Guest post by Patrice Persad:
Fraternal fellowship, especially when it is displayed, among the Curtis brothers in S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders is why the novel is one of my favorites. Of course, in Outsiders fanfiction, many stories feature the fraternal bond—if not among the Curtis brothers then among the greaser gang. Consequently, there are the other pieces—the “sister fics” (where one of the boys who are only children suddenly have a sister or where the Curtis brothers become the Curtis siblings) and fanfiction in which lesser known female characters in canon are magnified and become the protagonists; one could compare the latter fics to Stoppard’s Rosencranz and Guilderstein Are Dead. Fanfiction is where a writer can construct tunnels from and build secret passageways in the creator’s infrastructure; it is where canon’s reality is reengineered in the fanfiction writer’s words. However, with Outsiders fanfiction that trains specifically on female characters, the presence of fraternal fellowship, like in canon, still eclipses the kinship among females and the overall female influence.
I have come to conclude that in canon female characters are:
1) dead (Mrs. Curtis).
2) serve mostly as potential partners in a non-platonic relationship (Sandy, Cherry Valance, and Angela Shepard).
3) supposedly so minor to the plot that they are mentioned in passing (Keith ‘Two-Bit” Mathews’ mother and sister).
Females in the novel are the true outsiders. I understand that the novel is set during the 1960s when females did not have as many opportunities now. (But, then, was not the 1960s the time of the second wave of feminism?) We hardly see the sisterly bond among female greasers and socs because the book is clearly not focused or does not intend to focus on them; it chronicles certain events from Ponyboy’s life. (After all, at his age, the reader learns than he is not into girls.) The most important sustenance he is given is that from fraternal fellowships among his blood brothers and adoptive brethren—particularly in the loss of a maternal figure, Mrs. Curtis, and a paternal figure, Mr. Curtis.
In fanon, even though original female characters (OFCs), which are female characters fabricated by the fanfiction writer, or even though those female figures in the canonical background are placed in the foreground, they still come off as outsiders. Fanon, even if the sister fics can be labeled as alternate universe (AU) pieces, reflects canon in this aspect.
Several scenarios in fanon follow:
1) the sister or twin sister (who may be named Nutmeg, Orange Blossom, or Licorice as in the tradition of the younger Curtis’ unique names) is a non-platonic interest for a canon character.
2) as a narrator, the female sibling/friend/acquaintance merely accompanies the boys on adventures instead of being a dynamic actor (i.e, a tag along).
3) the female is used as leverage against a gang member.
I suppose Cherry Valence is the only saving grace for females in canon. However, in fanon, she reverts to being a romantic interest for one of the boys (Ponyboy or the resurrected Dallas Winston). It is as if these characters are in the spotlight, but they are stagnant—frozen in function or purpose to just act for themselves.
I cannot help but describe the female’s role in both fanon and canon by referring to Rembrandt van Rijn’s painting Night Watch. There is a canon Outsiders character who Ponyboy briefly thinks about: a girl who he thought looked good in yellow. Now, in the painting, there is a girl who is illuminated in bright light. She looks straight at the viewer, and she is dressed in garments—an ornate dress—of a light hue, which could possibly be yellow. Even though she is highlighted by a light source, the viewer—well, I—cannot help but shift his—my—eyes to the surrounding sixteen male officers of the militia group—particularly on the captain and lieutenant who are in the foreground. Most of the officers are in the shadows or dark, but the viewer finds his attention drawn to them.
I apologize for throwing in a bit of seventeenth century art with my musings, but I do have a point. In Night Watch, there is only one female figure. In fanon, an OFC or canon female is disconnected from other females. She is surrounded by mostly male characters in which the fraternal bond is featured, so there is hardly any development for the female bonding, sorority, along with little emphasis on non-platonic relationships with the other male greasers.
I hope that I do not sound like I am belting out Aretha Franklin and Annie Lennox’s Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves, but, if Outsiders female characters in fanon and canon are certainly doing something for themselves, they are not fully acknowledged in the male-dominated world of The Outsiders. And, if these females are not, then how can the fanfiction reader come to care about them as much as he does for the Curtis brothers and the rest of the gang?