Michael Xu

The Outsiders/Hero's Journey Essay

My Essay Reflection

1.  How would you describe your writing at the beginning of the year and how would you describe it now?

I can confidently say that my writing has improved from a proficient to advanced from the beginning of seventh grade to present time.  Overall, I feel like I have improved in every writing skill, from checking CUPS, to utilizing the writing process.  I also felt more confident with writing, and now on-demand writing assignments all seem like a piece of cake!  Mr. Diven has helped me improve my writing skills this year by a lot!

2.  What do you consider your writing strengths? Explain.

I feel that one of my strengths is that I am good at organizing ideas into paragraphs, then organizing the paragraphs into an essay.  Learning the writing process this year strengthened me in this writing skill.  I usually come up with a lot of ideas during brainstorming, but until this year, I had a hard time organizing them.  I also catch myself with CUPS (Capitalization Usage Punctuation Spelling) most of the time.

3.  What writing skills do you need and/or want to continue to develop next year? Explain.

I would want to continue to develop my proficiency in the writing process;  every good writer uses it, and as this process gets more familiar, I get more confident with writing.  Also, I feel that I need to work on my writing efficiency, or working efficiency overall, and I feel that I always spend a little more time than I should need to complete an assignment.

4. What did you like best about reading this novel and/or doing this writing assignment?

Reading the novel The Outsiders is the most enjoyable part of this assignment.  Reading was fun for me, and to feel the characters and understand the plot and the author's message is all very interesting.  I also kind of enjoyed completing The Outsiders Notebook.

The Outsiders/Hero's Journey Essay

Michael Xu     Period 02     5/12/2014

Imagine a towering superhero, Batman, Spiderman, or the Hulk, saving the world from villains at every moment with their awesome superpowers; then picture an ordinary firefighter, charging into a building set ablaze by fire, trying to save the lives of people in danger. They are all heroes, whether extraordinary, or just ordinary, and Ponyboy Curtis, from The Outsiders, is one of them, an ordinary person turned hero by going through the Hero’s Journey. Unique gifts, if they are powerful superpowers, cutting-edge technology, or just interesting ideas or philosophies, all help to make the world better. 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 his buddy Johnny kills a Soc named Bob. At the park, late at night, when Johnny and Johnny ran away from home, they encounter a group of mad and drunk Socs looking for a fight. During the fight, Johnny kills Bob, the leader of the Socs, and the rest flees. Johnny said afterwards, “‘I killed him, [...] I killed that boy’” (56). In the Hero’s Journey, The Separation from the Known is when the hero leaves the known world and ventures into the unknown. A sudden, traumatic change puts the hero into action. Along the way, he/she meets the Threshold Guardian, who gives the hero help and wisdom or advice. In The Outsiders, the Separation from the known occurs when Ponyboy’s buddy Johnny kills Bob the Soc. Ponyboy and Johnny are enjoying themselves just hours before at a drive-in movie with a few girls. Suddenly, a dead body lay before them, and they had turned from poor but innocent greasers to wanted criminals. This is a sudden and traumatic change for Ponyboy, because seeing his best friend kill a person is extremely shocking, shocking enough for him to be sick and vomit over the dead boy, and also, the world had just seemingly just turned upside down in a matter of hours. This change in turn triggers action, and Ponyboy and Johnny are forced to run away and become fugitives to avoid capture from the police. On their escape, Ponyboy meets his threshold guardian, Dallas Winston. Dally gives Ponyboy and Johnny help by telling them to stowaway on the 315 freight and hide in the old church up in Jay Mountains. Dally also promises to check on them soon, and gives the boys a roll of $50 dollars and a loaded gun, then sends them on their way. In conclusion, Ponyboy went through the first phase of the Hero’s Journey by going through a sudden, traumatic change that forces him into action, then meeting and receiving help from the Threshold Guardian, who sends him on his way.

Ponyboy experiences The Initiation when he was forced to cut his hair. After Johnny and Ponyboy escapes successfully into the old church in Jay Mountains, Johnny suggests that they cut their hair to disguise themselves. Ponyboy exclaims, “‘Oh, no!’ [...] ‘No, Johnny, not my hair!’” (71). In the Hero’s Journey, the first part of The Initiation is when the hero journeys into or through a physical or psychological unknown and faces the Challenges. In The Outsiders, the Challenges occur after Ponyboy and Johnny escape to Windrixville to hide from the police. By going to Windrixville, they encounter both physical and psychological unknowns. This is evidence that Phase Two of the Hero’s Journey happened, and that Ponyboy went through both physical unknowns , such as the old church and the unknown surrounding countryside, and psychological unknowns, such as separating from family, then cutting his hair and trying to find his identity. Traveling from city to country is hard for Ponyboy, as he was dragged from his ‘comfort zone’, which was Tulsa, to an unfamiliar location, Windrixville, and he also suffered from the shock of events happening too fast, and the fear of leaving his ‘family’, which are all physical and emotional barriers. Having to cut his own hair, which was Ponyboy’s pride and identity, Ponyboy now struggles to find out who he is; a greaser? Or a murderer? And after saving the kids from the burning church; maybe a hero? These new identities conflict with each other, and it gives Ponyboy a hard time to figure out who he actually is.

Ponyboy continues to experience The Initiation when Johnny dies of critical injuries in the hospital. Ponyboy and Johnny attempt to save children from the burning church, but Johnny is critically injured in the process. Ponyboy, Johnny, and Dally are all rushed to a hospital, but Johnny’s injuries turned out to be fatal as he dies of third-degree burns and a paralyzed, broken back. Just before he dies, Johnny’s last words were, “‘Stay gold, Ponyboy ... Stay gold ...’ Then Johnny died’” (142). In the Hero’s Journey, the second part of The Initiation is when the hero goes through a series of four steps, the Abyss, the Transformation, the Revelation, and the Atonement (not necessarily in that order). The Abyss is when a hero experiences a low point in his journey, against his greatest fears, then his fears die and he finds his way to enlightenment. In The Outsiders, The Initiation happens when Johnny succumbs to his injuries in the hospital, while the police and the upcoming trial in court threatened to charge Ponyboy and also possibly land him and Sodapop, his second elder brother, in a boys’ home. This is the Abyss, the first step of Phase two. Ponyboy’s greatest fears were losing someone (death) and getting sent to a boys’ home (separation from family). Having already lost both of his parents in a car crash during childhood, Ponyboy has lost enough already, and he does not want to lose his brothers and his ‘family’ as well. In the end, Ponyboy conquers his greatest fears, as the the shock and hurt of Johnny’s death wore off and disappeared while the trial went successfully and Ponyboy was acquitted of his charge, and the brothers continued to happily live with Darry. As his worries disappeared, Ponyboy found enlightenment and took on a new view on life.

Ponyboy experiences The Return to Everyday Life when he immediately woke up from his concussion. After coming to from his concussion, Ponyboy was confused at first, but then remembered, “Something had happened... but I still couldn't remember it, although I was thinking a lot clearer than I was the last time I'd waked up” (133). In the Hero’s Journey, The Return to Everyday Life is when the hero returns to everyday life after his Hero’s Journey and returns to everyday life duties, while trying to fit into society again, while he works on giving back to the world with his gift. In The Outsiders, Phase three of the Hero’s Journey, the Return to Everyday Life happens when Ponyboy came out of his concussion and is immediately part of the mess after the rumble, feeling the deaths of Johnny and Dally, and attending the trial. After he recovered, Ponyboy went on trial, and immediately after coming out of the trial, he had to go back to school and do all types of normal stuff, routine things he did before this whole incident. This is a little overwhelming for Ponyboy. He now has a new identity, a hero, and now has a hard time fitting in with his old greaser buddies, who now no longer share the same perspective. This new perspective to the world is Ponyboy’s gift from his Hero’s Journey. He sees that the world has many perspectives, and that there are still good in the world. He must be tough but still be caring and value his family at the same time. He then began writing an essay about his experiences and wisdom as an assignment to his English teacher. This proves that the Return to Everyday Life happened, as Ponyboy received his gift, his revelation, and gave it to the world.

In conclusion, in the book The Outsiders, Ponyboy Curtis went on a Hero’s Journey and through the three phases of a monomyth. First, Ponyboy entered the Threshold of Adventure in Phase One of his Hero’s Journey, when his best buddy, Johnny, killed a rival Soc. He then went through Phase Two of the Hero’s Journey, when he was forced to cut off his hair, which is his pride and identity (The Challenges), then suffering dear loss as Johnny dies of his injuries in the hospital (The Abyss). In Phase Three, Ponyboy came back to everyday life with a gift to give to the world. So even if superpowers are not a common gift from the Hero’s Journey, there will always be a reward to take home, like Ponyboy Curtis and his new revelation on the world. This essay already contains a gift: the knowledge about the Hero’s Journey. A Hero’s Journey can be taken by anyone; the hero only needs to be prepared for the upcoming challenge.

The Outsiders (1983) Trailer

The Hero's Journey

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