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KEY LITERARY ELEMENTS
The Outsiders is set in a large, unnamed town in the United States. It is about a gang of teenage boys who are called the Greasers. They live on the east side of the town, also known as the wrong side of town; the eastside neighborhood is described in graphic detail. The story is set in the 1960's and relates the incidents that take place over a few days. After killing Bob, Pony and Johnny take shelter in an abandoned church in Windrixville. After it catches fire and burns down, they return to their hometown, where Johnny dies in a hospital.
LIST OF CHARACTERS
The narrator and protagonist of the story. His elder brother, Darry, brings him up after the death of his parents in a car accident. Though Pony resents him, he is also in awe of him. He also idolizes his middle brother, Soda. All three brothers belong to a gang of poor teenagers called the Greasers, named for their long, oily hair. Their bitter rivals are the Socs, the rich kids living on the west side of town. Pony is involved in the murder of a Soc named Bob. After the killing, he runs away with his friend Johnny to Windrixville. There they hide in an abandoned church. When the church catches on fire, they bravely rescue some children trapped in it. Johnny is badly injured and has to be hospitalized. When he dies, Pony is completely shattered. He cannot reconcile himself to his friend's death until he reads a letter Johnny has left for him telling him to 'stay gold' and to continue appreciating sunsets. He finally understands that with hard work he can overcome his circumstances and not remain an outsider all his life. Pony then adopts a mission for himself -- to tell the rest of the world about the odds that under-privileged children have to face. He also realizes and appreciates how much Darry loves and cares for him.
A member of the Greasers whom the other gang members try to protect. His father constantly beats him up, and his mother either ignores his presence or screams at him. He becomes a nervous wreck after he is terribly beaten up by the Socs. He starts carrying a switchblade in his pocket; when he and Pony are attacked by the Socs, he uses the knife to kill Bob in self-defense. He hides with Pony in an abandoned church in Windrixville and heroically rescues children who are trapped in the church after it catches fire. During the rescue, a burning beam falls on his back, and he later dies in a hospital. Before dying, he tells Dally that 'fighting's no good' and asks Pony to 'stay gold.' Even after death, his spirit reaches out to Pony in the form of a letter which he leaves for him, exhorting him to remain pure and rise above being an outsider. The letter motivates Pony to tell the rest of the world that it is wrong to judge children by the amount of hair oil they wear.
Dallas Winston (Dally)
The toughest, coldest, and meanest of the Greasers. He has been in and out of jail since the age of ten. He gives Pony and Johnny a gun and some money when they come to him after Bob's death. He also tells them where to hide. During the rescue, Dally plunges into the burning church to rescue Johnny, who is trapped under a beam. Upset by Johnny's death, he threatens the police with an unloaded gun after robbing a store. He dies without the world knowing about his qualities or the reasons for his delinquency.
Darrel Curtis (Darry)
Pony's oldest brother. After the death of his parents, he takes care of Soda and Pony, his younger brothers. Darry is twenty years old, over six feet tall, and broad-shouldered and muscular. His pale blue-green eyes have a determined set to them. He longs for his brothers and him to rise above being a Greaser; therefore, he encourages Pony to study and get good grades. Pony misunderstands his motives and is hostile towards him through much of the book. At the end, Pony understands and appreciates Darry's love and concern.
Sodapop Curtis (Soda)
Pony's middle brother. He truly loves life even though he is a school dropout who works at a gas station. Pony idolizes him and considers him to be the most handsome man alive. Soda tries to support Pony when Darry is after him.
Soda's best friend and a member of the Greasers. He works at the same gas station as Soda.
Two-Bit Mathews (Keith)
A member of the Greasers who always has to state his opinion (or get his two bits in). He is well known for being a shoplifter and carrying a black-handled switchblade. He likes fights, blondes, and school, even though he is still a junior at age eighteen and a half.
Sherri Valence (Cherry)
A girl who is friends with the Socs. She meets Pony, Johnny, and Two-Bit at a drive-in. She and Pony have a lot in common, but the friendship is not allowed to develop because of their different social status. She is supposedly in love with Bob even though she knows that he drinks too much and has beaten Johnny up. After Bob's death, she acts as a spy for the Greasers and truthfully tells the judge and the reporters about the circumstances leading to his murder.
Cherry's friend, who is at the drive-in with her.
Robert Sheldon (Bob)
A member of the Socs, who drinks too much. Wearing large rings, he beats Johnny up. When he finds his girlfriend, Cherry, mixing with the Greasers, he and his companions attack Pony and Johnny in a lonely park. Johnny kills Bob in self-defense.
Bob's friend and a member of the Socs. He helps Bob to jump Pony and Johnny in the park. He holds Pony's head under water and almost drowns him. His deposition at the hearing is honest.
The leader of a third gang. He brings his boys and also the Brumly gang to fight on the Greaser's side during the rumble between the Socs and the Greasers.
A member of the Socs who starts the fight with the Greasers. He was on Darry's football team in high school, and the two of them used to be buddies. Now he has only contempt and pity for the Greasers.
Mrs. Cade Johnny's mother
She either shouts at Johnny or ignores his presence. When she finally goes to visit him in the hospital, Johnny refuses to see her. She is furious and starts screaming about his ingratitude and the trouble that he has caused her.
A schoolteacher, who was with the children when the church caught fire.
Another teacher accompanying the children.