What is a “Greaser” in “The Outsiders”?

Updated 21 March, 2023
In "The Outsiders," a "Greaser" is a term used to describe a member of a group of lower-class teenagers from the east side of town. The Greasers are distinct from the affluent "Socs" who live on the west side. They are known for their long, slicked-back hair, leather jackets, and tough exterior. The Greasers often find themselves in conflict with the Socs, which is the central conflict of the novel.
Detailed answer:

In "The Outsiders," S.E. Hinton depicts the "Greasers" as a group of lower-class young men who are often in conflict with their wealthier counterparts, the "Socs." They are known for their distinctive greased hair, leather jackets, and tough demeanor. Ponyboy, the narrator of the novel, explains, "A Greaser can't walk alone too much or they'll get jumped" (Hinton 7). The Greasers are often the underdogs in their encounters with the Socs, who have greater financial resources and social status.

The novel explores the themes of class and social divisions, as well as the struggles of youth. The Greasers are portrayed as a close-knit group of friends who rely on each other for support and protection. Ponyboy describes them as "almost like hoods; we steal things and drive old souped-up cars and hold up gas stations and have a gang fight once in a while" (Hinton 2). However, he also notes that they are not all bad and that their tough exterior is often a defense mechanism. Johnny, one of the Greasers, explains, "It's not the money, it's the--" he hesitated. "It's the idea of not having any" (Hinton 93).

In the novel, the term "Greaser" is used both as a label and as a badge of honor by the characters themselves. While it may have negative connotations for some, for the Greasers, it represents their sense of identity and belonging. Through their struggles and conflicts, they learn important lessons about loyalty, friendship, and the true meaning of family.

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