Poverty In The Novel The Outsiders By S.E. Hinton

May 18, 2022 by Essay Writer

The concept of poverty is pervasive throughout the novel The Outsiders and provides a significant representation of the struggles of those living in it. Poverty is the state of being extremely poor and greatly affects the quality of someone’s life. Written by S.E. Hinton, The Outsiders (published 1967) follows the story of a group of juveniles who are discriminated against because of differences in socioeconomic status in society. Poverty in The Outsiders creates division in society and affects a greaser’s life to such an extent that it shapes their entire place in life. Due to their behavior, greasers prompt society to create a stereotype for themselves as hoodlums. Greasers do badly in school because of their need to conform to their social status created by division in society. Also, Greasers turn to crime and violence as a way to create an identity for themselves, so that they can fit in with their social class and fulfill society’s expectations.

Because greasers live in poverty, they cannot access support and motivation to do well in school. Greasers are extremely poor so they cannot afford to focus on schoolwork as it does not conform to the social normalities of a greaser. Also, greasers have an extremely difficult life outside of school, so they cannot complete homework or assignments, hence they receive bad marks. On the contrary, socs are privileged and can focus on school as their life at home is easy. For example, Johnny does not have a place at his house, because his dad beats him, so he escapes to his gang on the streets and becomes a hoodlum. Johnny is forced by society to fulfill his expectations as a hoodlum and flunk school. This is evident when Johnny’s teacher labels him as “Just plain dumb” (p. 58) because he had always received bad grades in school. This tells the reader that society thinks they are inferior, not worthy of education. This prejudice denies him the opportunity to improve his life into adulthood. Dropping out of school is seen as a solution to the torment, but it just worsens the situation. It labels greasers as outcasts of society. Having no skills and money leads to reliance on crime and violence for support and belonging.

Greaser often engages in crime and violence because they live in poverty. For greasers, criminal activity is a survival technique, as it provides them with a purpose and an identity. This identity being someone of low social status; a hoodlum. This difference in social classes fuels aggression within greasers. Misdemeanors are appraised within greasers as it complies with the expectations and formalities of a typical hoodlum such as when Two-Bit shoplifts gas stations for fun. A prime example of this typical crime and violence of a hoodlum is Dallas.


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