Ponyboy Curtis, a member of the greasers, a gang of poor East Side kids in Tulsa, leaves a movie theater and begins to walk home alone. A car follows him, and he suspects that it is filled with a bunch of Socs, members of rich West Side gang who recently beat up his friend Johnny. The car stops, and several Socs emerge and begin roughing Ponyboy up and try to cut off his hair. Ponyboy cries for help alert his brothers and fellow greasers, and the Socs flee. Afterward, Ponyboy's older brother Darry, who is also his guardian since their parents' death, scolds him for walking alone.
The next night, Johnny and Ponyboy go to the drive-in with fellow greaser Dally. Despite Dally's unpleasant behavior toward two Soc girls, Ponyboy strikes up a friendship with one of them, whose name is Cherry Valance. Ponyboy tells her about the Socs' attack on Johnny, and she insists that not all Socs are like that. Cherry tells him about some of the problems Socs have, and they find out they share a love of watching sunsets.
The girls and greasers walk out of the drive-in together, and are confronted by a Soc named Bob, who is Cherry's boyfriend, and his friends. Things almost come to blows, but Cherry puts a stop to the confrontation by leaving with Bob. Before going home, Ponyboy talks with Johnny in the vacant lot and falls asleep. He returns home late, and Darry gets so angry that he hits Ponyboy, who runs from the house and goes with Johnny to the park. There, they run into Bob and his Soc friends. The Socs attack, dunking Ponyboy's head into the fountain. Johnny stabs and kills Bob. Dally helps them escape town.
When Ponyboy recovers, the Socs and greasers attend a court hearing. Johnny is vindicated by all witnesses as having acted in self-defense. However, Ponyboy is depressed, his grades begin to suffer, and he almost turns to violence. His English teacher offers him a chance to pass by writing a final essay on the topic of his choice. Ponyboy can't think of a topic, though, and he and Darry fight about his lack of motivation. Sodapop becomes upset, and pleads with the brothers to stop fighting because it is tearing him apart. Ponyboy and Darry agree not to fight anymore.
Back at home that night, Ponyboy examines a copy of Gone with the Wind that Johnny left him. Out of it drops a note, written by Johnny, urging Ponyboy to keep his idealism and never give up hope for a better life. Ponyboy decides to write his essay about his experiences during the last several weeks. Author
Born in 1950, Susan Eloise Hinton was raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She was an avid reader as a child and experimented with writing by the time she turned ten. Her early stories were about cowboys and horses, and she preferred plots with rough riding and gunfights. When Hinton reached her teens, however, she could not find anything pleasing to read. Adult literature was still a bit too complicated for her, while literature for teens consisted of innocent tales about girls finding boyfriends. After working on the novel for a year and a half and through four re-writes, she let a friend's mother read it. The mother liked it enough to refer her to an agent, Marilyn Marlow of the Curtis Brown Agency. A contract offering publication arrived during Hinton's high-school graduation ceremonies.
The Outsiders was published in 1967, when the author was just seventeen. Susan Eloise shortened her name to S. E. Hinton so that boys would not know the author was female. It was published to critical acclaim, won several awards, and became a cult classic among teen readers. The success of The Outsiders enabled Hinton to go to the University of Tulsa, where she earned a B.S. in Education in 1970. While in school she met her future husband, David Inhofe, who encouraged her to write her second novel, That Was Then, This Is Now (1971). Over the next decade, she published a new novel every four years. In 1975, she published Rumble Fish, and Tex in 1979. Although