‘The Outsiders’, celebrating 50 years, retains its impact today

The cover of ‘The Outsiders’ by S.E. Hinton. — AFP pic
The cover of ‘The Outsiders’ by S.E. Hinton. — AFP pic

LOS ANGELES, March 21 — The Outsiders, the book by American writer S.E. Hinton celebrates its 50th anniversary this month and has remained one of the most influential young adult books since its publication.

The Outsiders, first published in 1967, has sold over 15 million copies. It is a formative novel and mainstay of middle-school reading lists throughout America.

The narrative is told from the point of view of an orphaned 14-year-old boy named Ponyboy Curtis, who lives with his adolescent older brothers Darry and Sodapop. The brothers are Greasers, a close-knit gang of poor teenage boys, and they fight (physically and psychologically) against the Socs, a faction of upper-crust kids from the other side of town. Deep friendships and the clash between socio-economic classes are key themes of the book.

S. E. Hinton (first name: Susie) wrote the book in 1966, at age 16. She sold the book upon graduating from high school, and it was published a year later to immediate acclaim. Her editor suggested she use gender-neutral initials to appeal to female and male readers. This choice, along with the universal title, her rendering of the emotional delicacy of adolescence, and fervent support from librarians, contribute to the book’s longevity.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Hinton herself accounted for the novel’s continued success this way: “Teenagers still feel like I felt when I wrote the book, that adults have no idea what’s really going on. And even today, that concept of the ‘in crowd’ and the ‘out crowd’ is universal. The names of the groups may change, but kids still see their own lives in what happens to Ponyboy and his friends.”

The book was made into a film in 1983, featuring such then-rising stars as Emilio Estevez, Patrick Swayze, and Tom Cruise.

On November 1, 2016, an anniversary edition of the book was published, including insider extras like letters from the publisher’s archives, photos from the author’s collection, and new material from the film adaptation’s stars (Rob Lowe, Matt Dillon) and director (Francis Ford Coppola).

Hinton has also written That Was Then, This Is Now, Rumble Fish, and Tex. She lives in Tulsa with her husband and son.

An Outsiders House museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma is anticipated; it will be housed in the ramshackle bungalow used as the place where the Curtis brothers lived in the movie. A dedicated fan bought the house for US$15,000 (RM66,360) in 2016, with the intention of turning it into a museum and has now launched a crowdfunding campaign to help restore the house. It will be filled with memorabilia from the film, vintage photographs, and rare editions of the book. — AFP-Relaxnews

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