One theme that I saw come up in both This One Summer and The Outsiders is the idea of the loss of innocence. This being the idea that we all have to at some point let go of our innocence and in a sense kind of lose it, but yet we do not have to give up our childhood, and we can still be childlike. We all lose our innocence by becoming more aware of the way the world works and experiencing it for ourselves as well as becoming less naive and more knowledgable about the world. This wasn’t ever specifically spelled out in either of the books but is implied and shown in many ways throughout both books.
Both of the main characters seem to go through the required experience of losing their innocence but each in a different way, through the kind of environment by which they are surrounded. Both of the characters seem to slowly go through this process throughout the book until the ending when it accumulates and they or someone close to them finally realizes that they have lost or have to lose their innocence.
Ponyboy Curtis in The Outsiders starts this process through being surrounded by violence and fighting through his childhood and thus witnessing one of his best friends violently murder someone,
The next thing I knew I was lying on the pavement beside the fountain, coughing water and gasping. I lay there weakly, breathing in air and spitting out water. The wind blasted through my soaked sweatshirt and dripping hair. My teeth chattered unceasingly and I couldn’t stop them. I finally pushed myself up and leaned back against the fountain, the water running down my face. Then I saw Johnny.
He was sitting next to me, one elbow on his knee, and staring straight ahead. He was a strange greenish-white, and his eyes were huger than I’d ever seen them.
“I killed him,” he said slowly. “I killed that boy.” Bob, the handsome Soc, was lying there in the moonlight, doubled up and still. A dark pool was growing from him, spreading slowly over the blue-white cement. I looked at Johnny’s hand. He was clutching his switchblade, and it was dark to the hilt. My stomach gave a violent jump and my blood turned icy. “Johnny,” I managed to say, fighting the dizziness, “I think I’m gonna be sick.” (79-80)
This seems to be the first specific instance in which he realizes that his innocence will eventually be lost, and this is the time when this process has started and he has to ride it through to the end even if he doesn’t want to go through with, even if he doesn’t want to grow up and leave being a child behind and become a young man and start to enter into his adulthood and his new role in this world.
Rose in This One Summer starts it through her own curiosity and exploration and being surrounded by irresponsible and delinquent teenagers and fighting parents,
Jenny: “Since when do you get to call me SLUT, ASSHOLE?” Duncan’s Friend: “Since when am I an ASSHOLE, Slut? Hup!” Smack!
Jenny’s Friend: “EEE!!”
Duncan: “Later, Hip Hop. Later, uh, blondie.”
Windy: “Um. Can we go? I’m melting.”
Rose: “Oh my god those girls are sooo loud. I bet they were drunk. They’re like, DRUNKS.”
Windy: “They’re like WHHOOAA..”
Rose: “And like EEEEEEE! NOO!”
Windy: “They LOVE screaming.”
Rose: “They’re SLUTS.”
Alice: “ROSE! Who’s a slut?”
Rose: “No one!”
Windy’s Mother: “Bit strange calling someone you don’t even know a slut.”
Windy: “Oh, well these guys who knew these girls were calling them sluts.”
Windy’s Mother: “Well, how is that okay?”
Alice: “We should get going.”
Windy’s Mother: “Okay, well, maybe we’ll see you tomorrow on the beach?”
Windy: “See you tomorrow.”
Alice: “Rose. I don’t like you talking like that.”
Rose: “Okay.” (40-42)
This is one of the first instances in which Rose realizes that she is losing her innocence but at the same time she knows she is losing something and something is beginning to feel missing but she doesn’t realize it is her innocence.
Ponyboy in many ways realizes in the end that he has lost his innocence without admitting that it was innocence that he lost. He knows he lost his innocence but doesn’t want to see this, he wants to stay blind to this and stay a child in his childhood,
“Listen to me, Pony. You didn’t do anything. It was your friend Johnny that had the knife…”
“I had it.” I stopped him. He was looking at me strangely. “I had the knife. I killed Bob.”
Randy shook his head. “I saw it. You were almost drowned. It was the blackheaded guy that had the switchblade. Bob scared him into doing it. I saw it.” I was bewildered. “I killed him. I had a switchblade and I was scared they were going to beat me up.”
“No, kid, it was your friend, the one who died in the hospital…” “Johnny is not dead.” My voice was shaking. “Johnny is not dead.” (221)
This seems to be the the instance when he realizes he has completely and totally lost his innocence but wants to be able to take back that realization, take back the innocence he lost and become a child once again.
Rose seems to do the opposite, but her mother knows what has to happen and what will happen,
Alice: “I was six weeks. You know. We had only just found out. We didn’t tell Rose. God, I’m so sick of crying about this.” Windy’s Mother: “Alice. I’m so sorry…But Alice. You should tell her. Kids are…they get it.”
Alice: “I Know.”
Rose: “I remember once, when I was eight, and we were going to come herein the winter for this thing. I can’t remember what it was. And I was mad because I didn’t want to see Awago with snow. So I pretended to have a stomachache so I wouldn’t have to go. I wanted to have this perfect picture of Awago in my head. Which I guess is a picture of Awago in the summer. Kind of just like this.”
Alice knows that and realizes that Rose at some point has to lose her innocence and most likely already has whether she tells Rose about her miscarriage or not, but Rose only knows that something is now gone and she will never get it back, she just doesn’t know what, doesn’t know that it’s her innocence.
I didn’t really start to lose my innocence until I entered high school and I was kind of similar to both Rose and Ponyboy in the way I lost it. I didn’t know it was my innocence at first similar to Rose, I just knew something was missing, but similar to Ponyboy I realized it was my innocence after my Freshman year of college and tried to get it back because I wanted to be blind to this realization and be blind to the loss of innocence that I had experienced. Finally this year, my Senior year of college I realized. I love this idea of losing our innocence because as much as I don’t like having to grow up and become an adult, I still love to color, I am basically obsessed with Disney, and superheroes, and so many other childish and childlike things, I also love that I can find out about the world, gain a knowledge of how things work, and understand how life works. I love that I have the option and the ability to become an adult and find things out on my own and be my own person and not live through others experience and staying clueless and naive and not having to be scarred for life because I don’t have the knowledge I need. I enjoy the fact that I had to lose my innocence, as much as love my innocence and want to keep it, I never want to get it back because even if I could have it back, it wouldn’t be the same and I wouldn’t want it back.