Thursday, April 7, 2011

Stay Gold, Ponyboy.

The Outsiders, Francis Ford Coppola, 1983

Coppola's film is based on S.E. Hinton's classic book, first published in 1967. I read the book before I saw the movie, as it should be. I was in 5th grade. I still remember where I was when I finished the final pages. Sitting in the van outside my aunt and uncle's house. We were gathered for some event, a holiday meal perhaps. I had to compose myself before I could go inside because I was crying so hard--the kind of cry where tears splash down on the neck and there aren't enough tissues to really mop up the sorrow.

I watched this film again on New Year's this year and I was reminded of the power behind both the film and the book. The all-star nature of the cast is almost unbelievable: Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe, C. Thomas Howell, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Patrick Swayze, and Tom Cruise and I'd nearly forgotten Diane Lane as Cherry Valance.

As an English teacher I usually touch on some Robert Frost poetry in my American Literature class and I'm always impressed when students recognize "Nothing Gold Can Stay" and make the connection between The Outsiders (whether film or book) and the poem.

Nothing Gold Can Stay
by Robert Frost

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

I believe it was S.E. Hinton who really kicked off the era of "young adult literature." If you've not read the book or seen the movie, though I find that hard to believe, it's about a group of kids, "greasers," who are from "the wrong side of the tracks" in Tulsa, Oklahoma. They constantly clash with the Socs, the preppy kids in town. It has all the 60s good stuff like drive-in movies and rumbles. Great nicknames like Ponyboy, Two Bit, and Sodapop. And then there's Johnny. Everyone loves Johnny. Without saying too much more, I'll just add that it's a tragic, yet feel-good drama that reminds us all of the power of friendship, resilience, and the challenges life throws at us.

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