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The Concepts of Conformity and Staying True to One’s Self Portrayed in The Outsiders, a Coming-Of-Age Novel by S. E. Hinton

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From a young age everyone is taught to not judge a book by it’s cover. As one gets older, one learns to judge and label others more and more. People judge others by many things including social status, style, and looks. They are rarely judged by their personality. In the modern world you are told to hide your identity and follow the status quo.

This idea is expressed in S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders where everyone wants to fit in and be part of a group but some try harder than others. Ponyboy is one of those who tries exceptionally hard to belong. Ponyboy Curtis, Sodapop Curtis, Darry Curtis, Dallas Winston, Johnny Cade, and a few others are the members of a poor, small, and mostly harmless gang. They are the greasers. All gangs have their rivals, theirs is the Socs, a wealthy, dangerous, high- class gang that mistreats the greasers. In The Outsiders S.E. Hinton explores the idea that it is easier to conform to a group than to show others one’s true identity.

Cherry Valance and Ponyboy Curtis hide their true interests from others and by doing so they hide a part of their identity. Cherry and Pony both love certain things and that makes them different from others. This is shown when Cherry says, “You read a lot, don’t you, Ponyboy?’ Cherry asked. I was startled. “Yeah. Why?” She kind of shrugged. ‘I could just tell. I’ll bet you watch sunsets, too.’ She was quiet for a minute after I nodded. ‘I used to watch them, too, before I got so busy…” (pg. 35).

Clearly, everyone has a side that makes them different from the people you close to. Pony’s “outsider” half is the one that makes him different from the greasers. It is the side of him that likes sunsets, the side that reads all the books in his house over and over again, and the side that loves learning. This reveals a lot about Ponyboy and how he is different from everyone but he somehow manages to fit in and be part of something.

Ponyboy chooses to forget that he is special and somehow ignores that intelligent, sunset-loving side of himself when he is with the other greasers. This happens in real life too, everyday people hide who they are. This leads to them becoming afraid that if they are always their self they won’t be accepted. Depressingly that leads people to become depressed because they think that their true self is unwanted and unimportant.

When you are part of a tightly wounded gang like the greasers you act like each other, depend on each other, and you know nothing can tear you apart so you stand up to each other. Similarly Johnny stands up to Dally and says leave him alone, it makes him seem “cooler” to Marcia and Cherry. “Leave her alone, Dally.’ ‘Huh?’ Dally was taken off guard. He stared at Johnny in disbelief. Johnny couldn’t say ‘Boo’ to a goose. Johnny gulped and got a little pale, but he said, ‘You heard me. Leave her alone.’

Dallas scowled for a second. Dally got up and stalked off, his fists jammed in his pockets and a frown on his face. He didn’t come back.”(pg 22) Therefore, Johnny was tired of just being a pet and he stepped away from being that shy and abused victim that he is. He decided to be more like everyone else in his group of friends and stand up for one another.

This gives the impression that he is a popular, and cool to the girls, to make him seem like he has power over Dally, and that he is part of something. Johnny is becoming more like the others in his group and putting aside his real personality. No matter where in the world people may go, people will alter themselves to be more like others. They do that to fit in, be popular, and to get people to like them. Sadly Johnny is just one of those victims of the harsh ways of his strange world

Fashion: a popular way of dressing during a particular time or among a particular group of people. In The Outsiders all the Greasers dress exactly the same, one may call it the “greaser fashion” this style makes a greaser a greaser. This is revealed when Johnny and Ponyboy have to completely change their hair so that people won’t recognize them.

“After I’d sat in the sun for fifteen minutes to dry the bleach, Johnny let me look in the old cracked mirror we’d found in a closet. I did a double take. My hair was even lighter than Sodapop’s. I’d never combed it to the side like that. It just didn’t look like me. It made me look younger, and scareder, too. Boy howdy, I thought, this really makes me look tuff. I look like a blasted pansy. I was miserable.” (pg 62).

This shows how their looks (in this case hair) contributes a lot to how not only other people see them but how they see themselves. This reveals that their looks create a tough exterior but on the inside they are lonesome and vulnerable. In reality their looks are just a shield to hide all the pain they are hiding inside. Their exterior is just a shield they use to conceal their identities that they are disclosing from others. Overall, your clothes can not only show who you are but can also hide a part of you that makes you different from others and that makes a coward.

The Outsiders examines the concept that belonging to a group can be a lot less difficult than showing the world one’s real self, the self you are so desperately trying to hide from the rest of the world. Ponyboy experiences this everyday but when he’s with Johnny and Cherry he is more of his nerdy intellectual self. It’s not worth to change who you are to be more like others.

No matter how much you try to change you will always like the same things you like and there is no possible way to shift that, you can try all you want but absolutely nothing can adjust how you feel and what you like. In this world we don’t only use material objects to cover up how we feel and who we are but we use others to do so as well.

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The Concepts of Conformity and Staying True to One’s Self Portrayed in The Outsiders, a Coming-Of-Age Novel by S. E. Hinton. (2022, Dec 10). Retrieved from

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