The unseen layers present in S. E. Hinton's The Outsiders make it possible for the reader to develop differing interpretations of the novel. The ambiguity of the text is recognized within the deconstructionist approach to literature. Deconstruction allows the reader to focus on particular elements in the text that divulge the underlying themes. In focusing on two key scenes in The Outsiders, deconstruction explains how Hinton's use of these scenes gives the reader insight into two opposing themes within the text. The two scenes consist of Ponyboy's and Johnny's confrontation with the Socs and also when Ponyboy and Johnny save the children in the burning church (54-57; 91-93). In these two scenes, Hinton manipulates the characters' reactions to illustrate two divergent readings of the text. Critics have consistently argued whether Hinton intended the text to be read as a realistic account of teenage life, or a text that embodies the idealism of youth. I believe the answer lies within both interpretations, for the boys must face the reality of their actions and also individually come to terms with what or whom they consider worth dying for.
In interpreting the text as a realistic account of teenage life, it is evident that the author deals with the real issues that youth face, such as violence and class conflict. The first key scene exemplifies these impending dangers with the boys' reactions to being surrounded by the Socs in the park. The narrator, Ponyboy, describes Johnny "as white as a ghost and his eyes were wild-looking: (54). Ponyboy implicates Johnny's earlier encounter with the Socs as the cause of Johnny's overwhelming fear. Ponyboy ...
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In analyzing two key scenes from The Outsiders, the text belies the contradictory themes of the reality of teenage life and the idealism of youth. In focusing on these scenes, the reader observes how Hinton dismantles her own text with her use of oppositions in the reactions of Ponyboy and Johnny. Although two contrasting themes are represented, it is not necessary to choose between them. With the critical approach of deconstruction, the reader recognizes the significance of opposition within the text. I believe this simultaneous understanding of both discourses is the only way a reader can truly appreciate the depth of Hinton's work, for the greatest enlightenment stems from the realization that the true message lies within the many thematic shades of gray.
Hinton, S. E. The Outsiders. New York: Penguin, 1995.
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