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The Outsiders: the Theme of Juvenile Delinquency

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The Outsiders directed by Francis Ford Coppola, and written by S.E. Hinton depicts the social rivalry between the high school cliques “Greasers” and “Socs.” The Greasers are the lower class, the poor kids from the wrong side of town or mostly know by the designated delinquents. The Socs, short for Socialites, are the rich kids from the south side of town, getting all the breaks and advantages, but still doing a lot of the same things as the “delinquents.” However because of their social class, they never seem to get into any trouble. Rivalry is part of society when it comes to life and even more when talking about teenagers, everyone always wants to be ahead of everyone else, be the “perfect” adolescent. When writing the novel, The Outsiders, Hinton utilizes the sociological theme, symbolic interactionism to portray the meaning behind each character and the real life they had that caused each and one of them to become who they did.

In this story, Hinton applied symbolic interactionism throughout the novel and Coppola depicted it very well in the film. Symbolic interactionism is a study of how people use symbols to communicate, it’s a framework for building theory that sees society as a product of everyday interactions between individuals (Macionis 2018). It was applied, when Ponyboy Curtis described the way the “greasers” and “socs” differentiated each other because of how they looked and the way they dressed, and most importantly the way they act. He states that the Greasers are a working class, as they are poorer than the socs. When the movie first started, the hatred the Socs had for the greasers was seen right away, when they attacked Ponyboy for just walking home from the movie theater. The Socs’ way of communicating with the rival gang, the Greasers, was by attacking one of them without having a reason for it. After a few seconds of being pushed around Ponyboy’s brothers, who play the role of his parents, showed up with the rest of the Greasers to help Ponyboy scare the Socs away. All through the movie symbolic interactionism is used, not only by describing the Socs and the Greaser’s rivalry between each group, but also how Ponyboy, Sodapop, Darry, Dallas, Johnny, Two-Bit and Steve protected each other as if they were all real blood brothers. They had formed such strong social bonds with one another that even the thought of losing one of their own caused a severe emotional reaction.

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The Greasers and the Socs are just names to describe the gangs from different sides of town, best known as the rich side and the poor side. Significant labels given to anyone, accepted or not can be very powerful because labels are not so much the way of describing a person, but how others respond to those labels (Macionis 2018). “As people develop a stronger commitment to deviant behavior, they typically acquire a stigma, a powerfully negative label that greatly changes a person’s self concept and social identity,” (Macionis 2018). Labeling theory consists techniques of neutralization. Techniques of neutralization are denial, condemnation and appeal (Shuey 2018). Ponyboy went into denial when both him and Johnny killed Bob, one of the Socs. Since the Greasers were already greatly condemned, Johnny and Ponyboy knew they did not stand a chance even if they appealed to have just acted upon self defence. Their inner control took over their thoughts and they decided to run to Dallas for advice, then later running away.

Control theory consists of inner control and outer control. Inner control is having a conscience, and outer control is when others influence on us do not deviate (Macionis 2018). The bonds based on the influencers are mostly because of attachments, commitments, and involvements (Shuey 2018). Sodapop was the biggest influencer for Ponyboy since he had the biggest heart from Ponyboy’s point of view. Whenever Ponyboy felt like Darry hated him and could not stand him, Soda always made sure to reassure him that Darry loved him as much as he loved Soda. After their parent’s death, Darry took on many responsibilities, which is why he always wants the best for his brothers and himself, that’s what his parents would have wanted. Even when Ponyboy’s inner control was working against him, Soda helped him out to get his thoughts under control.

Juvenile delinquency is defined as a young person whose behavior is marked by the violation of the law and the way they act. However, who society defines as a delinquent, can be very biased. Greasers act and look different from a traditional society, they get in fights, carry around blades, move in groups and generally have loud and aggressive demeanors. They smoke, drink, stay out late and go to parties. In the film environment all of this is normal, because crime is a natural part of their society. Strain theory is seen as the film moves in deeper to the climax because Dallas and the rest of the Greasers except Ponyboy depict the outcome of people that cannot always achieve greater success. People not achieving cultural goals legitimately feel anomie and become deviant is part of strain theory (Shuey 2018).

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The Outsiders: the Theme of Juvenile Delinquency. (2022, Jun 16). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 1, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-outsiders-the-theme-of-juvenile-delinquency/
“The Outsiders: the Theme of Juvenile Delinquency.” Edubirdie, 16 Jun. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/the-outsiders-the-theme-of-juvenile-delinquency/
The Outsiders: the Theme of Juvenile Delinquency. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-outsiders-the-theme-of-juvenile-delinquency/> [Accessed 1 Dec. 2022].
The Outsiders: the Theme of Juvenile Delinquency [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jun 16 [cited 2022 Dec 1]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-outsiders-the-theme-of-juvenile-delinquency/
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