The Outsiders – Chapters 7–8

Summary: Chapter 7

[G]reasers will still be greasers and
Socs will still be Socs. Sometimes I think it’s the ones in the
middle that are really the lucky stiffs.
(See Important Quotations Explained)

The reporters and police interview Ponyboy, Sodapop, and
Darry in the hospital waiting room. Sodapop jokes with the reporters
and hospital staff, keeping the mood light with his antics. The
doctors finally emerge and say that Dally will be fine but that
Johnny’s back was broken when the roof caved in. Even if Johnny
survives, they add, he will be permanently crippled.
The next morning, Ponyboy is making breakfast when Steve Randle
(Sodapop’s best friend) and Two-Bit come in with the morning papers.
The papers portray Ponyboy, Johnny, and Dally as heroes for rescuing
the schoolchildren. They also mention Ponyboy’s excellent performance
on the track team and in school. The papers mention that the state
will charge Johnny with manslaughter and send both Ponyboy and Johnny
to juvenile court, from which Ponyboy might be sent to a boys’ home.
The other boys reassure Ponyboy that his family will stay together.
Ponyboy tells them he had his recurring nightmare—which first occurred
on the night of his parents’ funeral—the previous night. He never
remembers the dream, but it makes him wake up in intense panic.
Ponyboy asks Sodapop about Sandy and learns that she
got pregnant and moved to Florida. Her parents refused to let her
marry Sodapop because of his age, so Sandy left to live with her
grandmother. Sodapop and Darry go to work, and Two-Bit and Ponyboy go
to get Cokes at the Tasty Freeze. A blue Mustang pulls up to the restaurant,
and in it they see the group of Socs that jumped Ponyboy and Johnny
in the park. Ponyboy feels an immediate and intense hatred for them.
One of the Socs, Marcia’s boyfriend, Randy, comes over
to Ponyboy. Two-Bit reminds him that no fighting is allowed before
the rumble, but Randy says he wants only to talk. He asks Ponyboy
why he saved those children and says he would never have thought
a greaser could do such a thing. Ponyboy says that it didn’t have
anything to do with his being a greaser. Sick about the violence
and Bob’s death, Randy says he does not intend to fight at the rumble. Randy
explains that Bob was his best friend, a good guy with a terrible
temper and overly indulgent parents. Ponyboy feels reassured by
his talk with Randy and realizes that Socs can be human and vulnerable.
Summary: Chapter 8

We couldn’t get along without him. We
needed Johnny as much as he needed the gang. And for the same reason.
(See Important Quotations Explained)

Two-Bit and Ponyboy go to see Johnny and Dally in the
hospital. Johnny, weak and pale, whispers that he would like Ponyboy
to finish reading Gone with the Wind to him. His
mother shows up to visit, but she is a mean-spirited, nagging woman
and Johnny refuses to see her. As Ponyboy and Two-Bit leave, she
accosts them and blames them for Johnny’s condition, and Two-Bit
insults her.
Dally is recovering nicely in the hospital, and for the
first time ever Ponyboy feels warmly toward Dally. Dally says that
Tim Shepard, the leader of another gang of greasers, came in to
talk about the rumble. Dally asks for Two-Bit’s black-handled switchblade,
and Two-Bit gladly hands over his prized possession without even
asking why Dally needs it.
On the way home, Ponyboy and Two-Bit see Cherry Valance
in her Corvette. She says that the Socs have agreed to fight with
no weapons. Ponyboy asks her to go see Johnny, but she says she
cannot because Johnny killed Bob. She says that Bob had a sweet
side and was only violent when drunk, as he was when he beat up Johnny.
Ponyboy calls her a traitor, but he quickly forgives her. He asks
her if she can see the sunset on the West Side, and when she says she
can, he tells her to remember that he can see it on the East Side too.
Analysis: Chapters 7–8
Family becomes increasingly important in the second half
of the novel—both the biological Curtis family and the makeshift
greaser family. Events begin to threaten the Curtis’s cohesion,
since a good chance exists that that state will take Ponyboy from
his brothers and put him in a boys’ home. This threat is especially
heartrending for the brothers because Ponyboy is finally learning
to appreciate Darry. It becomes important to Ponyboy to stay with
his brothers as a matter of greaser pride. If the Curtis brothers
can stay together, they can prove that greasers have the capability
to overcome great odds and be functional, even successful.
For boys such as Johnny, fellow greasers are far more
caring and stable than biological parents, and provide a more trustworthy
family. His preference for the greasers and disdain for his dysfunctional family
become evident when he allows Ponyboy and Two-Bit to visit him in
the hospital but will not see his own mother. He refuses her, not
because he is callous or because he wants to hurt her, but rather because
he does not consider her an important part of his life. She has
failed as a mother, denying him the nurturing that every child needs,
and Ponyboy and Two-Bit have provided Johnny with an alternative
source of support.
Ironically, the closer Johnny comes to death, the more
he participates in his own life and considers his individual desires.
He has long been involved with the greasers and led his life according
to their principles, including disliking the Socs. Like a member
of any group, however, Johnny needs an identity that is not wholly
confined by the group to which he belongs. Being close to death
affords Johnny a new perspective on life, one that is different
from that of other greasers. He realizes not only that violence
is futile but also, more important, that it doesn’t have to make
up his whole identity.
Ponyboy’s conversations with the two Socs, Randy and Cherry, in
this section emphasize his new appreciation of interpersonal connections—all
people are individuals, as Ponyboy reminds Randy, while he reminds
Cherry that the sunset can be seen just as well from the West Side
as from the East Side. This discussion of the sunset illustrates
yet another similarity between the two sides: no matter where one
lives, whether one is a greaser or a Soc, one can still appreciate
beauty. These conversations also allow an earlier topic to resurface,
which is the discussion of cycles of nature that Ponyboy introduces
through the Robert Frost poem. In this section, Ponyboy realizes
that natural cycles, specifically life and death, apply to members
of all social groups. This emphasis on commonality and connection
occurs just as the characters are preparing for the rumble, their
moment of sharpest division.