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Characters




Characters



Ponyboy Curtis - The novel's narrator and protagonist, a young greaser who loves reading, sunsets, and poetry. Ponyboy is raised by his brothers Darry and Sodapop following the deaths of their parents in a car accident, and belongs to the gang of greasers that also includes Two-Bit, Steve, Johnny, and Dally. Throughout the novel, Ponyboy contends internally with the same themes of class division, human commonality, violence, innocence, and family love that preoccupy the story itself. After Johnny's and Dally's deaths, he must learn to appreciate the full value of his family, and to maintain his innocence despite the unending conflict between the greasers and the Socs.





Johnny Cade - Ponyboy's friend, a sensitive, innocent greaser who comes from a broken and abusive home. With his wide, fearful eyes, Johnny represents a lost innocence to the other members of the gang, especially to Dally.


Dallas Winston (Dally) - The toughest hood in Ponyboy's group of greasers, a hardened teen who used to run with gangs in New York. Dally represents the ultimate effect of life on the streets, a character so savvy and tough that he is all but dead inside. Dally clings to humanity only in his love for Johnny; when Johnny dies, Dally is unable to go on, and is killed by the police soon after.


Sodapop Curtis (Soda) - Ponyboy's happy-go-lucky, handsome older brother, who raises Ponyboy along with Darry.


Darrell Curtis (Darry) - Darry is Ponyboy's oldest brother, a twenty-year-old greaser who raises Ponyboy after their parents die in a car crash. Strong, athletic, and intelligent, Darry works two jobs to hold the family together. Once a high- school football star, Darry has sacrificed everything for his brothers. In the scheme of the narrative, he represents familial love and sacrifice.


Two-Bit Mathews - The joker of Ponyboy's group, a wisecracking greaser who loves to steal things. Two-Bit's prized possession is his sleek black-handled switchblade.


Steve Randle - Sodapop's best friend, a cocky member of Ponyboy's gang who wishes Ponyboy would not tag along so often with Steve and Soda.


Cherry Valance - Bob's girlfriend, a Soc cheerleader whom Ponyboy meets at the movies. Ponyboy and Cherry have a great deal in common--they both love sunsets, for instance--and it is largely through Cherry that Ponyboy begins to realize that the greasers and the Socs are not irrevocably different, after all.


Randy Adderson - Marcia's boyfriend and Bob's best friend, a handsome Soc who realizes the futility of fighting after Bob's death. Along with Cherry, Randy helps to represent the human side of the Socs in the novel--he is not cruel or violent, and tries to befriend Ponyboy after Ponyboy saves the children from the fire.


Bob Sheldon - Cherry's boyfriend, the Soc who beat up Johnny before the start of the novel, and whom Johnny kills to save Ponyboy's life in the park. Bob's most distinctive characteristic is his set of three heavy rings, which he wears when he fights greasers.


Marcia - Cherry's friend and Randy's girlfriend, a pretty Soc who befriends Two-Bit at the movies.


Jerry Wood - The teacher who accompanies Ponyboy to the hospital after Ponyboy saves the children from the fire.


Tim Shepherd - The leader of another band of greasers, and a friend of Dally Winston. The Shepherd gang participates in the rumble with the Socs.


Sandy - Sodapop's girlfriend, who becomes pregnant with another man's child and moves to Florida to live with her grandmother.

Summary

Ponyboy is a 'greaser,' a member of a group of lower-class youths who wear their hair long and greasy, wear jeans and ripped-up T-shirts, and are at odds with the rich-kid bullies known as the 'Socs' (short for 'Socials'). One day, as Ponyboy is walking home from a movie, he is jumped and beaten by a gang of Socs. At the last minute, his gang of greasers--including his brothers Darry and Sodapop, who raise Ponyboy now that their parents are dead, the hardened hood Dally Winston, innocent Johnny, and the wise-cracking Two-Bit--appear on the scene to save him. The next night, Ponyboy and Johnny go to a movie with Dally; they sit behind a pair of attractive Soc girls, whom Dally hits on obnoxiously. After Johnny tells him to stop, Johnny and Ponyboy sit with the girls, Cherry and Marcia, and Ponyboy and Cherry discover to their mutual surprise that they have a great deal in common. Two-Bit appears, and the three greasers walk the Soc girls back to Two-Bit's house so that he can drive them home. On the way, however, they run into Bob and Randy, the girls' drunken boyfriends, and the girls agree to leave with them in order to prevent a fight between the Socs and the greasers.

Ponyboy is very late getting home, and his brother Darry is furious with him. Sick of constantly being scrutinized and criticized by his brother, Ponyboy yells at him, and in the ensuing fight, Darry slaps Ponyboy across the face. Determined to run away, Ponyboy flees out the door, finds Johnny, and heads for the park. Here, however, the two young greasers again encounter Bob and Randy, with a large group of their Soc friends. One of the Socs holds Ponyboy's head under the frigid water of the fountain, and Ponyboy blacks out. When he comes to, he is lying on the ground next to Johnny. The bloody corpse of Bob is next to them. To save Ponyboy, Johnny has killed Bob.

Desperate and terrified, the two greasers hurry to find Dally Winston, the one person they think might be able to help them. Dally sends them with a gun and some money to an abandoned church near Windrixville, where they hide out for a week, cutting their hair to disguise their appearances, reading Gone with the Wind aloud, and discussing poetry. After a week, Dally comes to check on them, and says that since Bob's death, relations between the greasers and the Socs are at their worst ever--a giant rumble is to be held the next night to settle matters once and for all. He says that Cherry, who feels responsible for the whole catastrophe, has been acting as a spy for the greasers. Johnny shocks Dally by declaring his intention to go back to Tulsa and turn himself in. Dally drives them back, but as they leave, they notice that the church has caught fire--with a group of picnicking schoolchildren inside. Ponyboy and Johnny rush into the inferno to save the children; just as they get the last child through the window, the roof caves in, and Ponyboy again blacks out.

This time, he comes to in an ambulance. At the hospital, he is diagnosed with only minor burns and bruises; Dally is also not badly hurt, but Johnny's back was broken when the roof fell and he is now in critical condition. Darry and Sodapop come to get Ponyboy, and when he sees Darry's tears, Ponyboy at last realizes that his brother loves him. The following morning, all the papers proclaim that Ponyboy and Johnny are heroes; but because of the incident, Ponyboy will have to attend a hearing where a judge will decide whether to let him stay with Darry or send him to a boys' home.

Ponyboy and Two-Bit go to get a Coke, where they run into Randy. Randy tells Ponyboy that he is sick of all the fighting, and that he does not plan to go to the rumble that night. At the hospital, Johnny seems weak, and asks for a new copy of Gone with the Wind. Dally is stronger, and asks for Two-Bit's black-handled switchblade. On the way home, Two-Bit and Ponyboy see Cherry. She refuses to visit Johnny because he killed Bob, and Ponyboy calls her a traitor. He relents, however, and tells her to remember that the sunset, which they both love to watch, is as beautiful on the East Side, home of the greasers, as it is on the West Side, home of the Socs.

At the rumble, the greasers defeat the Socs; Dally shows up just in time for the fight, having used Two-Bit's switchblade to spring himself out of the hospital. Ponyboy and Dally hurry back to see Johnny; they find that he is dying. As he dies, Dally loses control of himself and runs from the room in a frenzy. Ponyboy stumbles home late that night, feeling dazed and disoriented, and tells the others of Johnny's death. The phone rings; Dally is calling to say that he has robbed a grocery story and is now being hunted by the cops. The greasers hurry to find him, but they are too late; Dally is gunned down just as they arrive. Overwhelmed, Ponyboy passes out.

When he comes to this time, he is in bed at home. He has had a concussion from a kick he sustained at the rumble, and been delirious in bed for several days. When he is well, he attends the hearing, where he is acquitted from any involvement in Bob's death and allowed to remain at home with Darry. For a time, Ponyboy is listless and empty inside. His grades slip, and he resumes his hostility toward Darry. At last, however, Sodapop blows up at them, tearfully pleading with them not to fight, saying that he feels as though he is being torn in half by their conflict. Realizing for the first time the true value of his family, Ponyboy agrees not to fight with Darry anymore. For the first time, he is able to remember Dally and Johnny's deaths without pain or denial. He decides to tell their story, and begins writing a theme for his English class, which turns out to be the novel itself.

Overall Analysis and Themes




On the surface, the main conflict of The Outsiders is the one between the greasers and the Socs, the lower-class hoods (the 'outsiders' of the title) and the upper-class bullies. The open class warfare between these two loosely- organized youth gangs defines every element of the novel, from the way the characters dress (the greasers wear ripped-up jeans, leather jackets, and hair grease, while the Socs wear madras shirts and khaki pants) and get around (the greasers walk in groups, while the Socs drive Mustangs and Corvettes) to the divided physical layout of the novel's setting (the greasers live on the impoverished East Side of Tulsa, while the Socs live on the wealthy West Side). The conflict between the greasers and the Socs escalates throughout the novel, and culminates in the climactic gang fight, or 'rumble,' that takes place in Chapter 9.

On a deeper level, however, the real conflict in The Outsiders is within the characters themselves, as the core group of greasers and Socs gradually realizes the futility of their conflict, the commonality of human experience, and the levels of identity that lie beneath the designations of social class. Through the murder of Bob and the deaths of Johnny and Dally, Ponyboy, Cherry, and Randy all come to realize that there are more meaningful ways to interact that to fight simply because of class difference. This theme of commonality, tolerance, and maturity is gradually insisted upon throughout the novel as Ponyboy gains more and more perspective; it is symbolized through Ponyboy and Cherry's conversation about sunsets, when he tells her to remember that the sunset is just as beautiful on the East Side as it is on the West Side.

Another important theme that persists throughout the book is that of the transition from childhood to adulthood, from innocence to experience. In the violent, unforgiving world of the greasers, innocence is a precious commodity, and most of the greasers are hard and tough before they reach their late teens. This is why Johnny is so important to Ponyboy's gang- -he represents that quality of innocence which the others have lost. By protecting Johnny, the greasers are able to cling to and defend an innocence they themselves have forsaken; when Johnny dies, the group is forced to come to terms with the fact that their innocence is gone. The hardest and toughest of all the greasers, Dally, is also the one who needs Johnny the most; when Johnny dies, Dally breaks down, and is gunned down by the police for robbing a grocery store not long after. The theme of innocence is symbolized in the Robert Frost poem, 'Nothing Gold Can Stay,' which Ponyboy reads to Johnny at the Windrixville church, beginning with the line 'Nature's first green is gold' and ending with the line 'Nothing gold can stay.' As Johnny dies, he tells Ponyboy to 'stay gold,' urging Ponyboy to hold on to his innocence despite the harsh conditions of his world.

The theme of transition from childhood is also an important part of Ponyboy's experience in the novel, as he struggles to come to terms with the control of his brother Darry, who raises him after their parents die in a car crash. Darry is strict and demanding, and Ponyboy is unable to understand that Darry treats him this way only because he loves him and hopes to see him make something of himself. Finally, after the fire, Ponyboy is able to understand that Darry loves him, but only after Sodapop, the middle brother, pleads with them not to fight anymore does Ponyboy realize the true value of his family. This is the final lesson of unity Ponyboy learns in the book, and directly precipitates his reconciliation with Johnny and Dally's deaths, and his decision to tell their story in the term paper that, as we learn at the end of the novel, becomes the narrative of The Outsiders.

Chapters 1-3


Summary

Ponyboy walks out of the movie theater thinking about two things: Paul Newman and a ride home. He wishes that he had Paul Newman's good looks, and he wishes that he had a ride home so that he would not have to make the long walk back to his East Side neighborhood alone. Ponyboy is a fourteen-year-old greaser--a name used to describe a certain group of lower-class boys and young men who wear leather jackets and hair grease and who live rough-and-tumble lives--and greasers who walk alone are often targets for Socs. The Socs (short for 'Socials') are a group of rich boys who love to fight with greasers. Ponyboy remembers how badly the Socs beat his friend Johnny when they jumped him; he thinks that his brother Darry would be angry if he knew that Ponyboy was walking alone. Ponyboy's parents died in a car accident several years ago, and now the twenty-year-old Darry is responsible for raising Ponyboy and their other brother, sixteen-year-old Sodapop (or 'Soda').

Suddenly a red Corvair pulls up beside Ponyboy, and five Socs climb out. They surround him, and one of them pulls a knife, asking, 'Need a haircut, greaser?' Just as they begin to beat him, however, Ponyboy's brothers and their gang appear on the scene and chase the Socs away. In addition to the muscular Darry and the movie-star-handsome Sodapop, the gang includes Steve Randle, Soda's best friend; Two-Bit, a constant wisecracker; Dallas Winston (or 'Dally'), a hardened hood; and young, gentle Johnny, the gang's pet. Darry starts to lecture Ponyboy for walking home alone instead of calling for a ride, but Soda tells him to stop. At home, Ponyboy, who loves to read, reads Great Expectations, and thinks about all the ways his life resembles Pip's. Still shaken by his fight with the Socs, Ponyboy climbs into bed with Sodapop; the two talk about Soda's girlfriend Sandy, whom Soda hopes to marry one day.

The next night, Ponyboy and Johnny go with Dally to a double feature at a drive- in movie theater. They sit behind a pair of nice- looking girls--not greaser girls, Ponyboy thinks--and Dally begins to talk fithily in a loud voice to try to embarrass the girls. One of them turns around and coolly tells him to stop, but Dally continues to say insinuating things to her. He goes to buy Cokes, and Ponyboy talks to the girl, Cherry Valance. They talk about the rodeo and about Sodapop, whom Cherry describes as a 'doll.' Ponyboy is embarrassed to tell her that Soda dropped out of school to work in a gas station, but the girls invite Ponyboy and Johnny to watch the movie with them. When Dally comes back, the usually placid Johnny stuns him by telling him not to bother the girls.

Dally stalks off, and the boys sit with the girls and watch the movie. Two-Bit appears to tell them that Dally is going to have to fight Tim Shepherd, the leader of another gang of greasers, for having slashed his tires. Cherry and Ponyboy go to get popcorn, and Ponyboy tells her about the time Johnny was beaten by the Socs. The leader of the gang that beat him, he says, wore a fistful of rings.

Ponyboy, Two-Bit, and Johnny walk the Soc girls, Cherry and Marcia, to Two- Bit's house so that they can give them a ride home. As they walk, Ponyboy and Cherry talk about the differences between greasers and Socs. They are amazed at all the common ground between them--they both love sunsets and horses, for instance. Ponyboy tells her about Sodapop's old horse, Mickey Mouse. He talks to her about his brothers, and complains bitterly about how strictly Darry treats him. They decide that the main difference between Socs and greasers is that Socs are too cool and aloof to feel anything, and live their lives trying to fill up that emptiness, while greasers feel everything too violently. Cherry tells Ponyboy that she thinks she could fall in love with Dally Winston.

A blue Mustang pulls up beside them, and the girls' boyfriends, Randy and Bob, get out. Ponyboy notices that Bob wears three heavy rings on his hand. The greasers and Socs nearly get into a fight, but the girls agree to leave with their boyfriends to prevent violence. Ponyboy walks home, where Darry is furious with him for having been out so late. In the ensuing argument, Darry slaps him. No one in his family has ever hit Ponyboy before, and he storms out of the house in a rage. It is after two o'clock in the morning, but Ponyboy finds Johnny and tells him that they are running away. Johnny lives in a house where he is not wanted, with an alcoholic father who beats him, and agrees without hesitation. They decide to walk through the park and to decide whether they really want to leave.

Commentary

The main theme of The Outsiders is the effect of social class on young people, and the first section of the novel immediately begins exploring the differences between the greasers and the Socs, while sketching the violent world in which they live. The Socs who jump Ponyboy in the opening chapter merely foreshadow the far more violent conflicts to occur later in the novel, but they help to define the world of the novel in the reader's mind as the story opens. From the beginning, Hinton is far more interested in a sympathetic human portrayal of her characters than she is in taking sides between them or casting blame. Though the greasers--the 'outsiders' of the novel's title, because they are excluded from mainstream society--look tough and violent, inwardly they are just as human as the clean-cut Socs.

Ponyboy becomes the ultimate proof of this assertion, a scruffy-looking hood who nevertheless loves to read and watch sunsets. One of the most important early moments in the novel is Ponyboy's conversation with Cherry Valance, during which they decide what makes greasers different from Socs. Greasers have nothing, and feel everything violently; Socs have everything, and are numbed by their lives into feeling nothing. The greasers fight out of hatred, pride, and jealousy; it seems that the Socs fight simply to feel excitement.

Of course, these early chapters are also concerned with introducing the main characters of the novel, and in defining the very different roles each character plays within Ponyboy's gang of friends. Darry is the unofficial leader, a smart, tough, authoritative young man whose control of the family makes Ponyboy, a typical fourteen-year-old, chafe. Ponyboy does not understand that Darry loves him; that revelation will become one of the most important events of the second half of the novel. Sodapop is an immediate contrast to the stern Darry, all goofy energy and hilarity. Steve is fairly nondescript, and seems mainly to provide Sodapop with a straight-man. While Sodapop is the playful clown, Two-Bit is the joker of the group, constantly making wisecracks.




Johnny is the innocent one, whom all the others look after--to the tougher greasers, Johnny represents an innocence that they have been forced to relinquish; by protecting Johnny, they are able to protect that innocence in another. (This is what they mean when they tell Johnny, 'We couldn't get along without you.') Dally is Johnny's polar opposite, a hardened, street-smart hood more dangerous than even Darry. He represents the ultimate effect the streets can have on a young person; he is so tough, as Hinton observes later in the book, that he is almost dead inside. The rounded mix of personalities Hinton introduces in her group of greasers serves two important functions: it presents the reader with an appealing group of highly distinctive characters, and it further humanizes the 'greasers'--a group often stigmatized and stereotyped.

Chapters 4-6

Summary

In the park, Ponyboy and Johnny go walking beside the fountain. Ponyboy notices that the water is beginning to freeze. Suddenly the blue Mustang cruises by, and five Socs--including Randy and Bob, Cherry and Marcia's boyfriends--jump out and approach them. One of them calls Ponyboy white trash, and in a rage, Ponyboy spits at the Soc. Another Soc grabs Ponyboy and thrusts his head beneath the frigid water. Ponyboy feels himself drowning and blacks out. When he comes to, he is lying on the pavement next to Johnny and the bloody corpse of Bob. 'I killed him,' Johnny says, and Ponyboy sees that Johnny's switchblade is dark to the hilt with blood.

In a panic, the boys go to find Dally Winston, the only person they can think of who might be able to help them. Dally is at a party, and manages to get fifty dollars and a loaded gun for the boys. He tells them to take a train to Windrixville, where they can hide in an abandoned church. They hop the train, and find the church, where they collapse in an exhausted sleep.

The next morning, Ponyboy wakes and finds a note from Johnny saying that he has gone into town to get supplies. When Johnny returns, he brings a week's supply of bologna, cigarettes, and a paperback copy of Gone with the Wind, which he wants Ponyboy to read to him. He insists that they cut their hair to disguise their appearances, and bleaches Ponyboy's hair for him. For the next week, they hide out at the church, reading Gone with the Wind, smoking, and eating bologna sandwiches. The boys discover a shared affinity for literature; they admire the Southern gentlemen in Gone with the Wind, and Ponyboy recites a Robert Frost poem, 'Nothing Gold Can Stay,' that moves Johnny a great deal.

One day, Dally shows up at the church, bringing Ponyboy a letter from Sodapop. He reveals that he was picked up by the police for Bob's murder, and says that he told the police that the perpetrators had fled to Texas. He takes Johnny and Ponyboy to the Dairy Queen, and tells them that a state of open warfare exists between the greasers and the Socs, who are infuriated about Bob's death. He also lets it slip that Cherry Valance, who feels responsible for the catastrophe, has been acting as a spy for the greasers. In a day's time, he says, the two groups will meet for an all-out rumble.

Johnny shocks Dally by telling him that he wants to go back to Tulsa and turn himself in. In his own aggressive way, Dally tries to talk Johnny out of it, telling him that he never wants to see Johnny hardened the way prison would harden him. But Johnny is adamant, insisting that Ponyboy should not have to stay at the church forever when his brothers are worried about him. Swearing angrily, Dally begins to drive them away. As they drive past the church, they see that it is on fire. Ponyboy and Johnny think they must have started the fire with a cigarette butt, and jump out of the car to examine the blaze.

At the church, they find a group of schoolchildren on a picnic, watched over by a few grownups. Suddenly, one of the adults cries out that some of the children are missing, and Ponyboy hears cries from inside the church. Acting on instinct, he and Johnny climb into the burning building through a window to save the children. At the back of the church, they find them, a small, huddled group of terrified children. As he runs through the smoke- filled inferno, Ponyboy wonders why he isn't scared. He and Johnny lift the children out of the window; Dally appears and yells that the roof is about to cave in. As they lift the last child out the window, the roof crumbles, and Ponyboy collapses into darkness.

When he comes to, he is in an ambulance, accompanied by one of the schoolteachers. The man tells him that his back caught on fire, and that his jacket saved his life. He says that Dally will probably be alright, though he is burned, but that Johnny is in very bad shape--he was struck by a piece of burning timber as it fell, and might have broken his back. The man asks if Ponyboy and Johnny are professional heroes, and is surprised when Ponyboy tells him that, on the contrary, they are juvenile delinquents.

In the hospital, the teacher, Jerry Wood, stays with Ponyboy, and Ponyboy tells him why they were staying in the church. Finally, Darry and Sodapop arrive, and when Darry comes in, Ponyboy is shocked to see that he is crying. Suddenly, he realizes that Darry does care about him, and that he is only strict with Ponyboy because he loves him and wants to make something out of him. Ponyboy runs across the room and embraces his brother, thinking that things will be okay now, because he is going home.

Commentary

Chapters 4 and 6 are the pivotal moments in the novel, the chapters that disrupt the flow of the greasers' lives and establish the conditions for the rest of the novel. Johnny's killing of Bob in Chapter 4 comes as a great shock, because--even though Bob is the Soc who beat Johnny senseless--Johnny is too frightened and innocent to seem violent. But Hinton makes sure that the killing is fairly uncomplicated morally: if Johnny had not attacked the Socs, Ponyboy would have been drowned in the freezing water of the fountain. Johnny committed murder, but not in such as way as to jeopardize his sympathetic position in the eyes of Hinton's readers. Johnny is not a killer; he is a victim of tragic circumstance.

Chapter 6 mirrors Chapter 4; in Chapter 4, Johnny and Ponyboy are involved in an event that makes them social outcasts, while in Chapter 6, they are involved in an event that makes them heroes. Their heroic rescue of the children from the burning church is the ultimate example of Hinton's refusal to portray the greasers as stereotypical hoods. As Ponyboy tells Randy later in the novel, their rescue of the children has nothing to do with the fact that they are greasers, it has to do with the fact that they are human beings. Though they live in a harsh, uncertain, and violent world, Ponyboy, Johnny, and even Dally are capable of holding to values of courage and loyalty. The categories that define their social class, Hinton asserts, are not capable of defining them as individuals.

In between these two moments of extremity, Chapter 5 provides something of a lull, as Johnny and Ponyboy read Gone with the Wind and discuss poetry. The Robert Frost poem Ponyboy recites to Johnny ('Nothing Gold Can Stay') deals with themes of innocence through metaphors of nature, and comes to symbolize the quality of innocence that Johnny and Ponyboy represent to the other greasers, and which the other greasers desperately want them to keep.

Throughout this chapter, the two young men talk and think a great deal about what makes them the way they are. Ponyboy explores the honor code of the greasers, in which hair is a kind of badge of pride-- as Ponyboy says, they had nothing to be proud of, but they could be proud of their hair. (In this sense, the cutting of Johnny and Ponyboy's hair becomes a kind of symbolic shedding of their socially defined identities, enabling them to connect on a new level and ultimately realize that their lifestyle of violence and division is useless and destructive.) Both Johnny and Ponyboy are fascinated with the Southern gentlemen of Gone with the Wind. Johnny describes their valor, and they agree that for all his other shortcomings, Dally has the valor of a Southern gentleman.

Chapters 7-9


Summary

The reporters and the police interview Ponyboy, Sodapop, and Darry in the hospital waiting room; Sodapop keeps everyone laughing by wearing a reporter's hat and pretending to interview the nurses. The doctors finally appear with news about Dally and Johnny: Dally will be fine, but Johnny's back was broken when the roof caved in. Even if he survives, he will be crippled for the rest of his life.

The next morning, Ponyboy is making breakfast when Steve and Two-Bit come in with the morning papers. Ponyboy, Johnny, and Dally are portrayed as heroes for having rescued the schoolchildren. The article also says that the state is considering putting Sodapop and Ponyboy in a boys' home, which terrifies Ponyboy. The others reassure him that the family will stay together, and Ponyboy tells them that he had his recurring nightmare last night; he never remembers it, but it makes him wake up in a state of intense panic. Ponyboy asks Sodapop about Sandy, and learns that she has moved away to Florida after becoming pregnant. Her parents refused to let her marry Soda, a sixteen- year-old boy, so she has gone to live with her grandmother. After Sodapop and Darry go to work, Two-Bit and Ponyboy go to get Cokes at a drive-in. They see the group of Socs that jumped Ponyboy and Johnny in the park-- Bob's and Cherry's friends. Ponyboy feels an intense hatred for them.



One of them, Marcia's boyfriend Randy, comes over to talk to Ponyboy. Two-Bit reminds him that no fighting is allowed before the rumble, but Randy says that he only wants to talk. He asks Ponyboy why he saved those children, and says that he would never have thought a greaser could do such a thing. Ponyboy says that it didn't have anything to do with his being a greaser--that it all depends on the individual. Sick of the violence and mourning Bob's death, Randy says that he does not intend to fight at the rumble. Ponyboy feels reassured, thinking that Socs are people just like everyone else after all.

Two-Bit and Ponyboy go to see Johnny and Dally in the hospital. Johnny is weak and pale, and whispers that he would like Ponyboy to finish reading Gone with the Wind to him. His mother, a mean-spirited, nagging woman, shows up, but Johnny refuses to see her. As Ponyboy and Two-Bit leave, she accosts them, and Two-Bit insults her. Dally is in much better shape than Johnny, and for the first time ever, Ponyboy feels warmly toward him. Dally says that Tim Shepherd, the leader of a gang of greasers, was in to talk about the rumble. He asks for Two-Bit's black-handled switchblade, which is Two-Bit's most prized possession. Two-Bit hands it over to Dally without a word, assuming that Dally must need it badly.

On the way home, Ponyboy and Two-Bit see Cherry Valance in her Corvette. She says that the Socs have agreed to fight with no weapons. Ponyboy asks her to go see Johnny, but she says she couldn't, because Johnny killed Bob. She says that Bob had a sweet side; he was only angry when he was drunk, as he was when he beat up Johnny. Ponyboy tells her that she is a traitor, but he quickly comes around. He asks her if she can see the sunset on the West Side, and when she says she can, he tells her to remember that he can see it on the East Side too.

Feeling sick before the rumble, Ponyboy swallows five aspirins and struggles to eat his dinner. The group excitedly goes to the rumble site, but Ponyboy feels a sinking feeling when he sees the other greasers. Tim Shepherd's gang and the others seem like real hoods, and Ponyboy feels that he and his friends do not belong with them. The Socs arrive in four carloads-- twenty-two of them, to fight twenty greasers. Darry steps forward to start the fight, and a blond Soc steps up to challenge him. It is Paul Holden, Darry's high-school friend and football teammate. As Paul and Darry circle each other, a voice suddenly cries out 'Hold it!' Paul takes a swing as Darry looks to see who is calling. Ponyboy is shocked to see Dally approaching; he joins the rumble, and the fight breaks out in full. After a long struggle, the Socs run; the greasers are victorious.

Dally and Ponyboy go to the hospital to see Johnny. On the way, they are stopped by a policeman, but Ponyboy pretends to be sick and the officer gives them an escort to the hospital. Once there, they find that Johnny is dying. He moans that fighting is useless, and tells Ponyboy to 'Stay gold' (a reference to the Frost poem mentioned in the previous section); then he dies. Dally is beside himself with grief, and runs frantically from the room.

Commentary

Now that Ponyboy has at last had his breakthrough with Darry, he is terrified of the possibility that he will be taken away from his brothers and put in a boys' home. The theme of family becomes increasingly important throughout the final chapters, both in terms of the inner dynamic of the Curtis family and in terms of the idea that the gang is an extended family, represented by Johnny's choice to see Ponyboy and Two-Bit instead of his mother.

Ponyboy's conversations with the two Socs, Randy and Cherry, in this section emphasize his new appreciation of the connections between them--all people are individuals, as Ponyboy reminds Randy; the sunset can be seen equally well from the West Side and the East Side, as he reminds Cherry. The sunset becomes another metaphor; no matter where one lives, whether one is a greaser or a Soc, one can still appreciate beauty. Ironically, this emphasis on commonality and connection occurs just as the characters are preparing for their moment of sharpest division, the rumble between the greasers and the Socs. The rumble scene seems anticlimactic to the reader, and it seems so to the characters as well. Though they are excited before the fight, after their victory the greasers are struck with a sense of listlessness and futility. As Johnny tells Dally, 'Fighting's useless.'

After the futility of the rumble, Johnny's death seems even more tragic. Dally, in particular, is unable to bear it, and he simply snaps, running from the hospital room in a panic. Johnny may idolize Dally's legendary toughness, but Johnny represents something even more important to the other greasers: the innocence and openness they possessed before they had to harden and grow tough to survive on the streets. Protecting Johnny made them feel as though, in some way, they could cling to those lost qualities; losing him means that those qualities are gone forever.

Chapters 10-12

Summary

After Johnny's death, Ponyboy wanders around for hours, until finally a man offers him a ride. The man asks if he is okay, and tells him that his head is bleeding. Ponyboy is surprised to hear it, but feels vaguely disoriented. At home, he tells the gang that Johnny is dead and that Dally has gone haywire. The phone rings; it is Dally, saying that he has just robbed a grocery store and is now running from the police. The gang rushes out to find him; when they do, he is being run down by police officers. He pulls the unloaded gun he carries as a bluff, and the police fill him with bullets. Dally collapses to the ground, dead. Dizzy and overwhelmed, Ponyboy passes out.

When he wakes, Darry is by his side. Ponyboy learns that he had a concussion from having been kicked in the head by a Soc, and that he has been in bed, delirious, for three days. Ponyboy spends a week in bed, reading and drawing. He looks at Bob's picture in one of Soda's old high-school yearbooks, and wonders what he was like. One day Randy comes over to see him, and reminds him that they have to see the judge the next day. When he mentions something about Johnny killing Bob, Ponyboy insists that he was the one who killed Bob, and says emphatically that Johnny is not dead. Darry tells Randy that he'd better go, and lectures Ponyboy for smoking in bed. During the lecture, he calls Ponyboy 'little buddy,' a term he had previously reserved for Sodapop.

At the hearing, everyone tells their side of the story, and Ponyboy is acquitted and allowed to return home with his brothers. He goes through a period of detachment and absent-mindedness; his grades suffer, and he resumes his fighting with Darry. An English teacher warns him that he is failing, but promises to raise his grade to a C if he writes an outstanding term paper. One day at lunch, Ponyboy goes with Steve and Two-Bit to the grocery store for candy bars and Cokes. He is accosted by a group of Socs, and wards them off with a broken pop bottle. Alarmed, Steve and Two-Bit tell Ponyboy not to grow hard like Dally was. But they are relieved when Ponyboy bends down to pick up the broken glass, not wanting anyone to get a flat tire.

That night, Sodapop seems unhappy, and as Ponyboy and Darry fight about Ponyboy's grades, Sodapop runs out of the house. Darry tells Ponyboy that his letter to Sandy was returned unopened, and also that Sodapop is not the father of Sandy's child. Worried, Darry and Ponyboy chase Soda down. He tells them that he feels like he is being torn apart by their constant fighting, and, sobbing, asks them to try to understand one another and stop fighting. They promise not to fight; instead of Soda being torn apart by them, Ponyboy says, they will be held together by Sodapop. The boys run home, and Ponyboy picks up Johnny's copy of Gone with the Wind. He finds a handwritten note from Johnny, in which Johnny urges him to 'stay gold,' a reference to the Robert Frost poem Ponyboy had quoted to Johnny in the church at Windrixville. Thinking that someone should tell their story, Ponyboy begins to work on his English theme, starting with the opening words of the novel: 'When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home.'

Commentary

Before he is able to find resolution after the deaths of Dally and Johnny, Ponyboy is forced to endure a period of listlessness and emptiness, during which his normally excellent grades suffer and he begins to fight again with Darry, despite their breakthrough in Chapter 6. Ponyboy's friends even worry that he is hardening (now that Johnny is gone, Ponyboy seems to represent their idea of innocence), a worry he disperses by considerately picking up the broken glass from the bottle he used to menace the Socs.

What finally snaps Ponyboy out of his malaise is Sodapop, the person he loves most in the entire world. When Sodapop pleads with Ponyboy and Darry to stop fighting, Ponyboy realizes what a gift he has in his brothers, and is finally able to remember Johnny and Dally without an overwhelming sense of either denial or pain. He is suddenly able to see the plight of the greasers impersonally, as a phenomenon afflicting hundreds of boys who have to act tough and look tough, who live in danger while secretly loving poetry and sunsets. Newly restored to life, Ponyboy decides to tell the story of the greasers through his English theme paper. Hinton ends the novel by quoting its opening passage, providing a balanced symmetry to the book's structure and symbolically initiating Ponyboy's exploration of his past through memory, recorded in his writing.











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