The Five Stages of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in The Outsiders, a Novel by S. E. Hinton

November 3, 2020 by Essay Writer

The Outsiders

“Psychology is the endlessly fascinating science of the human mind and behavior” (Gillespie 1). Psychological criticism is used to enhance the knowledge of literature by analyzing the behaviors and motives of dynamic characters throughout several theories. Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is one of many theories. This concept has five stages: physiological needs, safety needs, belongingness and love needs, esteem needs, and self-actualization. The stages are arranged in a triangle, with the fundamental needs at the bottom. Maslow wanted to understand what motivates people and their actions, and this is shown through his pyramid. First, people are motivated to meet their basic survival needs including food and water. Once those are met, they move on to be motivated by the next stage up, such as esteem or belonging needs. Eventually, when all their needs are satisfied, they may move on to the self-fulfillment stage. In S. E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, Johnny Cade’s motives and actions, over time, can be categorized into all the different stages of Maslow’s theory.

Safety and love needs are closely related for Johnny. First, he reached his safety needs. “His father was always beating him up, and his mother ignored him… He would have run away a million times if we hadn’t been there”. Although he did not feel safe at home, he felt safe with the gang. Also, he had his love and belonging needs met along with the physical needs. “If it hadn’t been for the gang, Johnny would never have known what love and affection are” (14). The other greasers gave him a sense of belonging, especially considering his rough life at home. They loved and cared for him even if his parents did not. This also caused his shy and timid actions at the time since he struggled with his safety, love, and belonging at home. He was motivated to reach a feeling of belongingness or safety, and once he got there his motives affected his further actions.

As Johnny started to move past the basic needs, he eventually reached the stages of esteem needs and self-actualization. After he saved the children from the burning church, he was praised and respected. “Their lives are worth more than mine, they have more to live for. Some of their parents came by to thank me and I knew it was worth it”. He knew that endangering his life for them was the right choice to make, and he was content with it. He had earned the respect of other people, even though he was a greaser. After he satisfied the esteem needs, he reached the self-actualization stage before death. He told Pony, “Stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold…” . He fulfilled his life, and knew that dying was worth it to save the children. He also realized the meaning of the poem, and how it related to him and Pony’s lives. “You’re gold when you’re a kid, like green. When you’re a kid everything’s new, dawn. It’s just when you get used to everything that it’s day” . He wanted to tell Ponyboy to stay young and innocent, and not to make the wrong choices in life. Johnny made his way through all the stages, because once he met his physical needs, he moved on to satisfy his emotional and psychological needs.

In conclusion, Johnny’s actions over time can be categorized into the five stages of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. He was motivated to meet his safety and belongingness needs, and these were provided by the gang. Afterwards, he saved the children and was praised and respected, which fulfilled his self-esteem needs. Finally, at his death, he reached the self-actualization stage when he realized all of his choices were worth it. He realized that everything he did was worth his life, and he advised Ponyboy to stay young and innocent. Johnny shows that, even with rough conflicts and struggles in his life, he was able to move past them and was motivated to reach self-actualization.

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