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Critical Essay: The Outsiders

Character Development

In this assignment, you will take the skills you have learned from Academic Response
writing assignments and use them to write a longer piece of academic writing supporting a
claim (thesis) that you come up with yourself.

What is a critical essay? A critical essay is an essay in which you make a claim and
support it with evidence. The claim is a thesis statement, and the evidence is information
from the text.

How long does it have to be?? The number of paragraphs depends on how you organize
your ideas, but the final length should be 1-1/2 to 2 pages, following the same formatting
guidelines as usual.

What am I writing about? You will be looking closely at ONE character in The Outsiders
(most likely the one in your character tracker) and examining how S.E. Hinton develops
this character over the course of the novel (beginning to end).

CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT: the authors portrayal of characters in a work of
fiction in such a way that the reader learns more about them over time


Ideas: You have a strong, clear thesis statement, and the focus of
each body paragraph is clear. Each body paragraph clearly connects
to and supports your thesis about your characters development.
Evidence: You use at least five specific examples from the book to
support your ideas, including at least three exact quotes with page
Structure/Organization: You have an introduction, conclusion, and
at least three body paragraphs. You use transition words and
paragraph breaks to organize your ideas.
Conventions/Mechanics: You follow the guidelines for academic
writing that we talked about in class. Your essay has clearly been
proofread for spelling, grammar, and capitalization/punctuation.
Presentation: Your essay includes a hard copy/photocopy of your
nonfiction text, this rubric, and your initial plan/organizer; you have
formatted the heading and margins correctly.

5 = Exceptional, exceeds expectations
4 = Partially meets expectations

3 = Meets expectations
2 = Does not meet expectations

Total: ____ / 25

Critical Essay: Brainstorming

Question: How does S.E. Hinton develop this character over the course of the novel?

Step #1: Choose your character
Choose from one of the three options: Ponyboy, Johnny, or Dally.

My Choice: _________________________________

Step #2: Look at the Evidence
Use your book, notes, and character tracker to recall key moments about your character
and how he is portrayed. Ideas to consider:

How does S.E. Hinton SHOW your characters traits? Look for:
o Actions (what the character DOES)
o Description (what the characters physical appearance reveals or suggests)
o What your character says about himself
o What OTHER characters say about yours
How does your character CHANGE from beginning to end?
What does your character learn or realize by the end of the book?
What does the reader learn or realize about your character by the end of the book?

Step #3: Thesis Statement
You thesis statement is the main idea of your essaythe idea you are trying to prove. It
should be 1-2 sentences, and should tell how S.E. Hinton develops your chosen character.

Example: Over the course of the novel, S.E. Hinton shows Darrys development as a
character, as Ponyboys opinion of him changes and as Darry himself learns how to be both
a brother and father.

Step #4: Plan It Out
Your essay will have at least three body paragraphs, each of which contains part of your
argument (reasons/examples) about how your character is developed. There are two
possible ways you could organize your essay:

Option 1: Change Over Time
Option 2: Three Examples of Characters
Explain how he is in the beginning
Change one
Evidence before/Evidence after
Explain how he is in the middle
Change two
Evidence before/Evidence after
Explain how he is in the end
Change three
Evidence before/Evidence after

Step #5: Write!
And revise, and rewrite, and proofread


Look back at your character tracker and decide which ideasif anywill best show your
characters development. (If necessary, look back at your book to collect stronger
quotes/examples.) These will be your evidence! Think about how you will organize them
so that they flow and make sense. (Hint: See Options 1 & 2 on the previous page.)

Use your evidence and your own ideas about your character to write a thesis statement:

Thesis: ________________________________________________________________________________________________

Create a plan or blueprint that shows how you will organize your ideas. You may use the
next page or a format of your choice, as long as it includes:
Your thesis statement
Ideas for at least three paragraphs
5 or more specific examples from the book
o 3 of these must be direct quotes, with page numbers

See the example below.

Thesis: Over the course of the novel, S.E. Hinton shows Darrys development as a character, as
Ponyboys opinion of him changes and as Darry himself learns how to be both a brother and father.

Idea #1: In the beginning of The Outsiders, S.E. Hinton shows Darry through Ponyboys eyes as
being cold and uncaring.
Ponyboy describes Darrys eyes as pale blue-green ice (6) and says I never could please
When other characters try to persuade Ponyboy that Darry loves him, he doesnt believe
When Ponyboy returns home late after falling asleep in the lot he thinks Darry is madder
than Id seen him in a long time (50).
Darry slaps Ponyboy. Although he tries to apologize right away, its too late.
Idea #2: In the middle, Hinton starts to show more of Darrys internal struggle and complexity.
When he and Ponyboy are reunited in the hospital: Oh, Pony, I thought wed lost youlike
we did Mom and Dad (98)
He shows concern when Ponyboy talks about his nightmare (110) and hesitates before
letting him fight in the rumble
At the rumble, we learn that Darry could have been a Soc if he hadnt had to drop out of
Idea #3: By the end of the novel, the reader sees that Darry has come to a deeper realization about
his role as a brother and father figure.
Ponyboy worries if he called for Darry when he was sick.
After Soda runs away: I suddenly realized that Darry was only twenty, that he wasnt so
much older that he couldnt feel scared or hurt and as lost as the rest of us. I saw that I had
expected Darry to do all the understanding without even trying to understand him (176).
Darry promises they wont fight anymore.

My Brainstorm/Plan

Use this template, or create your own.

Thesis: ________________________________________________________________________________________________

Idea #1:

Idea #2:

Idea #3: