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What Is the Primary Conflict in "The Outsiders"?


In In the climax of "The Outsiders," Johnny kills Bob with a switchblade, which clearly demonstrates the person vs. person conflict.

Along with vivid characters and intense action, a novel must contain conflict that will keep the reader interested. Authors utilize four major types of conflict. Person vs. self conflict is internal, where a character struggles to make a decision. Person vs. nature pits a character against a force such as a hurricane or other natural phenomenon that must be overcome. Person vs. fate shows the struggles of a character against some sort of higher power. But in "The Outsiders," S.E. Hinton develops a storyline that pits two groups of people against one another, thereby creating a dynamic person vs. person conflict.

The Primary Conflict

Set in the 1960s in Oklahoma, "The Outsiders" is told from the point of view of Ponyboy, a member of the Greasers gang. He and his buddies grow up on the wrong side of the tracks and are in perpetual disagreement with the Socials. The person vs. person conflict begins when a Greaser named Johnny is jumped and beaten up at the beginning of the novel. Tensions continue to rise when Greasers Dally and Pony try to pick up the Socials' girls at the movie theater. Finally, the conflict is played out one night by a fountain when Johnny kills a Social named Bob with his switchblade. All of the action of this novel stems from the long-standing person vs. person conflict between these two groups.

About the Author

Kathryne Bradesca has been a writing teacher for more than 15 years. She has also contributed to newspapers and magazines such as "The Morning Journal" and "The Ignatius Quarterly." Bradesca received a master's degree in teaching from Kent State University.

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