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Author Study - S. E. Hinton

S. E. Hinton as a young writer

S. E. Hinton



  • Born Susan Eloise Hinton in 1948.
  • Entered Will Rogers High School in 1963 in Tulsa, Oklahoma where The Outsiders was written and school was used as model.
  • Wrote The Outsiders in 1964-1965 under the penn name of S. E. Hinton.
  • Enrolls in University of Tulsa in 1966 in journalism, and later changes to education.
  • The Outsiders was published in 1967.
  • Graduated from University of Tulsa in 1970, married David Inhofe, and wrote That Was Then, This is Now.
  • That Was Then, This is Now published in 1971.
  • Rumble Fish published in 1975.
  • Tex published in 1979.
  • Movie, Tex, released in 1982.
  • Movies, The Outsiders and Rumble Fish, released in 1983.
  • Movie, That Was Then, This is Now, released in 1985.
  • Won Margaret Alexander Edwards Award in 1988,
  • Published the picture book, Big Daddy, Little Daddy in 1995..
  • Published Puppy Sister in 1995.
  • Hawkes Harbor to be released September 2004 (Daly 1989).

Honors and Awards:


  • Margaret Alexander Edwards Award, 1988.
  • The Outsiders
    • New York Herald Tribune Best Teenage Books List, 1967
    • Chicago Tribune Book World Spring Book Festival Honor Book, 1967
    • Media and Methods Maxi Award, 1975.
    • ALA Best Young Adult Books, 1975.
    • Massachusetts Childrens Book Award, 1979.
  • Tex
    • ALA Best Books for Young Adults, 1979.
    • School Library Journal Best Books of the Year, 1979.
    • New York Public Library Books for the Teen-Age, 1980.
    • American Book Award Nomination, 1981.
    • Sue Hefly Honor Book, Louisiana Association of School Librarians, 1982.
    • California Young Reader Medal Nomination, 1982.
    • Sue Hefly Award, Louisiana Association of School Librarians, 1983.

Ms. Hinton won several other awards for her books, That Was Then, This is Now, and Rumble Fish (






Two of S. E. Hintons most popular books were The Outsiders  and Tex. These books have captured an audience for over thirty years. For fear male readers wouldnt take her seriously, the decision was made to use her first and middle initial with her last name as a penn name. Both of these books are classics to young readers because Hinton helps them relate to problems a teenager can face. She has insight into the young mind and accomplishes this through her writing.


The Outsiders is told from a teenage orphaned boy's point of view. Ponyboy tells about his life without his parents and with his brothers and friends and the experiences they face. The two opposing sides of society, the Greasers and the Socs didnt mix in The Outsiders. The greasers were known as the lower class that greased their hair and waited for fights. The Socs were rich societal breeds who looked for opportunities to have gang fights to show who was superior. Ponyboy Curtis, the narrator, recalls what happened as he and his friend, Johnny, befriend to Soc girls at a movie theater. After a fight with his oldest brother, Ponyboy and Johnny decide to run away. The boyfriends of the two girls decide to get back at the two boys and corner them at the park. While Ponyboy was almost drowned in the park fountain by some of the Socs, Johnny stabs one of them and unfortunately kills him. Running in fear, they look for their friend, Dallas Winston, who gives them money and a plan to hideout. 


While there, they began to read a novel to pass the time. They run across a poem that talks about "staying gold" which becomes the theme of the book. In the process of hiding in an abandoned church, the boys are joined by Dallas Winston. Dallas takes them to the nearest town to eat, and upon their return to the church, they find a school group there in the burning church. Ponyboy and Johnny decide to help. Both are injured. Johnny seriously injured dies in the hospital. He has the nurse write Ponyboy a note and slip it inside the new book which was purchased because the first one was burned in the fire. He expressed to Ponyboy that they did the right thing, and that he wanted him to stay gold.


Dallas, who doesn't take Johnny's death well because he helped someone to only lose his life, robs a store, and is shot by the store clerk. He calls Ponyboy's oldest brother and they run to his rescue, but arrive too late as Dallas brings out the pistol he is carrying. The police shoot him, and he dies. The story begins and ends the same way with Ponyboy writing his story as a theme for school, as he reflects back on the spiraling change of events that led to the death of his two closest friends.  He begins and ends, "When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house.... " (Hinton 1967). This makes this book fascinating because of the unexpected twist.


Tex is about a teenage boy who lives with his older brother. The story centers around Texs growing up years, the truth he learns, the heartbreak of losing the horse, Negrito, he loves, and falling in love with Jamie. Tex, and his brother, Mason, take of themselves as they both wait for their dad to return from a rodeo circuit.  Tex has a horse that he values, and because they are running out of money, his brother, Mason, has to sell the horse for money.  They fight over Texs loss, and he vows to find the horse.


Tex is talked into coming back home by Mason, and things straighten out for awhile. Mason is then diagnosed at the hospital as having an ulcer because of the stress in his life. Tex drives home from the hospital, and offers a ride to a hitch hiker. As a result, he makes them drive to the state line as he holds a gun. On the way a police officer is noticed behind them. Tex drives off into a ditch. The hitch hiker shoots at the cop, and as the police officer returns the fire, the hitch hiker is killed.  Tex and Mason's story is broadcast throughout the state. Their dad finally returns home. After an argument with their dad, Mason unleashes the news that this man is not Texs dad.


Tex runs away from school because he so upset and a friend of Masons, Lem, finds him. Tex goes with Lem to a job that he says he needs to complete.  In the process, Tex  finds out that Lem is dealing drugs. The drug dealer thinks Tex is a nark and pulls out a gun. Tex becomes angry and knocks the drug dealer to the ground and retrieves the gun. He is ready to shoot, but Lem talks him out of it. Although during the struggle, Tex is shot. Lem is afraid to take Tex to the hospital and drops him off at a supermarket. Tex cannot remember his phone number, so he calls Jamie, the girl he thinks hes in love with. Her dad calls an ambulance. Tex is in critical condition, but he survives.


Things return to normal in the end. The theme centered around this book is some stay, and some go. It references Lem, who lives the small town to live in the city with his new bride and they have a baby, Mason, who wants to leave Oklahoma, and Tex, who wants to stay where he lives.



The characters, Ponyboy, in The Outsiders, and Tex, in Tex are vary similar characters. Ponyboy is an orphan and tries to survive the best way he can in a world that doesnt really appreciate the Greasers and their low social life. He doesnt see things the same way and thinks everyone should be accepted socially no matter what side of the tracks you may live. Tex, although not orphaned, does not have a father figure at home.  He also tries to survive the best way he can, while trying to figure out his place in life. He soon realizes that things can change and you have to find the best way to survive when his beloved horse is sold for money for the purpose of survival.


Each character has a life theme. Ponyboys lesson is stay gold. In this case, he learns that his heart and life doesnt have to change, he can remain the same. On the other hand, Tex learns the valuable lesson of some stay, and some go. He learns that some people never stay in your life, and some will always be there.  He learns this as a lesson with Jamie and his brother, Mason, his father, and his brothers friend, Lem. Some are intended to stay, and some will move on in life.


Hinton approached both stories to teach a lesson of realism in life. Both characters face tough life problems, and both learned valuable lessons from the lives they lived. Ponyboy learned that problems will work out in the end, and sometimes at the cost of someones life. Tex learned that hard problems will work out also. Hinton loved her hometown and settings for both books revolved around Tulsa,  Oklahoma life. Hinton wanted to create children's literature to show readers what was happening in Oklahoma at the time and its unfairness.  She writes from a males persepective because she was a tomboy and most of her friends were male (Ramsey). She also wrote before women's lib caught on and found nothing in the female culture to identify with. Hinton stills writes for children today because she states that when she started writing it was the only thing she knew and now because "she still likes the little turkeys" (Ramsey).


Hinton's characters are true to life. Children for thirty years have been able to relate to lifes difficulties with the characters created in The Outsiders and Tex. Hinton seems to relay to them the very essence of teenage life and the problems that can face them. Her view of the world through Ponyboys and Texs life is one that captures the young audience. Through these characters in The Outsiders, Hinton has shown many young readers that life can be hard, but some things like the rivalry between the Socs and the Greasers need not be carried far enough for someone to be killed. 


Through the character of Tex, Hinton has shown young readers that life's difficulties can be hard, but things are never as bad as they seem. Seeing life through someone else's eyes can help you understand that your life may not be so bad after all. Both characters in both books lacked a mother and father figure. They had older brothers  that looked after them.  The books could have taught that family is very important in your life. The reader can gain insight into human relationships through both of these characters and can feel connected to them. The author relates to children because the issues at hand deal with gangs and relationships.


"If you want to be a writer, I have two pieces of advice. One is to be a reader. I think thats one of the most important parts of learning to write. The other piece of advice is Just do it! Dont think about it, dont agonize, sit down and write."


When asked what Hinton liked to read that influenced her writing, she stated, "As a kid, I loved animal stories, particularly horse stories. I was one of those little girls who felt like she was one with a horse. Today, I read biographies a lot because they are about character, and character is what drives my novels. I also enjoy Jane Austencharacter is her main concernand Im a history buff. I think if you want to learn to write better, you need to read better."


If giving advice to a budding writer, Hinton would suggest, "Do the best you possibly can. Write, write, write, and read, read, read!"  (


Some children can relate to Ponyboy. One child mentioned that he could hear the characters voice in his head. He also felt as if he was with him as he ran away with his best friend (Hertz 1996).


These novels, along with many other young adult literature titles, provide the reader with a view of characters struggling to  understand a society interested in self-gratification, a society that exploits its less powerful members, just as Johnny in The Outsiders, was often beat up because he lived on the wrong side of the tracks and was called a Greaser. These novels present main characters in situations that reflect the cruelty and selfish behaviors of dispassionate people (Hertz 1996).


Hinton is described as an author that provided a turning point in young adult literature because she wrote about problems with alienated youth. (Hertz 1996). Hertz states that young readers in middle school can relate to Ponyboy and his brother in The Outsiders if they are from any socioeconomic group because the it requires relating to fitting into society and shows their feelings of alienation (Hertz 1996).


Hinton appears to have known how to balance introspection with action in the proper measure to keep the reader hooked, especially in her two novels, Tex and The Outsiders ( Daly 1989). The several themes presented in the Outsiders were greatly noted. The theme Hinton presents of "Staying Gold" related to keeping ones innocence and perfection, especially in the midst of tragedy.  With all the talk of heroism in the book, and gallantry, it becomes aligned with inability of any of us to "stay gold " (Daly 1989).


In Tex, Hinton shows Texs innocence, an attitude he shares with Ponyboy in The Outsiders,  who on the surface, is as far from innocent as a street kid can get (Daly 1989).  Hinton suggests to readers in Tex that they may not understand the past, but like Tex, they can advance with the future.



The Outsiders, 1967.
That Was Then, This is Now, 1971.
Rumble Fish, 1975.
Tex, 1979.
Big David, Little David, 1995.
Puppy Sister, 1995
Hawkes Harbor, to be published September 2004.


Books@Random. Accessed June 25 , 2004.


Daly, Jay. 1989. Presenting S. E. Hinton. Boston: Twayne Publishers.


Hertz, Sarah H., and Donald G. Gallo. 1996. From Hinton to Hamlet : Building Bridges Between Young Adult Literature and the Classics. Connecticut: Greenwood Press.


Internet School Library Media Center. Accessed June 25 , 2004


Kerby, Mona. Accessed June 23, 2004.


OK Center for Poets & Writers. Accessed June 23, 2004.


Random House.

Accessed June 25 , 2004.


Teknospace Design. Accessed June 23, 2004.

Website created by Karen B., Texas Woman's University Graduate Student,  LS 5603. Summer 2004.