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The Outsiders Key Concept: Bildungsroman. Megan Chambers 6B. Bildungsroman means “coming of age”. It can be used to reference or explain a person losing his or her innocence, coming to terms with the world, and more.
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The OutsidersKey Concept: Bildungsroman Megan Chambers 6B Bildungsroman means “coming of age”. It can be used to reference or explain a person losing his or her innocence, coming to terms with the world, and more. It is displayed in various ways throughout the novel, and different characters have different perspectives on it.
Ponyboy • Ponyboy experiences bildungsroman in an unfortunate sort of experience. He is thrust into situations where he sees the world more as it is and loses his innocent, child-like view of the world. • An example isPonyboy’s growing realization that greasers and socs. aren’t that different, such as when he says, “ ‘ “Greaser” didn’t have anything to do with it. My buddy over there wouldn’t have done it. Maybe you would have done the same thing, maybe a friend of yours wouldn’t has. It’s the individual’ “(Hinton 115). This shows that Ponyboy has overcome childish prejudices instilled by family and friends when he was young and naïve to come to the realization that the boundaries created have no real meaning. • Later on in the novel, Ponyboy says, “Socs were just guys after all. Things were rough all over, but it was better that way. That way you could tell that the other guy was human too” (Hinton 118). This is another example of his depleting innocence. He is being required to look at the world as it is, and it leads him to some interesting conclusions.
Ponyboy is growing up, as aforementioned, but there is more to bildungsroman than the positive side shown in the previous quotes. Some things in Ponyboy’s life show more than originally meets the eye. For example, look at this quote: “I had a nightmare the night of Mom and Dad’s funeral…I woke up screaming bloody murder. And I never could remember what it was that scared me” (Hinton 110). Much of the meaning behind this quote spawns from its milieu. The reoccurring nightmare had been at bay, but reentered Ponyboy’s mind after Johnny and Dally got stuck in the hospital. Based on the origin of the dream and its new circumstance, one can infer that the dream has something to do with Ponyboy losing people, and that his greatest fear is being all alone. There is talk of Soda and Ponyboy being put in a boy’s home based on the outcome of the court case, Johnny and Dally are hurt, and Johnny is likely to die. For the first time, Ponyboy is truly experiencing how fragile life is and how easy it is to lose someone he loves. He is terrified of the harsh reality that life is cruel, unfair, and dangerous. This marks an important milestone in his bildungsroman; it shows tremendous amounts of growth away from innocence. This is both monumental and tragic to behold.
On the flip side… • What about Dally? His sense of ‘growing up’ or ‘coming of age’ is very different from what Ponyboy and Johnny are experiencing. Dally’s philosophy on growing up is as follows: • “I was crazy, you know that, kid? Crazy for wantin’ Johnny to stay outa trouble, for not wantin’ him to get hard. If he’d been like me he’d never have been in this mess…You’d better wise up, Pony…you get tough like me and you don’t get hurt. You look out for yourself and nothing can touch you.” (Hinton 147)
Dally chose to be cold and near emotionless so that he wouldn’t get hurt. His idea of ‘growing up’ was that he wouldn’t deal with childish emotions and worries. Instead he would just live day-to-day, not really worrying or thinking about the future, being “frozen”, so to speak. Perhaps Dally’s take on this is actually the opposite of bildungsroman. Instead of taking on responsibilities and duties or trying to help others, Dally just tries to avoid getting hurt at all costs. This shows a childlike sort of selfishness, but he perceives it as a necessary part of growing up. In his quote he said he wanted to keep Johnny from “getting hard” like he is. He wanted to preserve Johnny’s innocence, but what he now wishes he had gotten Johnny to do, to get frozen, would actually be moving in the opposite direction of emotional and spiritual growth.
So what does it mean to “grow up”? • Bildungsroman, in its true form, is both beautiful and terrible. It is a journey from the innocence of childhood to the understanding, perception, and responsibility of adulthood. It is wonderful in that it is a journey of maturity and emotional and spiritual growth, but it is terrible in that those affected no longer are sheltered from life’s terrible truths, especially that life is fragile, and sometimeswe are just hanging on by a thread. One’s innocence is a bubble; we drift along quietly until one day it is popped and fall, the remains of that innocence scattered and dissolving. Are you ready to grow up? Love hopes wishes dreams beliefs wonders