“Among adolescents, so-called ‘body talk’ can be a major topic of discussion. This is the time when the body arrives to greet its owner, and how to respond with its obvious significance. With ease and enjoyment? With fear and constraint? With abandon, if not reckless abandon? ” Robert Coles, (Coles 159). When adolescence occurs in the typical teenager, one of the major transitions in human life occurs. The body of a teenager becomes the body of an adult. This metamorphosis that occurs leaves the ordinary teen to use their new body in a way that they never have before.
Robert Coles’ quote and this ideology is greatly defined in the novel The Outsiders. The Outsiders is a novel based on an adolescent teen growing up in a Texas city. The teen, Ponyboy, who is without parents is raised by two older brothers. Ponyboy always hangs around with the group that his older brothers belong to. This group of post adolescent 18-20 year olds, are the somewhat misfit outcast greasers. The rival group or gang of the greasers in their hometown are the socs. The socs are the upper-class “jocks” of the high school who cause trouble, but remain in upstanding citizenship with the city.
There is forever a clash between the two gangs, the socs and the greasers. The novel tells the story of how Ponyboy, being a greaser, gets caught up in a tangle with him and his friend Johnny. The two younger greasers are jumped by a group of socs and Johnny ends up killing one of the socs in a self defense effort. Basically the novel is about coming to terms with why all of the young adults are fighting. The climax of the story is when the two gangs have a brawl. In the brawl the greasers prevail in the fight, as the socs fled the area. After the brawl though, everything isn’t all fine and dandy.
The struggle continues, the socs are still socs and the greasers are still greasers. This isn’t just merely a story about two gangs and their fighting. It is the struggle of adolescence, the expression of the means of how the young adults deal with their emotions, by using physical force. The greasers and the socs feel superior to one another by who is stronger, or who can win in a fight. This poses a possible conflict of interest when you have young adults at this age fighting one another. You have people of all different body sizes and strengths all mixed in with each other.
Ponyboy, who runs with the older crowd that is more developed and experienced in fighting than he is, can be over matched when he is mixed in as a greaser. When the socs look for a fight they see that he is a greaser and they don’t care that he is of smaller build than them. After being jumped by a group of socs when he is all alone, Pony Boy reflects: “I’m kind of small for fourteen even though I have a good build, and those guys were bigger than me” (Hinton 4). Like Coles has said in his quote, the adolescent greets its new body with “reckless abandon”.
The socs showed no sympathy for that Ponyboy was smaller than they were. Ponyboy knowing that he is smaller than everyone does not use it as an excuse. He still does not want to be left out in the group. In the final brawl, Darry (Pony’s older brother) says to Ponyboy “I don’t know if you ought to be in this rumble, Pony” (Hinton 133). Darry knows that Pony is smaller and could potentially be hurt in the brawl. Pony who also knows this, will not hear of it, because he doesn’t want to be left out in the action. Ponyboy is physically inferior to the other teenagers in the brawl but he refuses to back out of the fight.
This is what Coles is saying about greeting the body with reckless abandon. Pony boy is maturing, but not quite as far along as the other greasers and socs that he is fighting against. So he is greeting his new body by throwing himself right in with the others. He would rather get beat up and be one of the greasers, than stay out of the fight and be left out of the group. Another part in the book that highlights Coles’ thoughts is when Pony Boy sneaks into the drive-in with Johnny and another greaser, Dallas. Dallas goes right behind two girls and starts talking a very dirty conversation very loud so that the girls can hear.
Dallas continues to harass the girls until he then offers to buy them a soda. “He started out bad and then he got worse, Dallas could talk awful dirty if he wanted to and I guess he wanted to then” (Hinton 20). The question is why? Johnny and Pony Boy, who are slightly younger than Dallas aren’t as into the attitude and “bad ass” image that Dallas has. Clearly while they are only years apart, the division becomes much larger as Dallas is gone through his adolescent cycle, and Johnny and Pony Boy are in the middle stages.
Dallas who is on one hand harassing the girls, does offer them a soda. So in retrospect, he actually really likes them. So him harassing them is his way of attracting attention and almost flirting. This is a way of using one’s body in another way, a sort of sexual language. One could argue that Dallas isn’t using his body or physical self, but the sexual language that he uses to the girls involves being sexually mature and physically mature. What is very interesting is how the girls are disgusted by what Dallas is saying, and his manor of activity.
Later when Ponyboy actually befriends the girls, the last words that the girl said to Ponyboy is “I could fall in love with Dallas Winston…. I hope that I never see him again or I will” (Hinton 46). One thing that leads to this is that the girls realize that they know Dallas from when he would ride in the town rodeos. For the most part however, while Dallas is being vulgar to these girls, his language gets through to them, and one of them at least is attracted to him. The socs and the greasers have many things that separate them from each other.
At the age that the characters in the book are, they tend to choose who they are or what group they belong to. A soc or a greaser is easily identifiable. When Dally was harassing the girls at the drive-in Ponyboy knew that they were not greaser girls. “But these girls weren’t our kind. They were tough looking girls dressed sharp and really good looking” (Hinton 21). Pony boy talks about how most of the greaser girls that he has seen are more sloppy dressed and not as good looking. The girls at the drive in actually ended up being soc girls. After a while Pony Boy becomes friends with one of the girls after they talk for a while.
So, while the two different groups of people found common characteristics about each other, they still have a void between them because the girls are socs and the guys are greasers. It may seem unrealistic to see the greasers talking with two pretty soc girls. In fact Ponyboy gets some evil looks from some soc guys circling the area when he is talking to the girls. It goes to show though that even though people belong to different groups, they can find things in each other that they like. Basically while you might have interests in certain things or feel a certain way, if you are in a group you must stick to that groups beliefs.
By the girls talking to the greasers they are not being true to their group, but they enjoy talking to them. The fact that one of the girls does not want to fall in love with Dallas proves that wile she might want to, she can’t because she is a soc and he is a greaser. So while you have individual preferences and feelings, at this special age, what group you belong to greatly influences actions that you take. It all comes down to the constant physical struggle that the two groups have. At the age that the teens are, their way to present whom they belong to is to use physical force.
Why these two groups use this is because they have newly acquired these adult bodies as adolescents. The power that they feel at this age is directly proportional to their physical development. With this feeling of power, and this being a new power to the young adult since they haven’t experienced this before, can become a reckless situation. Then you get what you have in the outsiders. Two groups proving themselves by physical power. It is a changing cycle of life, that eventually will overturn itself as the young adult grows into adulthood.