Foreshadowing in The Outsiders

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  • 0:02 Ominous Hints
  • 0:24 Johnny Killed a Soc
  • 1:28 Burning of Church
  • 2:40 Dally's Death
  • 4:01 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

S.E. Hinton uses foreshadowing extensively in her work. In this lesson, we will learn how she used foreshadowing to predict three major events in the novel, 'The Outsiders.'

Ominous Hints

Three of the biggest events in the novel, The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton were Bob's death, the burning of the church, and Dally's death. For each of these events, the author foreshadowed, or dropped hints of warning, that something was about to happen. In this lesson, we will take a closer look at the indications that foreshadowed these events.

Johnny Killed a Soc

After Johnny is jumped and nearly left for dead by a group of Socs, he became 'scared of his own shadow.' Walking through life in constant fear, it is apparent that something is about to give.The book says, 'Johnny, who was the most law-abiding of us, now carried in his back pocket a six-inch switchblade. He'd use it, too, if he ever got jumped again. They had scared him that much. He would kill the next person who jumped him. Nobody was ever going to beat him like that again. Not over his dead body...' Ponyboy knew that Johnny was on the edge, and things were not going to end well.

The next hint that something bad is about to happen comes when Ponyboy gets into an argument with Darry and is sleeping in the cold, vacant lot with Johnny. Ponyboy dares fate by thinking, 'Things gotta get better, I figured. They couldn't get worse. I was wrong.' The reader finds themselves on the edge of their seat about what is in store for the boys next. Ponyboy regains consciousness after being nearly drowned by a group of Socs to learn what Johnny has done. ' ''I killed him,'' he said slowly. ''I killed that boy.'' '

Burning of Church

The next major event that is foreshadowed is the burning of the church. After the drive-in, while Johnny and Ponyboy are hanging out in the vacant lot just shooting the breeze, Ponyboy has a random thought. 'I saw Johnny's cigarette glowing in the dark and wondered vaguely what it was like inside a burning ember.' Within a matter of days, Ponyboy will find out the answer to that question.

Ponyboy thought the church in Windrixville, where they went to escape the police after Johnny killed Bob, seemed 'eerie.' Feeling nervous and having a lot of time on their hands, led to an increase in smoking, but the boys are aware that an old, wooden building like the church has the potential to light up like a matchbox. 'We were careful with our cigarettes—if that old church ever caught fire there'd be no stopping it.' Ponyboy was right. When the church caught fire, it burned to the ground and destroyed everything inside.

As Ponyboy and Johnny run inside to save the schoolchildren who were there for a picnic and became trapped inside, Ponyboy reflects on his earlier random thought. 'The cinders and embers began falling on us, stinging and smarting like ants. Suddenly, in the red glow and the haze, I remembered wondering what it was like in a burning ember, and I thought: Now I know, it's a red hell. Why aren't I scared?'

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