Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton--VUVOX

Bibliography: Hinton, S. E. (1967). The outsiders. New York, NY: Penguin Books.

In Ponyboy’s world, there are two types of people. There are the Socs, the rich society kids who get away with anything. Then there are the greasers, like Ponyboy, who aren’t so lucky. Ponyboy has a few things he can count on: his older brothers, his friends, and trouble with the Socs, whose idea of a good time is beating up greasers like Ponyboy. At least he knows what to expect—until the night things go too far (Penguin Books).


The collage feature in VUVOX provides a unique interface for creating visual presentations along a sliding horizontal strip that the user can either play or scroll through manually. Users can upload images, audio, and video to their collages and add/modify text. While this tool is an appealing visual medium, it does have several problems: 1. The horizontal canvas that the user creates on appears smaller when published as a final product, making the original images slightly awkward onscreen (see the first example of text "Greasers are almost like hoods..." below), and 2. VUVOX often experiences server outages, resulting in an ability to save. On The Outsiders collage, scroll through it manually to get the best effect. VUVOX is not recommended for beginners.

Hinton’s The Outsiders is now considered a classic and for very good reason. Prior to its publication in 1967, the genre now labeled “YA” was nonexistent—-there were no books for teenagers about real teenagers. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, published 16 years earlier, was written for an adult audience, and other materials were mere adult propaganda, sterile and unrealistic—-think Gidget. An 18-year-old from Tulsa, Oklahoma, however, knew exactly what life was like for small-town teenagers—-emotional turmoil, family upheaval, socioeconomic conflict—-and she depicted this reality in her first novel, The Outsiders.

Regardless of its landmark legend, The Outsiders is first and foremost a good book. As the first-person narrator, Ponyboy Curtis has a sometimes-painfully lucid voice: at no point in the novel is the reader unaware of or confused about Ponyboy’s feelings. This aching clarity forces us to experience his pain and rage and bewilderment head-on, but it also allows us to exhilarate in the rush of the rumble or stammer bashfully in front of the pretty, red-haired cheerleader. Through Ponyboy, the audience meets such equally three-dimensional characters as his friends Johnny and Dallas, his brothers Darrel and Sodapop, and the tragic figure of Cherry. The plot is fast-paced and concise with little or no subplot to drag down the main storyline, and the ending, while not so clean as to be unrealistic, provides a margin of hope for the characters we have come to identify so much with.

Hinton provides an action-packed punch, yet it is the novel’s quiet moments that have resonated so strongly with readers over the years. How Ponyboy reacts to and in between conflicts shows the audience both what he is made of and what we can be made of. The Outsiders reminds us that there is honor among the lawless, that beauty can be found in the least likely of places, and that the same sun sets over all of us.

“Stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold.” Grades 7+.

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