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The Outsiders Themes and Symbols

Important Themes

The majority of the book the Outsiders focuses on attempts to bridge the gap between social classes, namely between the rich and the poor. As Hinton suggests, the differences in socioeconomic status is not necessarily what makes the Socs and the greasers rivals, but rather their inability to come to terms with love, fear, sorrow and grief.

Also frequently called upon is the theme of honor among the lawless. The notion that there is honor among those who denounce authority is evident throughout the novel. The greasers abide by an unwritten code that requires they defend their own, whether that be to their enemies or the authorities. There were even times where members of the group would take the blame from crimes committed by their friends in an act of solidarity, or to protect the other from the pending fallout.

The most important symbols used in the Outsiders are Two-Bit’s prized switchblade, Bob’s rings and the greaser hairstyle.

Two-Bit’s Switchblade
His most prized possession, the switchblade is representative of a strong disregard for authority – something the greasers regularly ignore. The blade is stolen, and later it represents individual power and the potential for violence. Towards the end of the book, the police take the switchblade from Dally’s corpse, linking the weapon with Dally – the member of the greasers who personifies authority and power.

Bob’s Rings
Bob’s rings are a symbol of wealth, but they also represent the physical power that comes from being wealthy. Physical power that he uses to prove his superiority over Ponyboy and the rest of the greasers.

The Greaser Hairstyle
The greasers are not able to afford the same luxuries as the Socs. This means that they must explore other avenues of establishing their identity. In wearing their hair a certain way, the greasers distinguish themselves from other social circles. In the 60s, it was common for men to adopt a more conservative look, the greaser style is the complete opposite of that.