Copyright

The Outsiders Setting

Instructor: Kerry Gray

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

In this lesson, you will learn how the setting of the ''The Outsiders'' impacted the story. Author S.E. Hinton grew up in Tulsa, OK, during the 1960s. This novel mimics her perception of her surroundings during her teenage years.

The Setting

'We get jumped by the Socs. I'm not sure how you spell it, but it's the abbreviation for the Socials, the jet set, the West-side rich kids. It's like the term Greaser, which is used to class all us boys on the East side.'

The East side versus the West side of the city is the stage for the novel, The Outsiders. It's possible that Hinton chose these surroundings for her novel about teenagers because of her familiarity with this setting; like the characters in her book, she grew up in the midwest in the 1960s.

The setting describes the surroundings of the story, including the time and place. In The Outsiders, S.E. Hinton never explicitly tells the reader when and where the story took place. We know that information not only because she has shared it in interviews since the book was published, but also because of the way she describes it.

Authors convey the setting of a story in two ways.

  • The setting of a story could be stated as a specific time and place. For example, 'Dally was waiting for Johnny and me under the street light at the corner of Pickett and Sutton.' This example tells readers the exact location of the characters.
  • It might be a description, such as, 'I wanted to be out of towns and away from excitement. I only wanted to lie on my back under a tree and read a book or draw a picture, and not worry about being jumped or carrying a blade or ending up married to some scatterbrained broad with no sense.' In these sentences, Hinton somewhat describes the country, but also describes Ponyboy's view of the city.

Hinton's decision to leave out the city name may have helped the story be more relatable to teenagers all over America who are unsure of where they fit in a city divided by social classes.

Here are some other hints that Hinton leaves for the reader about the time and place:

  • The Socs drive 'tuff cars' like Mustangs and Corvairs.
  • Both the Socs and the Greasers go to drive-in movies for a quarter on a Friday night.
  • Ponyboy sees a Paul Newman movie at the matinee.
  • Friends meet up for Cokes at the Tasty Freeze.
    Corvairs are ~

These are all things that would have been popular among teenagers during that time period.

East and West

Throughout the story, the author uses the setting as an analogy. The east side of town represents poverty and dysfunction. The west side of town symbolizes wealth and power. The surroundings set the stage for the teens' internal conflict about social classes. Much of the pain that the characters endure throughout the story stems from the stereotypes that are placed on them because of where they live. The interactions between Cherry Valance and Ponyboy show the reader that the things that really matter, like respect and common interests, are more important than where you live.

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