The Outsiders Chapter 1
Ponyboy Curtis, the narrator of the story and a fourteen-year-old boy, is walking home alone, wishing he looked handsome and tough like Paul Newman. He wears his hair long, like most of the other people from his neighborhood. He calls himself a greaser--one of the poor, tough gang of boys who fights with the Socs, ("Socials") a gang of rich, violent boys. He walks alone because he is coming home from the movies. He can't go to the movies with his friends because he likes to get lost in the story, and no one else he knows does that. His sixteen-year-old brother Sodapop doesn't care about books or movies, and his twenty-year-old brother Darrel works too hard to be interested in anything. Ponyboy likes Sodapop because Soda tries to understand him. Darrel, or Darry, is always yelling at Ponyboy and never seems to try to understand him. As he walks, Ponyboy starts to get nervous: greasers get beat up by the Socs if they are caught alone on the street. Socs are wealthy and high-class. They attack Greasers for fun. For Greasers, however, crime is more of a way of life: they steal things and have gang fights. Ponyboy doesn't do those things, though. His parents were killed in a car crash, and he is only allowed to stay with Darry and Soda if they all behave. Darry would be furious if he misbehaved, and he knows it. Pony gets good grades and everyone thinks he is smart, but sometimes Darry gets frustrated with him because he doesn't have common sense. He doesn't think before he acts. When he is almost two blocks from home he sees a Corvair following him. The car is full of Socs. Pony thinks about how his friend Johnny was attacked by Socs. Johnny came from a rough home, and he was used to beatings, but the way the Socs beat him had made him break down and cry. Pony just stands there, trying to think of what to do. The Socs tease him, asking him if he needs a haircut, then saying, "How'd you like that haircut to begin just below the neck?" Chapter 1, pg. 5
The Socs beat him to the ground and hold a knife against his throat. He nearly passes out, then hears people running all around him. Darry pulls Pony to his feet, asking him urgently whether he's okay, and shaking him. Pony knows Darry doesn't mean to hurt him, but it bothers him just the same, because Darry always hurts him by accident. Pony sometimes thinks that Darry is cold and unfeeling. Soda and Darry clean Pony up. Soda is handsome, like Darry, but he is a warm, happy, lovable person. Darry and Soda get along: Darry, who is always serious, doesn't mind when Soda, who is always joking, teases him. The other four members of their gang, who were chasing the Socs away, return. Steve Randle is Soda's best friend, but Pony doesn't like him--Steve thinks Pony is a baby. Two-Bit Mathews never stops joking around. Dallas Winston is tougher and meaner than the rest of them: he is angry at the world and enjoys being a criminal. "Dally" spent time in rough neighborhoods in New York, but now he fights the Socs. Ponyboy thinks, "And you can't win against them no matter how hard you try, because they've got all the breaks and even whipping them isn't going to change that fact." Chapter 1, pg. 11
Finally, there's Johnny Cade, the sad, small, frightened pet of the gang. As the boys talk about the attack on Pony, Darry starts yelling at Pony, angry that he never seems to think to protect himself. Soda tells Darry to stop, and though Darry grumbles, they all know that he listens to Soda. Pony and Johnny decide to go to the movies with Dally tomorrow night. Soda and Steve are taking their girlfriends out. "They were the only kind of girls that would look at us, I thought. Tough, loud girls who wore too much eye makeup and giggled and swore too much." Chapter 1, pg. 15 Pony feels bad that nice girls won't look at boys like him. When he was dissecting a worm in science class and pulled out his switch blade to use as a blade without thinking, a girl near him said, "They are right. You are a hood." Chapter 1, pg. 15
Thinking about that makes Pony feel terrible. That night, Pony wonders why the Socs hate the Greasers so much, and why Darry has to work so hard. Life seems unfair. Soda tells Pony not to take Darry's nagging seriously: Darry works too hard, and is only trying to protect Ponyboy. Pony wishes he believed that Darry really loved him.