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Raabia Qureshi
Mrs. Henry
ELA/Reading
8 December 16
The Outsiders: Psychological Criticism
Typically, human necessities are limited to physical needs. On the contrary, psychological needs are
equally important as they train humans to fulfill life. With this in mind, psychological criticism questions
human behavior and the perception in literature. The technique requires solid knowledge of a
psychological theory, which is applied to a dynamic character in a piece of literature. Maslows Hierarchy
of Needs is a perfect example, explaining that while people acquire basic needs, they also aim for
successfully higher needs in a shape of a pyramid. Regarding The Outsiders, many characters evolve
throughout the story. Outside situations and societal forces take play in influencing characters like Johnny
Cade to make certain decisions. In S.E. Hintons novel The Outsiders, Johnny can best be analyzed
through Maslows Hierarchy of Needs, according to his actions and motives over time.
Throughout his journey, Johnny achieves both basic and psychological needs; Maslows two necessities
for reaching full potential. For instance, Johnny receives no comfort from his parents because they spend
too much time neglecting him. In place of his parents, the gang provides Johnny with security and safety.
He would have run away a million times if we hadnt been there. If it werent for the gang, Johnny
would never have known what love and affection are (14). The reassurance the gang provides for Johnny
motivates him to trust them and move forward in life, despite his situation at home. Therefore, Johnny
fulfills the basic needs of safety and security. Furthermore, he also gains psychological needs. Dallas
Winston was Johnnys hero, and Johnny wanted to become fearless and tough like Dally. Were all
proud of you, buddy. Johnnys eyes glowed. Dally was proud of him. That was all Johnny ever wanted
(129). Before this moment, Johnny lacked self-confidence. Verbal acknowledgement from Dally
increased his determination and spirit, motivating him to continue to strive for his fullest potential; the

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highest tier of the Hierarchy of needs. Thus, Johnnys security from the gang and good self-esteem lead
him closer to reaching self-actualization.
Moreover, Johnny eventually becomes a self-actualized person; pleased and content with who he is.
Not too far into the book, Ponyboy and Johnny complete a courageous feat by saving helpless children
from the church. That was the only time I can think of when I saw him without that defeated look in his
eyes. He looked like he was having the time of his life (82). Abraham Maslow believed self-actualization
is measured through peak experiences; a reality erupting with joy and wonder. Saving the children was
not the conclusion to Johnnys life, yet its significance made the moment precious and unforgettable.
Johnny let it motivate him towards personal growth; an example of self-actualization. Correspondingly,
Johnny died content and satisfied, for he spared many childrens lives. Some of their parents came by to
thank me and I knew it was worth it (155). Johnnys parents never appreciated their son, so earning
respect from someone elses parents gave Johnny comfort. There is no disagreement that his death was
sorrowful, yet it was a self-fulfilling moment. Johnny accepted his death in the intention of helping
others, making him proud of himself. Evidently, Johnny grows into his fullest potential, while doing all he
was capable of.
In conclusion, Hinton allows readers to look through the lens of Johnny, who expresses Maslows
Hierarchy of Needs through his actions and motives. The security granted from the gang provides Johnny
with love and belongingness, giving him a positive self-esteem. Fortunately, these needs bring Johnny to
self-actualization. Johnny reaches his full potential, even if it was the last, most precious feeling in his
life. His actions represent that courage is only achievable by selflessness; a motivation for acquiring the
needs necessary to reach full potential.