The Outsiders Lesson 5: Boys Walking in Men's Shoes

Contributor: Kristen Gardiner. Lesson ID: 10878

Do you wear moccasins or shoes? Are they comfortable? What if those shoes don't fit or aren't your style? Relationships are the same: You can't understand someone unless you've lived like him or her!


Literary Studies

learning style
personality style
Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!


Have you ever heard the phrase, "To walk a mile in someone else's shoes"? What exactly does that mean?

Obviously, we know it doesn't mean to literally put on another person's shoes and go for a mile-long walk!

There is actually more to this saying that originated from a Native American proverb, "Great Spirit, grant that I may not criticize my neighbor until I have walked a mile in his moccasins."

The person speaking is asking for strength that he or she not criticize, or judge, another human being, unless he or she knows what it is to be in that person's situation. In order to truly know and feel for another person, you must have empathy.

It was American authoress, N. Harper Lee, who first used this very concept in her novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, when she wrote, "You never really know a man until you understand things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it" (Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1960).

Empathy is a type of emotional intelligence that comes when you are able to completely understand and feel things from another person's perspective.

Look back at the past month or so. You may have encountered a person with whom you are close, who seemed distant, rude, or even angry toward you, and you were unsure why. Take a moment to analyze the situation. Did you do or maybe say something that could have been taken as insensitive, even if you didn't mean it? Now put yourself in that person's shoes. How would you have felt if they had done the same to you?

In order to function as part of a whole, you need to understand the general personalities, backgrounds, experiences, emotional triggers, and weaknesses of those around you. There are even some cases where people will start an argument with a loved one just to let off steam, or because they are still lost in thoughts about an exasperating situation. Therefore, you should not only seek the reason behind a person's action, but also try to understand how it feels like emotionally to be the other person. From that particular moment where you understand just a slight fraction of the problems and feelings that person is facing in life, it will become easier for you to empathize with him or her.

Empathy also comes when one realizes the similarities in all individuals — the need to be loved, accepted, happy, and to avoid sadness and pain — rather than focus on external differences.

In chapter seven, Ponyboy begins to feel empathy, not only for members of his own group, but for the socs. Pony also realizes that Johnny and Dally are truly alone. Although he thinks to himself in Chapter Six that Darry and Soda are no replacement for his parents, he still knows some comfort of a family.

It's not until Johnny and Dally are injured, and Darry forces the doctor to tell him their respective conditions, that Ponyboy realizes how lost his two friends truly are.

With this in mind, do you think Pony misjudged Dally by thinking he doesn't care about anyone but himself? Do you think Dally truly wanted to help Johnny to not end up the way he did: shuffled around, in prison, abused, and in emotional pain?

At the end of Chapter Seven, Pony also talks to Randy about the situation, including the rumble that was planned between the greasers and the socs. Do you think the two boys empathize with each other, if only for a brief moment? Explain your answer.

Elephango's Philosophy

We help prepare learners for a future that cannot yet be defined. They must be ready for change, willing to learn and able to think critically. Elephango is designed to create lifelong learners who are ready for that rapidly changing future.