well as an ability to write creatively and develop more abstract ideas.
  3. In the near future, I want to be able to write more concisely and develop my ideas faster. I also want to further expand my vocabulary, write with more diverse sentence length, and learn to use figurative language in order to breathe more life into my writing.
  4. I enjoyed writing about The Outsiders because I felt that the author did a superb job of slipping deep and important themes behind a plot that really isn't very different from what we experience every day. Looking at its surface, one would perceive S. E. Hinton's to be a story that essentially mimics an average boy's life with a handful of shocking moments shoe-horned in. This is not the case, however. The Outsiders, despite lacking spectacle, enforces themes of sacrifice, hardship, and love from the perspective of a character no different than the archetypical male juvenile delinquent.

The Outsiders

The Outsiders                                                                                                                        Calvin Yan

5/6/14                                                                                                                                                      °7

For many years, humanity has been driven by a single ideal. This ideal kindles newfound inspiration, courage, and hope in the hearts of many, giving us the strength we need to push through the hardships of everyday life. Some say this concept was forged by humans as refuge from the harsh realities of the world; others say it is inherent to the very fabric of human nature itself. This concept is the idea of the hero: those who will ascend from the ranks of the common citizen to fight for his or her beliefs. Not all heroes stand out from their peers, however. Ponyboy Curtis, otherwise known as Pony, is a teenage boy with neither the physical strength nor social status of conventional heroes. Despite his limitations, Pony still acts like a hero, fighting for what he believes is right. In the realistic fiction novel The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton, Pony embarks on the Hero’s Journey that all heroes must endure, traveling through its three required phases.

Ponyboy first encounters the Hero’s Journey during the Separation from the Known, its first phase being the Call to Adventure. Pony enters this phase near the end of the third chapter. At this point in the story, Pony saunters home to an enraged Darry. Darry, his no-nonsense older brother, begins to upbraid Pony, who, just hours ago, had fallen asleep in a parking lot. Darry demands to know why his younger brother had been gone until two o’clock in the morning, sparking an argument between the two brothers. As tensions rise, Darry suddenly hits Pony, who promptly flees from his home, telling himself: “It was plain to me that Darry didn’t want me around. And I wouldn’t stay if he did. He wasn’t ever going to hit me again”(50). In a Hero’s Journey, The Separation from the Known occurs when a sudden or traumatic event forces the protagonist out of ordinary life. The protagonist must pass through the Threshold of Adventure, usually encountering a Threshold Guardian who prepares the main character for a physical or psychological state of existence that the protagonist is uncomfortable with. Given Pony’s reaction, it is evident that Darry’s actions were sudden and traumatic, as Pony notes that Darry had never hit him before. After meeting up with Johnny, Pony gets in a fight with a gang of Socs, the upper class of Tulsa, Oklahoma, witnessing the fatal stabbing of a young man named Bob. This prompts Pony and Johnny to run to seasoned criminal and friend Dallas Winston, or Dally, who supplies them with clothes, money, and advice, acting as a threshold guardian and preparing them for the journey ahead. The two friends run away to the country as fugitives of the law, living a lifestyle that they are completely unaccustomed to.

Following the first phase of Pony’s Journey is the Initiation, in which the protagonist must face a series of trials and ordeals to test the extent of his or her ability. Ponyboy Curtis encounters the first part of the Initiation when he and Johnny enter the country to evade the authorities in an attempt to evade the authorities. As Pony and his best friend struggle to survive in a dilapidated wooden church, the protagonist comes to terms with his status as a fugitive of the law. According to Pony, “We were really running away, with the police after us for murder and a loaded gun by our side”(62). As In the Initiation, the main character travels through unknown territory, overcoming a series of challenges that requires the protagonist to exceed his physical or mental threshold. Pony and Johnny rarely leave the confines of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and thus are physically unprepared for life in the country. They also show discomfort when faced with the prospect of running from the law, which they are also unfamiliar with.

The Initiation continues in The Outsiders as Pony and Johnny return to Tulsa as heroes after rescuing a handful of intellectually challenged kids in a smoldering building. Although it would seem that everything is back to normal, Pony continues to face hardship as Johnny is seriously wounded and hospitalized. As Pony continues to express remorse over Bob’s death, he gradually becomes more sympathetic towards the richer half of his community, growing tired of the endless years of violence and hatred that he has been forced to endure. This is evident during a big faceoff between the two factions of Pony’s hometown, in which Pony thinks to himself, “They shouldn’t hate eachother… I don’t hate the Socs anymore… We shouldn’t hate…”(). In a Hero’s Journey, the second part of the Initiation consists of four parts: The Abyss, when the protagonist is pit against his greatest fear; the Transformation, which ensues when the main character begins to behave in a way different than his previous behavior; the Revelation, in which the protagonist realizes something new about himself and the world; and the Atonement, where the main character changes and becomes a better person. In The Outsiders, Ponyboy must deal with the fear of being separated from his family and placed in a boy’s home as well as the prospect of Johnny dieing. These fears serve as an emotional abyss for Pony, as his friends and family are the only things he values in a cruel and unforgiving world, and losing them would take away everything he ever cared about. Pony begins to transform when he becomes more tolerant towards the Socs, deciding to treat them with kindness and understanding instead of violence. After spending more time with his two brothers, Pony experiences a revelation when he realizes how his frequent conflicts with Darry, who just weeks ago had hit him in the heat of passion, hurts not only himself, but the rest of his family. He atones for this ignorance towards his siblings by becoming more considerate towards them, causing the family to become more emotionally attached to each other.

The final stretch of the Hero’s Journey begins in the Return to Everyday life, when the protagonist returns from his adventures and lives an ordinary lifestyle. Pony returns to ordinary life when he recovers from a coma after suffering from both severe head trauma and the deaths of two of his friends, Johnny and Dally. After years of hardship and pain, Ponyboy wishes to use his newfound knowledge and tolerance to bring hope to those in his situation and understanding to those who aren’t. Pony believes that “Someone should tell their side of the story, and maybe people would understand then and wouldn’t be so quick to judge”(179). He expresses this desire by creating a book—the very same book that he is in. A typical Hero’s Journey concludes as the protagonist returns to his ordinary life, usually with a new ability obtained through the character’s trials and ordeals. Pony awakening from his coma marks his return to everyday life, as he begins to carry out the quotidian tasks that any average boy would perform. His “ability” is the understanding towards different people that he acquires over time, which is represented by a book that he writes. This book represents Pony’s attempts to spread his knowledge to world, in the belief that he can make it just a little bit better.

In a world where its inhabitants look towards the strong and courageous during times of need, there is an under-appreciated type of hero that dwells among the ordinary human. Like all superheroes, these people strive to achieve a common goal, experiencing both hardships and triumphs. Ponyboy Curtis is one such person, and his experiences throughout S. E. Hinton’s esteemed novel prove this. People like him—the brave, headstrong citizens who aspire to enrich the world around them and receive virtually nothing in return—such people are the true heroes that support our society.

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