The Outsiders – Chapters 11–12

Summary: Chapter 11
Ponyboy is restricted to bed rest for a week after he
wakes up from his concussion. He finds a picture of Bob the Soc
in Sodapop’s high school yearbook. Bob’s grin reminds him of Sodapop’s.
Ponyboy wonders if Bob’s parents hate him, saying he prefers their
hatred to their pity. Looking at the photograph and remembering
conversations with Cherry and Randy, Ponyboy concludes that Bob
was cocky, hot-tempered, frightened, and human.
Randy arrives at the house to talk to Ponyboy and behaves
with shocking insensitivity. Not thinking of what Ponyboy has suffered, Randy
says he is worried about being associated with the violence. They
discuss the hearing scheduled for the next day. Ponyboy, in a delirious
state, says that he killed Bob himself and that Johnny is still alive.
Darry asks Randy to leave.
Summary: Chapter 12
Ponyboy does not have to speak much at the hearing, since
his doctor has spoken to the judge about Ponyboy’s condition. The
judge asks Ponyboy a few gentle questions about his home life and
then acquits him of all wrongdoing and allows him to return home
with his brothers. After the hearing, Ponyboy becomes detached and depressed.
His grades suffer, he loses his coordination, memory, and appetite,
and he resumes fighting with Darry. Ponyboy’s English teacher, Mr.
Syme, says that although Ponyboy is failing, he can raise his grade
to a C by writing an outstanding autobiographical theme.
The next day at lunch, Ponyboy goes to the grocery store
with Steve and Two-Bit for candy bars and Cokes. When a group of
Socs accosts him, he threatens them with a broken bottle, saying
he refuses to take any more of their intimidation. Ponyboy’s uncharacteristic
show of hostility alarms Steve and Two-Bit, and they warn Ponyboy
not to grow hard like Dally was. They are relieved when Ponyboy
bends down to pick up the broken glass, not wanting anyone to get
a flat tire.
That night as Ponyboy and Darry fight about Ponyboy’s
grades, Sodapop runs out of the house, upset that Sandy has returned
a letter he wrote her unopened. Darry explains that Sodapop is not
the father of Sandy’s child and acts puzzled that Sodapop never
told Ponyboy. Ponyboy reflects that he probably acted uninterested when
Sodapop tried to talk about his problems. Worried, Darry and Ponyboy
go find Sodapop. He tells them their constant fighting is tearing
him apart. Sobbing, he asks them to try to understand each other
and stop fighting. They promise to try. Ponyboy thinks that Sodapop
will hold them together.
The boys run back home. Ponyboy looks at Johnny’s copy
of Gone with the Wind. He finds a handwritten note
from Johnny urging him to stay gold and saying that the children’s
lives were worth his own. Ponyboy realizes that he wants to tell
the story of his friends so that other hoodlums will not nurse their
anger at the world and ignore the beauty in it. He begins to work
on his English theme, starting with the words that begin The
Outsiders: “When I stepped out into the bright sunlight
from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my
mind: Paul Newman and a ride home.”
Analysis: Chapters 11–12
At first, Ponyboy cannot come to terms with the deaths
of Dally and Johnny. He is physically and emotionally immobilized.
Even after he recovers from his physical injuries, he feels listless
and empty, his grades slip, and his relationship with Darry suffers.
Ponyboy’s friends worry that he will cope by hardening into an angry
hoodlum, a prospect that worries them. We might think that Ponyboy’s shows
of toughness would be a positive development in Steve and Two-Bit’s
eyes—displays like the one in the grocery store suggest that Ponyboy
is losing his vulnerability to intimidation and thus becoming more
valuable in the greaser gang. However, though it is important for
a greaser to have a tough exterior, Ponyboy’s friends do not want
him to become something he is not. Because Johnny has died, Ponyboy
is the last one of their group to retain the innocence that each
group member lost but remembers with nostalgia. The greasers also
worry about Ponyboy’s show of toughness because they know that he
is not naturally hostile or intimidating. The greasers’ concern
shows that they place as much importance on individual well-being
as on group well-being. The consideration Ponyboy shows in picking
up the broken glass from the bottle he uses to intimidate the Socs
indicates that his capacity for angry outbursts is less a part of
his character than his thoughtfulness and decency.
Ponyboy shows himself to be on the road to recovery when
he hashes things out with his brothers. Though Ponyboy still feels
the pain of loss, he can finally remember Johnny and Dally without
feeling overwhelming denial or anguish. He begins to look at the
plight of the greasers and juvenile delinquents with objectivity.
He realizes that many boys his age hate the world and feel they
must be tough and violent, and he begins to feel that someone should
show them the good in the world. Ponyboy’s decision to tell the
greasers’ story in his English theme paper marks his maturation
into an emotionally capable young man. Hinton suggests that Ponyboy
has found a way to make sense of the preventable violence in his
life. Ponyboy’s willingness to examine his painful past marks the
last stage in his recovery and sets him up to achieve the potential
that Darry has long seen in him.
That the novel’s closing lines are an exact repetition
of its opening lines symbolically initiates Ponyboy’s exploration
of his past through memory. With this exploration, recorded in Ponyboy’s writing,
we, as well as Ponyboy, finally discover a purpose to the seemingly
senseless struggle that he has undergone. Hinton’s act of ending
the novel by circling back to its beginning provides a balanced
symmetry to the story’s structure. More important, however, Ponyboy’s
ability to tie the story up so neatly shows that he has dealt with
these traumatic events in a healthy way.