Stay Gold, Ponyboy: Historical Models of Childhood in S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders College
S.E. Hinton’s seminal first novel, The Outsiders, is widely credited as the birth of contemporary teenage fiction. While J.D. Salinger is often seen as the first writer to truly capture the modern teenage mindset sixteen years earlier (albeit in a work aimed towards adult readers) with his legendary novel The Catcher in the Rye, it was Hinton, a tomboyish high-school student from Tulsa, Oklahoma, who took the teenage voice and presented it in a manner that was even more palpable, visceral, and lifelike, than even the spoiled, whiny Holden Caulfield could ever imitate. She achieves this voice through her characters. Hinton’s greasers are rowdy, downtrodden, and more than a little flawed; they embody a youthful vigor and a powerful sense of poignant world-weariness unheard of in children’s literature before Hinton’s time. And yet, whether it was intentional or through a lack of writing experience, Hinton’s characters, despite their overwhelming modernity, fit squarely into archetypes that had been prevalent in literary reconstructions of childhood for the past several centuries. My goal is to determine how the characters of The Outsiders fit into these traditional historic models of childhood and also how Hinton utilizes these...
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