Your Path in Life

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Life is like a board game. All of us are none but pieces on the board who team up or work individually to guide ourselves to victory. However, the game of life is special. Unlike other board games where an external force is maneuvering the pieces, in this game, we are the ones determining our own path (and to a limited extent, the path of others). We are the ones steering the lives of ourselves and others. How is our path in life manipulated? In other words, what determines your path in life? SE Hinton attempts to answer this question by creating a novel, The Outsiders. Through Ponyboy’s thoughtful and dreamy attitude, Sodapop’s happy go lucky behavior, Darry’s hidden love for his family, Johnny’s abusive life, Dally’s cold, tough makeover, and a societal conflict between the rich and the poor, Hinton creates a glorious new society through which she attempts to imply the following: The three main factors that significantly affect your journey through life include the influence of people around you, your physical and mental reactions to situations, and your values and beliefs.

Inarguably, the mixed blessing known as influence of people around you plays a decent role in impacting your life. As proven by The Outsiders, with limit and caution, influence of others can be the greatest gift given to mankind, but excessive and indecisive allowance of this ostensibly amazing gift can become an excruciating curse. Towards the beginning of The Outsiders, Ponyboy constantly complained that his older brother, Darry Curtis, was somebody who he just couldn’t get along with. “If I brought home B’s, he wanted A’s, and if I got A’s, he wanted to make sure they stayed A’s. If I was playing football, I should be in studying, and if I was reading, I should be out playing football,” (13) complained Ponyboy. This proves that Darry has a level of control and influence over Ponyboy. Nevertheless, the 14 year old failed to appreciate that the primary cause that he destroyed the stereotype that a Greaser is stupid was that Ponyboy did what Darry said, even if he did it unwillingly and grudgingly. He is now pulling ahead in his education; he skipped a grade in elementary school and got put in A classes amongst the Socs. Darry’s influence perhaps may even lead Ponyboy to climb the social ladder and become a Soc in the future. Without even knowing, Ponyboy had allowed influence to become a gift. Another example of influence is when Johnny was jumped by Bob. Since he was beaten at home, pain and torture wasn’t new to Johnny. However, Bob had bruised and hurt Johnny so much, he couldn’t resist succumbing to tears. Ultimately, Johnny had vowed that he wouldn’t hesitate to kill anyone next time he was jumped; a result of the influence of agonizing pain and torture inflicted by Bob. Nevertheless, this influence didn’t die out within the next couple of days; when Ponyboy and Johnny were jumped later, and Ponyboy was being drowned into the fountain, Johnny eventually, after a little hesitation, stabbed Bob with his switchblade. It could be considered self-defense; yet he killed a person, and considering he was a greaser who killed a Soc, he would’ve been charged with murder. Thus, the police now influenced a decision of running away far from home to a church, a decision that changed his life beyond repair (fatal injury). Do you see that a simple influence of Bob has triggered a chain reaction of negative events? Since Johnny indecisively allowed another person’s influence to really get to him, influence became a curse of pain and death. Moreover, the influence of Johnny and Dally really changed Ponyboy’s way of life. Johnny told Ponyboy to stay gold, and Dally told Ponyboy to remain tough. Especially because this was the last thing both of them said before their tragic deaths, Ponyboy really took to heart what his friends said. Towards the end of the story, when Pony held off Socs with a busted bottle, he was following Dally’s advice. Then, when he picked up the pieces of the bottle he had broken so he wouldn’t puncture a tire, he was following Johnny’s advice. He had overall become a better person, using both forceful and gentle behaviors depending on the situation. Unlike Johnny, who only stayed gold, or Dally, who only was rough (except to his friends), Ponyboy allowed each of their advice with limit and caution, therefore attaining the ideal personality. Thus, you can see that influence of others can change the path of your life, both positively and negatively.
Everyone reacts differently given a similar situations, or situations that trigger similar emotions. Obviously, not everyone cries when they are sad, punches someone because they’re angry, or becomes hyperactive because it’s their birthday. Thus, your reaction to situations and emotions is a significant component that determines your path in life. A good example of this involves situations where Darry and Ponyboy were exposed to grief. When the Curtis parents died, “[Ponyboy] had sobbed in spite of [himself] … but Darry had only stood there, his fists in his pockets and that look on his face, the same helpless, pleading look that he was wearing now.” (98) Also, when Johnny and Dally had died, Darry was upset, as was the entire gang was. However, Ponyboy was really shaken, trying to pretend that Johnny was not dead, and acting as if he, instead of Johnny, had murdered Bob, the Soc. Although he eventually got over it, the initial reaction proves that the level of grief Ponyboy succumbed to was far more intense than the level of grief Darry gave in to. Their different reactions to the same situation put them on different paths in life; Darry was able to go on with his life as normal. On the other hand, Ponyboy started having fits of anger every time someone mentioned Johnny’s death (like Darry and Randy), and decided that he would write a story about his life for his theme to help prove the true story of Greasers; so people like Dally would have a more respectable place in society. Another example of reaction of similar situations involves how Ponyboy and Johnny react to abandonment and loneliness. When Darry slapped Pony because he had irresponsibly fallen asleep in the parking lot, Ponyboy became mad. He self-confirmed that his feelings of loneliness were true, and that his brother really didn’t care about him. Thus, his initial reaction to his feeling of loneliness was anger and shock, which was converted into the action of running away. On the other hand, Johnny inflicted the cause of his parents’ abandonment on himself rather than their terrible personality of his parents. This converted his loneliness into low self-esteem. Because of this, he ended up living a good chunk of his life in misery, wishing that maybe one day, his parents would come looking for him when he slept in the parking lot, considering suicide. Briefly, although both of them feel abandoned, the difference is that Ponyboy is saying, “I’ll show you that I don’t need you,” and Johnny is saying, “I’ll do anything for you to take me back.” Another difference is revealed about how Johnny and Dally react after performing criminal deeds. Dally is a tough guy who doesn’t feel emotions. He performed criminal acts usually for fun. He doesn’t regret crime, attempts to defy the police. If he fails to do so, he will go to jail and come out as if it were a day in the park. All in all, he is as hard and tough as a rock. In fact, he specializes in robbing, jumping, and in criminal acts, and is frequently wanted by the police. This led him to become a hoodlum. On the other hand, Johnny is a soft, gentle character. He abided the law more than anyone else in his gang, thus leading a life that was perfectly normal and happy, except for his abusive parents. Even after he murdered Bob and ran away, soon, he really considered turning himself in to the “fuzz”. If it wasn’t for Dally, he would’ve definitely spent time in jail, as he would’ve been charged with manslaughter. He feels guilt for his actions, unlike the tough Dally, who doesn’t feel anything. Thus, this proves that different people exposed to similar situations or situations triggering similar emotions react differently, which determines their path in life.
Your beliefs and values are the most influential aspect of determining the path in your life. What you believe in and what you consider right and wrong is what takes you down a different trail than everybody around you. Since everyone has their own set of morals, everyone makes different decisions and actions given a situation. These actions are what guide your life. For instance, Dally was quite a paradoxical character, who was like a brother to his friends, a father to Johnny, and yet, a hoodlum who had been arrested numerous times. Why? Because of his values and beliefs. Dally took the blame when Two-Bit broke a window, and got himself arrested. He abetted Ponyboy and Johnny by providing them with a hideout, money, and a gun after Johnny murdered Bob, the Soc. Dally ran into a burning church to rescue Johnny. He snuck out of the hospital to help out the Greasers in the rumble even though he was injured. These benevolent acts show that Dally valued friendship and loyalty, and determined Dally as a good friend to have. Yet, because nothing in his belief and value collection prevented him from jumping little kids, robbing, sack racing, and performing other immoral acts, he ended up as a wanted criminal who was first arrested at age 10. Soon, however, his values took a toll on his own life. Because of his belief that there was nothing in the world that was more important than Johnny and because Johnny was the one thing Dally valued and loved above all, after Johnny died, he ended up undertaking a suicide mission so he could truly join Johnny. Clearly, values have a major impact on your life. Another example of the significant impact that values and beliefs play on your life involves Johnny Cade when he ran into the burning church to save the children. Johnny Cade proves that he values being a good person/staying gold and feels the need to fix his own mistakes (the church caught on fire because either Johnny or Ponyboy dropped a cigarette that spread a fire, so it was their mistake). Nonetheless, because of his values, he ended up breaking his back and sustaining serious injuries, instantly and permanently maiming him. Once again, in the hospital, he demonstrated his value of staying gold when writing a letter to Pony saying, “I don’t mind dying now. It’s worth it. It’s worth saving those kids.” (178) Unfortunately, Johnny did end up dying primarily because of his value, stay gold. Nevertheless, values aren’t just something that determines the end of your path in life, as they also determine happiness. The Curtis family is the best example of positive outcomes of values and beliefs. After Darry, Soda, and Pony’s parents died, the brothers were told that they would be permitted to live with each other if they would get along. Darry could’ve become a Soc if he didn’t have to support Soda and Pony. It was only because he wanted to support his brothers rather than throw them in a home that he didn’t finish college, and took up two physically laborious jobs instead. Sodapop dropped out of high school not only because he was failing nearly every subject, but also to increase the family’s income and put Ponyboy through college. He was the elastic that bonded Ponyboy and Darry together when they were fighting, which is a mentally laborious task. Ponyboy had to really work hard to keep his A’s, and he struggled to withstand Darry’s sometimes unwanted and excessive control. All in all, everybody had to chip in a bit (life for the brothers wasn’t all fun and games), but in the end, they acquired what they truly valued; family. Had this not been in a value, Darry would’ve been a Soc, Soda and Pony would’ve been put in a home, and life would’ve dramatically changed for everybody. Hence, this is conclusive proof that values and beliefs do indeed manipulate your path in life.

Ultimately, SE Hinton uses her novel, The Outsiders, to provide insight into the vital life lesson that determines your path in life boils down to choices and decisions. When other people influence you, you choose what component of the influence you allow to really affect you, like Ponyboy did. When you react to a situation and emotion, you choose how you will react, what thoughts you feel, what emotions you will display, and finally, your actions. You choose your beliefs and values, and you choose which one is more important than the other. It’s all about you, you, and you. Your choices are the key to your path in life. Every little decision you make builds up to pave a pathway that leads you through your life, and it’s up to none other than you if your path will be exquisite and richly embroidered or if your path will turn out to be plain, grey, and dull.





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