Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Our First Class Novel: The Outsiders

I don’t believe there is or ever will be such a thing as the Great American Novel—but I think there are many, and The Outsidersby S.E. Hinton is one of them. This is a novel that tells tough truths about loyalty, class, violence and that explores the transformative power of the written word. When I give it to the children of friends, I know they will feel about it just as I did when I first read it more than forty years ago.
Will Schwalbe

About The Outsiders 

1962 Red Corvair

Paul Newman

The First Young Adult Book
S. E. Hinton wrote The Outsiders in 1967. The author, S.E. Hinton, was sixteen years old. Your parents (or grandparents) might remember that in the sixties (and before) they couldn’t go to the library or bookstore and find “adolescent literature” or literature for young adults. They would see sections of books for children and sections for adults. Some give S.E. Hinton the credit for writing the first of what is now known as the adolescent or YA (young adult) novel. She wrote the kind of book she wanted to read.
Gangs and Cliques and Making People into Outsiders
The Outsiders is loosely based on what S.E. Hinton saw in her own community. The book is centered around a group of teen boys who hang out together – a gang -- but not the type of gang we think of today.
Some parents have concerns when they hear we’re reading a book about “gangs.”
Outsiders is more about social divisions. The major division in the book is between the wealthier, more privileged kids (the Socs – pronounced “sōshs,” and the kids who live on the poorer side of town (the Greasers – because at that time it was “cool” for guys to use a grease-like product on their hair).
Violence in the Book
Yes, there is violence in the book, but it is not graphic violence, and consequences of violence are clearly shown.
Smoking in the Book
Yes, the main character does smoke. He’s from a time and place where a lot of teens smoked. Society didn’t understand as much then about the consequences of smoking, and while a lot of kids made the better choice not to smoke, some chose to. Smoking is not glorified, it is shown as addictive, and students should pick up on at least one very tragic result of smoking shown in the plot.
Drinking in the Book
Some of the characters drink, though the main character and his brothers don’t. Like smoking, in the book drinking has tragic consequences.
Language in the Book
The language in the book hasn’t been a problem here in Utah Valley. The 1983 Francis Ford Coppola movie version starring C. Thomas Howell, Matt Dillon, Tom Cruise, Patrick Swayze, Diane Lane, Rob Lowe, and Emilio Estevez added more words some parents might be uncomfortable with, but it is still an excellent movie.
Why We Read The Outsiders
I choose to read this book with students because
1. it is well written,
2. it’s an amazing example of what young people can accomplish. (The author was sixteen when she wrote it.)
3. it provides an interesting text we can use to learn about character, setting, theme, and other terms students need to understand for the study of literature.
4. most importantly, it gives us the opportunity to talk about issues students are interested in, issues they need to think about to make their own lives and the lives of others better.

Parents, here are some questions you could discuss with your child in connection with The Outsiders: (I highly recommend that, if you can, you read the books your children are reading. This can lead to great discussions with your child, and, besides, adolescent fiction is so enjoyable!)

1) What groups do I belong to?
How many people do you need to belong with?

2) How does a person come to belong?

3) What are good and bad ways to belong?

4) What can I learn about belonging from the texts I read?

5) How do we use language (the way we speak and write) as a way of belonging?

6) How do we include and exclude others from belonging?

7) Have you ever felt like an outsider? Is it okay sometimes to be an outsider? What would be helpful ways to respond when you feel that way?

Topics: cliques, family, friends, caring, emotional control, violence, drinking, smoking, dealing with death and loss of loved ones, social inequity, importance of education, appreciating nature, the things we have in common as human beings, etc.

Originally published 9/1/09

Added 7-10-12:
S.E. Hinton answers a question about belonging/joining:
Q: What were you like as a teenager? Were you a
greaser; a Soc?
A: I was a tomboy. I played football, my close friends
were guys. Fortunately, I was born without the
need-to-belong gene that says you have to be in a
little group to feel secure. I never wanted to be
classified as anything, nor did I ever join anything
for fear of losing my individuality.

Setting in The Outsiders:  
"Hinton modeled the book's setting on her hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma, although she never refers to the city by name. The novel is most likely set in the mid-1960s, the time period during which it was written, although, again, Hinton makes few explicit references to external historical events that might fix the book in time."  --
Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1960's 

Literary Gangs

The Outsiders -- an excerpt read by Markus Zusak

Questions answered on GoodReads by S.E. Hinton-- Her answers start with message 305.

One of her responses: "I was very involved in the movies The Outsiders, Tex,
and Rumble Fish. I scouted locations, helped with wardrobe, taught Matt to ride for Tex, ran lines
with the actors on Outsiders, sometimes wrote scenes
for Rumble Fish just as we were getting ready to shoot them. I'm very happy with all three."

Chocolate Cake for Breakfast --

And here's Bob:

Slideshow about Outsiders — 

Online Outsiders 

coke commercial