LEARNING GUIDE TO:
ONE OF THE BEST! This movie is on TWM's short list of the best movies to supplement classes in United States History, High School Level.
SUBJECTS — U.S./1945 - 1991 & Politics (the Watergate scandal, Nixon,Age: 11+; MPAA Rating PG-13 (for violence, teen drinking and smoking, and some sexual reference); 1983; 91 Minutes; Color. TWM recommends The Outsiders: The Complete Novel, a director's cut which is 1 hour, 54 minutes, incorporating 22 minutes of previously omitted footage and an updated musical score. It follows the novel more closely and is available from Available from Amazon.com.
This Learning Guide applies to both the movie and the book.
Description: The Outsiders is the story of two gangs, the delinquent Greasers and their privileged enemies, the Socs' (pronounced "Soshs"). They hate each other for their differences. They fight, sometimes with deadly consequences, as they search for their identities in a violent and dangerous world.
Rationale for Using the Movie: Teachers who assign S.E. Hinton's 1967 novel, regarded as an American classic, can use the film to help students understand the reading or as a reward after the book has been read. Care should be taken to see that students do not use the film in lieu of the book. Objectives/Student Outcomes Using this Learning Guide: Through reflection, analysis of poetry and logical argumentation, students can exercise important skills associated with a story that they may read in class. Students can become aware of differences in presentation between the novel and the film from which it was adapted.
For curriculum materials relating to literary and cinematic devices, see The Outisders Supplemental Materials.
Possible Problems: Serious. As in the book, the movie is set against a violent backdrop in which fights are the preferred method of resolving conflict. One character is stabbed to death in a knife fight, another dies from being burned badly in a fire and yet another provokes the police into shooting him to death. There is also mild profanity and scenes of teenagers drinking and smoking. Girls are sexually harassed. There is some talk about smoking marijuana.
WORKSHEETS: TWM offers the following worksheets to keep students' minds on the movie and direct them to the lessons that can be learned from the film.
Film Study Worksheet for a Documentary (because the film is like a documentary in its successful attempts to be accurate); and
Worksheet for Cinematic and Theatrical Elements and Their Effects.
USING THE OUTSIDERS IN THE CLASSROOM
Have students read and memorize Robert Frost's short poem Nothing Gold Can Stay. Tell them that in New England the first growth of plants that comes after the harsh winters in that region of the country is often golden in color and is then replaced with green. Have students analyze the poem using techniques with which they may be familiar such as "say, mean, matter."
Talk to the class about police assisted suicide, also known as "suicide by cop." This occurs when a person intentionally provokes a law enforcement officer into killing him. Killing people in the line of duty is stressful for most police officers. When the person killed manipulates the police officer into becoming an agent of suicide, there is additional stress on the officer. For more on this phenomenon, see Suicide by Cop: Victims on Both Sides of the Badge; Police Use of Deadly Force: Victim Precipitated Homicide; and Suicide by Cop: There's almost always police stress as a result. Then have the class debate whether Dally committed suicide by cop.
Most questions asked on the background information worksheet are appropriate for discussion. The following questions are not addressed in the worksheet.
THEMES OF THE STORY:
1. This story has several important themes. Identify two major themes of the story. Suggested Response:
A. It is important to "stay gold," that is, to keep your youth with its innocence, wonder at the beauty of the world, and understand that we are all related.
B. The divisions between these two groups, like the divisions between most cliques of kids and most groups in society, are artificial and based on circumstances of birth and random events in life. Socs, like Greasers, have sorrows, problems, difficulties in coming of age, dreams for the future, etc. Divisions between people are harmful because they interfere with friendships and relationships that would normally develop if the divisions were ignored.
C. Violence is not a good way to solve problems. People get hurt and fighting can leads to unexpected consequences, as when several larger and older Socs are beating Ponyboy with the result that one of the Socs dies after being stabbed by Johnny.
D. The importance of having good friends.
E. Appearance is often different from reality. (Johnny was stronger than Dally. Dally played tough but was brittle and cracked under the strain of Johnny's death. The Greasers are shown to be more genuine people with better friendships than the Socs. Some of the Greasers were, in many ways, innocent children who took on the trappings of tough guys.)
F. Strength in a human being doesn't come from the outward show like that put on by Dally. It can be found even in those that appear meek like Johnny. True strength does not come from denying your feelings and being "tough" so you won't get hurt. That is a brittle strength that can crack and lead to serious trouble. In other words, be a Johnny and not a Dally.
G. Sometimes young people have to face adult situations. It's very difficult if they are not prepared or do not have the internal strength to face their new circumstances.
3. Both the book and the film are filled with irony. In a good story, ironies relate to life-lessons that can be learned from the story. The lessons may be themes of the story, but they may not be important enough to the story to rise to the level of a theme. Name two ironies in The Outsiders which you find to be important, describing the ironies and their related lessons. Suggested Response: Here are several ironies and their associated lessons. Note that students may come up with different lessons from any particular irony. (1) It is ironic that the Socs' and the society that their parents control usually look down on the Greasers as less intelligent and less cultured, but it is Ponyboy who writes about the experience. [Corresponding lesson: class distinctions are artificial and false.] (2) It is ironic that Johnny, the person who is emotionally the strongest, appears to be the weakest. [Corresponding lesson: emotional strength and physical strength are not related or outward shows of strength and toughness can mask internal weakness.] It is ironic that the teacher who is charged with caring for the kids is not the one who saves them from the burning church. Instead it is the juvenile delinquents. . [Corresponding lesson: just because someone is in authority doesn't mean that they are the best person to do the job in all situations.] It is ironic that Johnny looks up to Dally for his strength but in reality it is Johnny who is emotionally stronger than Dally. [Corresponding lesson: emotional strength and physical strength are not related.] It is ironic that Bob, the leader of the Soc gang that outnumbers and is older and larger than Ponyboy and Johnny, is the one who is hurt the most in the fight. [Corresponding lesson: fighting often has unexpected consequences or violence is not a good way to resolve conflicts.]
4. The divisions between these two groups, like the divisions between most cliques of kids and most groups in society, are based on circumstances of birth and consequential events in life. Although the Socs' and the Greasers are quite different, in what areas of life can they find common ground? Suggested Response: Answers will vary and may not be attributed to the film, but imposed by personal experience. Socs', like Greasers, have sorrows, problems, fears, the need for friendship and security, difficulties in coming of age, dreams and desires for the future, etc.
For ** additional discussion questions, see The Outisders Supplemental Materials.
Assignments and Assessments: Any of the discussion questions in this Learning Guide and in the Supplemental Materials can be used as essay prompts. Additional assignments are:
1. Write an opinion essay in which you argue whether or not Dally committed an act referred to as " suicide by cop. " You will need to research this method of suicide and learn about why persons may choose to die at the hands of a police officer. Add depth to your essay by including information about how often this kind of self-murder occurs and its effects on police officers who become unwitting accomplices.
2. Were you to write a story or a screen play about class differences in your social situation, you would probably not use greaser-types and wealthy young socialites, each of whom utilize cars, hair fashion and clothing as symbols of their status. Write informally about how you would divide your world into two groups or possibly more, in an effort to illustrate the artificial divisions that can occur between people. Be sure to make clear the differences among the groups you define and to explain the symbols by which their identities can be known.
3. Write the last five minutes of the story, from the time that Johnny dies until the end, from the viewpoint of another character such as Cherry, Randy,Two-Bit, Darry, Sodapop, Dally's Ghost, or Johnny's Ghost. In your narrative describe action (including dialogue), reveal thoughts (including internal monologues), describe observations by the characters, use descriptive language (including images of people, places and things), and compare one thing to another.
Note to Teachers: You can split the class into groups and have them share their work with each other. Pick the most creative and interesting ones to read to the class. To prepare for this assignment, consider having students complete TWM's Exercise in "Showing Rather than Telling" When Writing a Narrative. Also check out TWM's Narrative Writing Lesson Plan.
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Reminder to Teachers: Obtain all required permissions from your school administration before showing any film.
Teachers who want parental permission to show this movie can use TWM's Movie Permission Slip.