'The Outsiders' Characters

Most of the characters in The Outsiders, by S. E. Hinton, belong to two rival factions, the Greasers and the Socs. Though the youngsters mostly adhere to their social groups and status, casual encounters lead them to realize they are very similar in many ways. Ironically, these encounters also lead to the violent events that are the turning point of the novel. 

Ponyboy Curtis 

Ponyboy Curtis—that is his real name—is the novel’s 14-year-old narrator and protagonist, and the youngest member of the greasers. What sets him apart from the rest of the gang are his literary interests and academic accomplishments: he identifies with Pip, the protagonist of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, and, during his escape with Johnny, he introduces him to the southern epic Gone with the Wind. 

His parents died in a car accident before the events of the novel, so Ponyboy lives with his brothers Darry and Sodapop. While he has an affectionate bond with Sodapop, his relationship with his eldest brother, Darry, is more strained, since he repeatedly accuses Ponyboy of lacking common sense.

Ponyboy has a strong dislike for the Greasers’ rival gang, called “The Socs,” but, throughout the progress of the novel, he realizes that both sides have issues, and that they actually share some similarities. 

Johnny Cade

Johnny is a 16-year-old greaser who, compared to the other members of the gang, is passive, quiet and vulnerable. He comes from an abusive, alcoholic household, where he is largely neglected by his parents, and gravitates towards the Greasers because they are the only family-like structure that accepts him. The greasers, by contrast, find that protecting him gives their violence a purpose.

Johnny is the main catalyst for the major events of the novel; he is the one who tells fellow greaser Dally to stop harassing two Soc girls at the movies, which prompts the girls to fraternize with them. This, in turn, prompts Soc boys to attack both Johnny and Ponyboy. The attack causes Johnny to murder one of the Socs in self-defense. After escaping with Ponyboy and deciding to turn himself in, he ends up dying in a church fire after heroically rescuing children that were trapped inside. He has a strong desire for peace, and his vulnerable yet heroic demeanor makes the greasers eager to protect him.The tragic nature of the character, both in his family life and in his heroic death, make him a martyr-like figure.

Ponyboy decides to write the story that would become The Outsiders so that Johnny’s deeds won’t be forgotten.

Sherri “Cherry” Valance  

A Soc girl, Cherry is the girlfriend of fellow Soc Bob Sheldon. Her real name is Sherri and she owes her nickname to her red hair. A popular cheerleader, she meets Ponyboy and Johnny at the movies, and gets along with both of them because they treat her politely. By contrast, she is far from impressed (but also intrigued) by Dally’s lack of manners, and this shows that she can discern individual character over the belonging to a certain social group. Despite her mixed feelings, she does admire Dally’s individuality, telling Ponyboy that she could fall in love with someone like him.

Ponyboy and Cherry turn out to have a lot in common, especially in their mutual passion for literature, and Ponyboy feels comfortable talking to her. Yet, she does not fully ignore the social conventions of the town. She bluntly tells Ponyboy she probably will not say hello to him at school, acknowledging that she respects social divisions. 

Darrel Curtis 

Darrel “Darry” Curtis is Ponyboy’s oldest brother. He is a 20-year-old greaser—whom the others refer to as “Superman”— who is raising Ponyboy because their parents died in a car crash. Both athletic and intelligent, he would have gone to college had his life circumstances been different. Instead, he quit school to work two jobs and raise his brothers. He is good at making chocolate cake, which he and his brothers eat every day for breakfast. 

The unofficial leader of the greasers, he is an authority figure for Ponyboy. 

Sodapop Curtis 

Sodapop (his real name) is Ponyboy’s happy-go-lucky, handsome brother. He is the middle Curtis boy, and works at a gas station. Ponyboy is envious of Sodapop’s good looks and charm.

Two-Bit Mathews 

Keith “Two-Bit” Mathews is the joker of Ponyboy’s group—with a penchant for shoplifting. He instigates the hostilities between the Socs and the greasers by flirting with Marcia, the girlfriend of a Soc. He prizes his sleek black-handled switchblade.

Steve Randle

Steve is Sodapop’s best friend since grade school; the two work together at the gas station. Steve knows everything about cars and specializes in stealing hubcaps. He is quite proud of his hair, which he wears in a complicated arrangement of swirls. He is depicted as both smart and tough; in fact, he once held off four opponents in a fight with a broken soda bottle. He is quite annoyed at Ponyboy, whom he sees as Sodapop’s annoying kid brother, and wishes he stayed in his lane.

Dallas Winston 

Dallas “Dally” Winston is the toughest greaser in Ponyboy’s group. He had a past with New York gangs and did some time in prison—which he takes pride in. He is described as having an elfin face, icy blue eyes, and white-blond hair which, unlike his friends, he doesn’t grease. Even though he has marked violent tendencies that make him more dangerous than the other greasers, he also has a softer side, which emerges in his protectiveness towards Johnny.

Bob Sheldon

Bob is Cherry’s boyfriend, who had beaten up Johnny before the events of the novel, and whom Johnny eventually kills when Bob attempts to drown Ponyboy. He wears a set of three rings when he brawls, and, overall, is portrayed as someone who was never disciplined by his parents. 

Marcia 

Marcia is Cherry’s friend and Randy’s girlfriend. She befriends Two-Bit at the drive-in, as the two share the same sense of humor and a taste for nonsensical musings.

Randy Adderson

Randy Adderson is Marcia’s boyfriend and Bob’s best friend. He is a Soc who eventually realizes the pointlessness of fighting, and, alongside Cherry, he shows a softer side of the Socs, giving them redeeming qualities. In fact, thanks to Randy, Ponyboy realizes that Socs are as susceptible to pain as anyone else.

Jerry Wood 

Jerry Wood is the teacher who accompanies Ponyboy to the hospital after he saves the children from the fire. Though an adult and a member of mainstream society, Jerry judges the greasers on their merits instead of automatically branding them juvenile delinquents.

Mr. Syme

Mr. Syme is Ponyboy’s English teacher, who voices his concern over Ponyboy’s failing grades, as he was once a stellar student. As a last-ditch effort, he offers to raise Ponyboy’s grade if he turns in a well-written autobiographical theme. This is what prompts Ponyboy to write about the greasers and the Socs. The first words of his essay are the first words of the novel.