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The Outsiders Chapter 1 Summary

Instructor: Dori Starnes

Dori has taught college and high school English courses, and has Masters degrees in both literature and education.

We meet the Curtis brothers and learn about the tough streets they call home and the tougher friends they call family. This lesson will focus on the summary of Chapter 1 of ''The Outsiders.''

The Curtis Brothers

The story, we soon learn, is narrated by Ponyboy Curtis, a 14-year-old boy living with his brothers in a poor East Side neighborhood. The action starts as he is leaving a movie theater. Ponyboy has been to the movie by himself, because that's the way he prefers it. In fact, Ponyboy spends a lot of time alone. He is smart and likes books and art (including movies), and this sets him apart from his brothers and the socioeconomic class he is a part of.

Since Ponyboy's parents died, he and his 16-year-old brother, Sodapop, have been under the care of their oldest brother, 20-year-old Darry. They need to be sure to keep out of trouble, because otherwise they could get taken away from Darry and sent to a foster home. More than anything else, the Curtis boys want to keep their family together.

Darry is a hard worker who doesn't have time for school or books, and Sodapop is always happy. Ponyboy says Darry grew up too fast, and Soda never will. But Ponyboy loves both his brothers, even though they are nothing like him. Though Ponyboy is smart in school, he sometimes doesn't have a lot of common sense according to his brothers.

A red Chevy Corvair is the first sign that something is wrong
A red Chevy Corvair is the first sign that something is wrong.

Ponyboy Gets Jumped

Ponyboy leaves the theater and starts walking home alone, even though the streets of his neighborhood are no place for a kid of his age and station to be by himself.

Ponyboy is a self-described Greaser, a kid from the poor East Side. His group of friends, and by extension all the guys in their social class, are embroiled in an ongoing battle with the Socs (Pronounced So-Shizz, short for socials), the rich kids from the West Side. The Socs like to beat up Greasers, and will often jump any they find on their own. Ponyboy wishes he was not alone, and it makes him nervous.

Sure enough, Ponyboy notices he is being followed by some Soc boys in a Corvair. He walks faster, remembering what happened when some boys had jumped his friend Johnny Cade. Johnny was beaten badly, and emotionally it scarred him. Five boys get out of the Corvair and surround Ponyboy.

One of the Soc boys pulls out a knife and tells Ponyboy he's going to cut his hair, which Pony and many Greasers wear long and greased-back (hence the name Greaser). Pony backs away from the knife, right into a Soc standing behind him. They push him to the ground, and Ponyboy starts yelling. One of the boys stuffs a handkerchief into Ponyboy's mouth.

Fortunately for Ponyboy, his brothers and friends show up just then. Soda and Darry help Ponyboy, while the other boys chase after the Socs.

Tough as Nails

Ponyboy is cut on one cheek and shaken up, but not badly hurt. He doesn't want to cry in front of his brothers, so he thinks about the other members of the 'gang' he and his brothers run with. Ponyboy is the youngest, but he's tolerated because of his brothers.

Steve Randle, the first boy Pony mentions, is Sodapop's best friend. Steve is 17 years old and works at a gas station with Sodapop. He loves cars: working on them, stealing them, driving them.

Two-Bit Mathews, at 18 years old, is the oldest member of the gang aside from Darry, but he's still a junior in high school. We learn that Two-Bit does a lot of shoplifting, carries a knife, and enjoys going to school but not actually studying.

Dallas Winston, who goes by Dally, is the toughest member of their group. He moved to their neighborhood from New York City and was first arrested at age 10. He likes fighting and he's mean, but very smart. Pony tells us that Dally will steal from little kids. Ponyboy doesn't like Dally, but he does fear and respect him. In fact, Pony thought until that moment that Dally was in the cooler (jail).

The last member of their group is Ponyboy's best friend, 16-year-old Johnny Cade. Johnny has a rough life: his father beats him and his mother screams at him. His real family are the Curtis boys and the rest of the gang. They treat him like a little brother.

A gas station in 1965, much like the one Sodapop Curtis and Steve Randal worked at.
 A gas station in 1965, much like the one Sodapop Curtis and Steve Randle worked at.

Future Plans

Back in the present moment, Dally looks at Ponyboy's bruise and cut and proclaims that Pony looks 'tough.' Pony tells us that 'tough' means rough, and 'tuff' means sharp, but both are compliments in their world.

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