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English09: The Outsiders [Hinton]: Context

Year 9 + Modified

Related Readings

The 1960's in America

Gang Membership

By the late 1960s to early 1970s, gang activity that had begun in big cities such as New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles began to spread to the southern region of the United States. However, these gangs, primarily composed of young males of varying ethnicities, remained relatively small and dispersed in the beginning. As Hinton illustrates with The Outsiders, the appeal of gang membership is universal and based on several important features. Gangs do the following:

  • Provide a surrogate or substitute family when traditional family units break down, as with Darry, Soda, and Ponyboy, who extend membership in their nontraditional family to other members of the gang.
  • Give a sense of self-esteem to young people who lack social status, as with the greasers who are intimidated by the upper-class Socs.
  • Continue a family tradition of membership, as with the brothers Darry, Soda, and Ponyboy.
  • Reflect a lack of educational, economic, or recreational opportunities in an area, as with the greasers' inability to break the cycle of poverty in which they are caught.
  • Ensure survival for members living in dangerous areas, as when Ponyboy is attacked by a group of Socs and the other greasers come to his aid.
  • Allow members to express cultural identity, as with the greasers, a group of lower-class Oklahoma youth.

On the other hand, gangs are often characterized by intimidation and violence that expresses anger and frustration stemming from stagnant social circumstances. Such violence is evident in the deaths of Bob, Dally, and Johnny.

CITATION: Course Hero. (2017, October 25). The Outsiders Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved November 22, 2023, from

Course Hero Infographic

CITATION: Course Hero. (2017). The Outsiders Study Guide. Retreived from