Notes on The Outsiders Themes

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The Outsiders Topic Tracking: Misunderstanding

Chapter 1

Misunderstanding 1: Sodapop tries to explain to Ponyboy that Darry really does love him--he just doesn't know how to show it. Pony refuses to believe it, seeing Darry's love and concern as anger and over-protectiveness.

Chapter 3

Misunderstanding 2: Pony and Cherry try to piece together an understanding of the Socs and the greasers. It's hard for them, because all their lives they've been taught to hate the gang they don't belong to. They begin to realize that the two groups aren't nearly as different as they thought they were.

Chapter 5

Misunderstanding 3: Most people, Ponyboy included, always thought Johnny was dumb because he didn't do well in school. When they read Gone with the Wind together, though, Ponyboy realizes that sometimes Johnny has a very deep understanding of things--he just takes a little longer to come to it.

Chapter 6

Misunderstanding 4: Dally has no idea how Cherry feels about him. He doesn't really think about her at all, despite her strange behavior (Socs and greasers barely speak to each other, let alone help each other out.) He simply thinks of her as beautiful and high-spirited, never wondering what she is really like.

Misunderstanding 5: Ponyboy never considered that Dally might know what has happened to him. Pony always thought that Dally was just a thug who liked being a thug. He didn't understand that Dally became a thug because he had to protect himself, physically and emotionally. When Pony hears Dally telling Johnny never to become hard like him, Ponyboy is shocked, because he never knew about that side of Dally's personality.

Misunderstanding 6: Ponyboy is so used to people thinking of him as a criminal that when someone sees him as a hero, he thinks they're confused. For him, greasers can't be heroes--at least not to the people who called them greasers in the first place. When someone sees him clearly for the first time (as a boy who would risk his life to save someone else) Ponyboy thinks they have misunderstood him.

Chapter 8

Misunderstanding 7: Two-Bit willfully misunderstands when Ponyboy tells him he has a bad feeling about the fight for that evening. He pretends he thinks Ponyboy is being a coward. Unlike Ponyboy, who wants to understand clearly why things are the way they are, Two-Bit likes to pretend that things will be okay if you say they will be.

Chapter 9

Misunderstanding 8: Dally thinks that no one will accept how much he cares about his friend Johnny. He thinks he has to threaten the doctor with a knife in order to get into Johnny's hospital room when he is dying. The doctor surprises Dally, telling him that he will let him and Ponyboy into Johnny's room not because of the knife, but because he can see what good friends they are.

Chapter 10

Misunderstanding 9: Ponyboy misunderstands Dallas. He thinks because Dally is tough and mean, he can handle anything. As it turns out, Ponyboy is stronger than Dallas. When Johnny dies, Ponyboy can handle it, because he has inner strength he was never even aware of. Dally, on the other hand, is weak in a way Ponyboy never knew about.

Chapter 12

Misunderstanding 10: Ponyboy wants to change the way people think about greasers. He knows that many people think that greasers are bad just because they wear a lot of hair oil. He also knows that many greasers think of themselves as bad, believing they have no future. He wants to correct these misunderstandings, and show people the truth: greasers are individuals, and have to be judged as individuals.

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