What Do Cigarettes Symbolize in The Outsiders: A Deeper Look into the Meaning Behind Smoking in the Novel

If you’re a fan of literature, you may have stumbled upon “The Outsiders,” a classic novel that has recently revitalized its popularity thanks to the vast array of literary analysis it’s sparked. “The Outsiders” is a book that dives deep into the meaning of symbols, including one that many readers may overlook: cigarettes. In the novel, cigarettes are not merely a tool used by characters to satisfy their nicotine cravings, but rather a symbol that illustrates the struggles and complexities of youth.

It could be tempting to dismiss cigarettes in “The Outsiders” as a minor subplot – a mechanism used to depict the characters as “bad boys” – yet this assumption would be misguided. As it turns out, the symbolism of cigarettes in the novel runs much deeper than that. Cigarettes represent a variety of themes, from rebellion to addiction and, more importantly, the loss of innocence. As the novel progresses, it becomes clear that cigarettes are a potent symbol that reflects how the primary characters are grappling with their place in the world.

Despite its simplicity, the cigarette is an incredibly versatile symbol, especially in “The Outsiders”, where it highlights the fragility and conflict that comes with growing up too fast. Smoking, in the novel, is a metaphor for how the characters are navigating the difficult journey of adolescence. It underscores the unique struggles that the characters face, as well as the many obstacles they must overcome to achieve their goals. Thus, cigarettes in “The Outsiders” are one of many literary devices employed to illustrate the character’s experiences to the readers.

Smoking as a Sign of Rebellion

Throughout S. E. Hinton’s novel “The Outsiders,” the act of smoking is frequently used as a symbol of rebellion. The characters who smoke, including main protagonist Ponyboy, his brothers Darry and Soda, and their friends Johnny and Two-Bit, all use cigarettes as a way to express their nonconformity and defiance.

  • For example, Ponyboy, who is only 14 years old, takes up smoking partially as a way to fit in with his older brothers and their “greaser” gang.
  • Similarly, Johnny, who is also a teenager, smokes to cope with the stress and trauma of his abusive home life.
  • Two-Bit, a wise-cracking character who loves breaking rules, enjoys smoking to assert his independence and carefree attitude.

Beyond individual motivation, smoking also functions as a symbol of the greasers’ overall rebellion against societal norms and expectations. As lower-class outsiders who are constantly judged and dismissed by their wealthier, more privileged peers, the greasers use smoking as a way to assert their own identity and values.

This symbolism is further amplified by the fact that Hinton wrote “The Outsiders” in the 1960s, a time when smoking was not only more prevalent in society but also increasingly associated with countercultural movements. By having her characters smoke, Hinton situates the greasers as a group of outsiders who reject mainstream norms and values, including the pressure to conform to health and safety regulations.

The Dangers of Cigarette Smoking

Cigarettes have long been a symbol of rebellion, coolness, and freedom. However, as time has passed, we have come to realize that these symbols are not worth the damage cigarettes cause to our health and the environment. Here are the dangers of cigarette smoking that every individual should know.

  • Health risks: Cigarette smoking is linked to a range of health hazards, including lung cancer, stroke, heart disease, and respiratory diseases. In fact, smoking is the leading cause of preventable death worldwide, causing more than 7 million deaths each year. Not just smokers, but also passive smokers, or people who breathe in secondhand smoke, are at a higher risk of developing these diseases.
  • Environmental impact: Smoking cigarettes also has several negative effects on the environment. Cigarette butts are the most littered item on earth, and they can take up to 10 years to decompose. In addition, cigarette smoke pollutes the air, water, and soil, harming birds, fish, and other wildlife.
  • Social stigma: Finally, smoking cigarettes is no longer socially accepted as it once was. Smokers are often looked down upon, and many public areas have banned smoking altogether to avoid harming non-smokers.

The Way Forward

Given these dangers, the way forward for individuals is clear. Quitting smoking not only benefits yourself but also the environment and those around you. Smoking cessation programs, nicotine replacement therapy, and other medical treatments are all available to help you quit smoking. The key is to take action and make the commitment to quit.

The Economic Cost of Smoking

Finally, it’s worth mentioning the economic cost of smoking. Cigarette smoking costs more than just the price of a pack. Long-term medical costs, lost productivity, and early death all add up to a significant impact on the economy. By quitting smoking, you take control of your health and also help save money in the long run.

Cost of smoking in the US (per year) Cost of smoking in the world (per year)
$300 billion $1.4 trillion

In conclusion, while cigarettes may be seen as a symbol of various positive aspects, it is worth remembering the dangers associated with smoking. From health risks to environmental impact, there are many reasons to quit smoking. With the right support and resources, anyone can quit smoking and take control of their health and future.

Cigarettes as a Reflection of Societal Norms

Throughout S.E. Hinton’s novel, The Outsiders, cigarettes are used as a symbol to reflect the societal norms of the time. In the 1960s, smoking was seen as a common and acceptable behavior among both adults and teenagers. It was a symbol of rebellion and an act of non-conformity, which made it especially appealing to the teenage characters in the book.

The use of cigarettes in The Outsiders serves as a way to represent the characters’ desire for independence and to reject authority. The characters viewed smoking as a way to assert their own identity and individuality, even though it could have detrimental effects on their health in the long run. By smoking cigarettes, the characters were able to differentiate themselves from the “socs,” or the wealthy, popular kids who seemed to have everything handed to them on a silver platter.

  • Smoking as a Means of Rejection
  • The Rebellious Nature of Smoking
  • The Symbolism of Smoking and Class Divide

One example of this is the character of Ponyboy, who regularly smokes throughout the book. Ponyboy is a member of the “greasers,” a gang of working-class teenagers who are constantly at odds with the socs. By smoking, Ponyboy is able to assert his own identity and differentiate himself from the socs, who he perceives as stuck up and entitled.

The use of cigarettes can also be seen as a reflection of the characters’ socio-economic status. The greasers are a group of poor kids who live in a run-down part of town and often have to resort to petty crime to make ends meet. Smoking cigarettes is a way for them to cope with the stresses and realities of their lives. On the other hand, the socs are wealthy and privileged and do not have to resort to destructive behaviors to assert their identity.

Socio-Economic Status Smoking Habits
Working-class/poor Regular smokers
Wealthy/privileged Non-smokers or occasional smokers

Overall, the use of cigarettes in The Outsiders can be seen as a reflection of the societal attitudes and norms of the time. Smoking was viewed as a symbol of rebellion and non-conformity, and the characters used it as a way to assert their own identity and differentiate themselves from others. Additionally, the difference in smoking habits between the greasers and the socs reflects the socio-economic divide between the two groups.

The Impact of Peer Pressure on Cigarette Smoking

One of the most common reasons why people start smoking is because of peer pressure. This is especially true for teenagers who are more vulnerable to influences from their peers. The characters in The Outsiders are not an exception to this fact, and cigarettes represent different things for each of them.

  • Johnny: Johnny starts smoking because he is trying to fit in with the gang. He is constantly bullied by his father and feels neglected at home, so he finds solace in the acceptance he receives from his friends. Smoking cigarettes is a way for him to demonstrate his loyalty.
  • Ponyboy: Ponyboy starts smoking because he idolizes his older brother, Darry, who is a heavy smoker. He looks up to him and wants to be just like him, so he starts smoking to seem more mature.
  • Dally: Dally is a seasoned smoker who introduces Johnny and Ponyboy to cigarettes. He smokes to manage his stress and emotions, and he sees cigarettes as a way to cope with the harsh reality of his life.

The impact of peer pressure can be powerful, particularly among impressionable individuals who seek validation from their peers. The sense of belonging that comes with being part of a group can be incredibly enticing, and cigarettes are often one of the ways that teenagers demonstrate their loyalty to their friends.

It is important to note, however, that smoking cigarettes not only has immediate effects but also long-term health consequences, and it is crucial for teenagers to be educated about the dangers of smoking. Parents and educators play a critical role in helping teenagers make informed decisions and resist peer pressure.

Immediate Effects of Smoking Long-term Health Consequences
Bad breath Lung cancer
Yellow teeth and fingernails Heart disease
Increased heart rate and blood pressure Stroke
Dulled sense of taste and smell Emphysema
Decreased lung capacity Chronic bronchitis

It is essential to understand that cigarettes are not just a symbol of rebellion or acceptance. They are a harmful and addictive substance that can cause significant damage to one’s health and well-being. Teenagers need to be empowered to make wise decisions that benefit their overall health, and this can be achieved by providing them with the necessary education and guidance.

The Role of Cigarettes in Establishing Social Hierarchies

Throughout S.E. Hinton’s classic novel The Outsiders, cigarettes play a significant role in establishing social hierarchies within the various gangs that are portrayed in the story. Here are some of the ways that cigarettes are used to define status and power:

  • Cigarettes as currency: In the world of The Outsiders, cigarettes are as good as money. The characters are constantly trading and hustling to acquire more smokes, using them to buy everything from food to weapons. Those who have a lot of cigarettes are seen as powerful and resourceful.
  • Cigarettes as a symbol of cool: The teenage characters in The Outsiders are desperate to be seen as cool and tough. Smoking is one of the ways that they try to project this image. The characters who smoke are often the most respected and admired ones, especially if they can do it with ease or do tricks with the smoke.
  • Cigarettes as a way to mark territory: When the greasers are trying to establish dominance over the rival Socs, they often leave cigarette butts at the scene of their crimes as a way to taunt and intimidate the other gang. The presence of cigarette butts can also serve as a warning to others that this is “our turf.”

But while cigarettes might seem like a symbol of power and control, they are also a dangerous addiction that can cause harm to the characters who use them. Many of the characters, especially the older ones, are shown coughing or wheezing from the effects of smoking. And when the character Johnny dies, it is revealed that he had lung cancer at the age of 16, most likely from his heavy smoking habit.

Overall, the use of cigarettes in The Outsiders reflects the way that smoking can be both a symbol of status and a dangerous addiction. By showing the consequences of smoking through the character of Johnny, Hinton reminds readers of the importance of taking care of one’s health.

The portrayal of cigarettes as a coping mechanism for characters

In S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, cigarettes serve as a coping mechanism for several of the characters in the novel. Amidst the violence, gang rivalries, and family problems, smoking is one way that the characters try to deal with the stress in their lives.

  • Ponyboy Curtis smokes cigarettes as a way to calm his nerves and relieve the tension he feels from the dangers of gang life. He even confesses that he hates the taste of cigarettes, but smokes them anyway because they make him feel more relaxed.
  • Dally Winston is another character who turns to cigarettes to deal with his emotions. He is known for having a tough exterior, but smoking is one of the few times he lets his guard down and reveals a vulnerable side.
  • Sodapop Curtis also smokes cigarettes in the novel, though his reasons for doing so are not as clear as Ponyboy’s or Dally’s. It may be a way for him to cope with the stress of his family issues, or it could just be a teenage rebellion against authority.

Throughout the novel, cigarettes are associated with rebellion, risk-taking, and a disregard for authority. The characters who smoke cigarettes are often portrayed as being more edgy and exciting than those who do not. However, smoking also represents a form of self-harm and a willingness to engage in dangerous behavior for the sake of coping with internal struggles.

Overall, the portrayal of cigarettes as a coping mechanism in The Outsiders highlights the ways in which young people try to deal with the stresses and challenges of their lives. It also emphasizes the complicated nature of addiction and how it can be both a coping mechanism and a form of self-harm.

The Symbolism of Cigarettes in Relation to Characters’ Identities

Cigarettes have become a symbolic representation of the characters in the novel, The Outsiders. Each character’s relationship with cigarettes reveals their identity and personality traits.

  • Johnny’s Smoking Habit
  • Johnny’s smoking habit illustrates his vulnerability and his need for comfort and control. Johnny’s home life is abusive and chaotic, leading him to feel powerless most of the time. He finds comfort in smoking cigarettes and feeling in control of his own actions.

  • Ponyboy’s Attitude Towards Smoking
  • Ponyboy’s attitude towards smoking represents his youthful naivety. He sees smoking as a cool and rebellious activity, something that the “tough guys” in his gang do. He is not yet mature enough to fully comprehend the consequences of smoking, and his innocence is reflected in his desire to be seen as tough and cool.

  • Dally’s Chain-Smoking
  • Dally’s chain-smoking habit represents his reckless and self-destructive behavior. Dally is a character who is always looking for trouble and often finds himself in dangerous situations. His addiction to cigarettes mirrors his addiction to danger and the thrill of living on the edge.

The characters’ relationship with cigarettes is further emphasized through the numerical symbolism of “7”. The number 7 is a recurring motif throughout the novel, representing luck, destiny, and the characters’ unique connection to one another.

The number 7 is significant in relation to cigarettes because each pack of cigarettes has 20 cigarettes, and 7 packs of cigarettes add up to 140 cigarettes. This number holds great importance, as it relates to a critical moment in the story. When Johnny and Ponyboy are on the run, they cut and dye their hair and are only able to take 140 cigarettes with them. This represents their limited resources and the need to make each cigarette last, symbolizing the desperation and vulnerability of their situation.

Character Number of Packs Total Cigarettes
Johnny 2 40
Ponyboy 5 100
Total 7 140

The symbolism of cigarettes in The Outsiders is a testament to the power of objects to convey deeper meaning in literature. By examining the characters’ relationship with cigarettes, we can gain a deeper understanding of their motivations, personalities, and their journey throughout the novel.

The Influence of Advertising on Cigarette Smoking

The influence of advertising on cigarette smoking is a topic that has been widely debated. Advertisements play a key role in shaping our perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors towards smoking. Cigarette companies have invested a significant amount of money in creating advertisements that glamorize smoking, depicting it as a symbol of freedom, rebellion, and sophistication. However, these advertisements fail to showcase the dangers of smoking, including the risk of lung cancer, heart disease, and other serious health issues.

  • Advertisements have targeted young people aggressively, using images of attractive models, sports heroes, and celebrities to promote smoking. The use of such images creates a subconscious association between smoking and success, glamour, and popularity.
  • Cigarette companies sponsor events, such as concerts, sports competitions, and film festivals, to market directly to young people. By doing so, they associate their brand with a fun and exciting lifestyle.
  • Advertisements often feature misleading information, such as implying that smoking can boost mental performance, control weight, and reduce stress.

The impact of advertising on smoking can be seen in the statistics. In the 1960s, cigarette companies aired commercials during prime time television and experienced a significant increase in sales. However, the government eventually banned cigarette advertising on television, and smoking rates gradually decreased. Yet, cigarette companies found other ways to market, such as sponsoring events and using product placement in movies and TV shows.

To deter youth from smoking, some countries have implemented stricter regulations on cigarette advertising. For instance, Australia has enacted plain packaging laws, which require all cigarette products to be sold in plain olive green packaging, with graphic images depicting the health consequences of smoking. Furthermore, some governments have launched anti-smoking campaigns, using hard-hitting visuals and messages to deter teenagers from smoking. Nevertheless, the power of advertising persists, and the fight against smoking is ongoing.

Year Percentage of adults who smoke cigarettes
1965 42.4%
1975 37.1%
1985 30.1%
1995 24.7%
2005 20.9%
2015 15.1%

The table above reflects a steady decrease in smoking rates over the past few decades. However, cigarette companies continue to target young people, especially those in developing countries. It is important to counteract the influence of advertising by informing young people of the dangers of smoking and promoting a healthier lifestyle.

The theme of internal conflict related to cigarette addiction

In The Outsiders, cigarettes symbolize several themes, including the theme of internal conflict related to cigarette addiction. Throughout the novel, several characters struggle with addiction to cigarettes, which is often used as a coping mechanism for their difficult lives. Here, we will explore this theme in-depth.

  • Addiction as a coping mechanism: Many characters in The Outsiders turn to cigarettes as a way to cope with the stress and trauma they face daily. Johnny, for example, relies on cigarettes to help him deal with his abusive home life. Similarly, Ponyboy and Two-Bit often smoke to ease their anxieties about their future and the harsh realities of gang life.
  • Internal conflict: Cigarette addiction also creates internal conflict for many characters. Johnny, for instance, wants to quit smoking but feels unable to do so. This highlights the internal struggle he is facing, as he recognizes the negative impact smoking is having on his health, but cannot overcome his addiction. Similarly, Ponyboy grapples with the moral implications of smoking, knowing that it is harmful to his health but enjoying the temporary comfort it provides.
  • Social pressures: Finally, the addiction to cigarettes in The Outsiders also reflects the social pressures that the characters face. Smoking is a common pastime for the greasers, and therefore, it is seen as a symbol of rebellion against authority. Johnny, for example, is proud of the fact that he can roll his own cigarettes, as it signals his independence and toughness.

To fully understand the impact of cigarette addiction on the characters in The Outsiders, it is helpful to look at the following table, which highlights the characters who smoke in the novel and their reasons for doing so.

Character Reason for smoking
Johnny To cope with his abusive home life and the stress of gang life
Ponyboy To ease his anxiety and stress about his future and gang life
Two-Bit As a social symbol and to cope with the harsh realities of life
Dally To cope with his criminal lifestyle and the stress of living on the run

Overall, the addiction to cigarettes in The Outsiders serves as a symbol for the internal conflict and social pressures that the characters face. Through this theme, we can gain a deeper understanding of the struggles that young people face when trying to navigate difficult situations and cope with trauma.

The Ultimate Consequences of Cigarette Smoking in The Outsiders

Cigarette smoking in The Outsiders has significant consequences on the story’s characters. Here are some of the ultimate consequences of cigarette smoking in the novel:

  • It reinforces the divide between the Socs and the Greasers. Smoking cigarettes is one of the markers of the Socs’ social status. They smoke fancier brands than the Greasers and are looked upon as cooler because of it. The Greasers, on the other hand, smoke cheaper cigarettes that are harsher on their throats. The difference in the quality of cigarettes solidifies the economic and social differences between the two groups.
  • It contributes to Johnny’s death. The incident that kicks off the novel’s action is the murder of Bob, a Soc, by Johnny, a Greaser, who was smoking a cigarette at the time of the attack. This event leads to a chain reaction of violence, culminating in Johnny’s death. Johnny’s smoking throughout the novel is symbolic of his vulnerability and sense of hopelessness. The cigarettes provide him with a temporary escape from his troubled life.
  • It highlights the characters’ struggle with identity. Many characters in The Outsiders smoke as a way of coping with their emotions and asserting their independence. Ponyboy, the novel’s protagonist, feels torn between the Greaser lifestyle he’s grown up with and the wider world outside of it. Smoking cigarettes represents the rebellion and individuality that Ponyboy and his peers are desperate to maintain in the face of societal pressure to conform.

In summary, cigarette smoking in The Outsiders serves as a powerful symbol of societal and personal struggles faced by the characters. It reinforces the divide between the Socs and the Greasers, leads to tragic consequences for some, and helps characters grapple with their sense of identity.

What do cigarettes symbolize in The Outsiders?

1. What do cigarettes represent in The Outsiders?
In the novel, cigarettes symbolize rebellion and independence. The characters who smoke cigarettes are often seen as daring rule-breakers.

2. Why do some characters smoke cigarettes while others do not?
Smoking is used to differentiate the Greasers, who are portrayed as rebellious, from the Socs, who are portrayed as wealthy and entitled.

3. What is the significance of cigarettes in the context of the time period in which The Outsiders was written?
During the 1960s, smoking was much more common and accepted than it is today. Smoking was often associated with rebellion and counterculture movements, which are explored in the novel.

4. What do cigarettes represent for Ponyboy?
For Ponyboy, smoking represents his desire to fit in with the rest of the gang. He often struggles with feeling like an outsider and smoking helps him feel like he is a part of something.

5. How do cigarettes play into the theme of identity in The Outsiders?
Cigarettes are used to explore the idea of identity and how it is shaped by social groups. The characters who smoke cigarettes are often seen as having a distinct identity or persona.

6. What impact do cigarettes have on the health of the characters?
The novel does not explore the negative health consequences of smoking. However, it is important to note that smoking can be extremely harmful and is not recommended.

7. What is the message that the author is trying to convey through the use of cigarettes as a symbol?
The use of cigarettes as a symbol reinforces the idea that social groups and identities are not always easily defined. The characters in The Outsiders are complex and multi-dimensional, and smoking is just one aspect of that complexity.

Closing Thoughts

Thanks for reading! The use of cigarettes as a symbol in The Outsiders highlights the complexity of identity and the role that social groups play in shaping our sense of self. It is important to remember that smoking can be harmful and is not recommended. Keep an eye out for more articles exploring the themes and symbols in literature. Until next time!