How did Johnny Die in ‘The Outsiders’: Defining Ponyboy Curtis

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Golden Transitions: The Evolution of Ponyboy Curtis in ‘The Outsiders’

“Nature’s first green is gold, her hardest hue to hold. Her early leaf’s a flower. But only so an hour… then leaf subsides to leaf, so Eden sank to grief, as dawn goes down to day, nothing gold can stay” (Frost). In 1966 in the town of Tulsa, Oklahoma, a small town had a big problem. An ongoing class war is taking place from the rising sun to the setting sun.

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Rich to poor. Old to young and Grease to Soc. A modest, unbury gang of friends go through the most traumatic, amazing, and unforgettable moments of their lives, and it will guide them on a path to who they will become. Of course, the book that is being presented is The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. The character conscripted was the youngest of the Curtis twins. The boy, the myth, the legend, Ponyboy Curtis. Ponyboy was picked because he is the main character; he also undergoes a radical change from boy to man. He also is the most normal and down-to-earth out of all the characters in the story. Early on, Ponyboy can seem like a wimp, a wuss, a pansy. When in fact, he is none of those. Having been raised in an environment like this one keeps him to be hardened both inside and out. Another cause of this, Pony can show miraculous acts of selflessness. And through it all, he maintains a stunning charismatic side that continues to charm all he meets no matter the age, no matter the social status, no matter the feelings toward each other.

From Tulsa’s Streets to Fiery Ordeals: Tracing Johnny Cade’s Birthplace to Ponyboy’s Resilience

Amidst the constant gang violence of his hometown, Ponyboy Curtis remains physically hardened, which, in this neck of the woods, is essential for staying alive. At the beginning of the book, Ponyboy is walking out of the moviehouse when he notices that he is being trailed by a blue Mustang that contains a number of Socs in the car. With the Socs being enemies, Pony is praying that he does not get jumped. That prayer, however, is not answered. “It occurred to me then that they could kill me, and I went wild” (Hinton 8).After the mugging, he keeps his cool and stays mostly under control even after having been almost gutted on the spot, robbed, and his body most likely left to rot near the street. In the middle of the book, Johnny and Ponyboy are sitting in the vacant lot after Pony has been hit by his older brother Darry. There they fascinate about what life might have been like if Greasers and Socs did not exist, no class violence, and if everyone from East and West only got together. “‘Nope, we’re all cried out now. We’re getting used to the idea. We’re gonna be ok’” (67).

This is a good example of what Pony and Johnny do best. Dream on. After having eaten a decent meal, Dally, Pony, and Johnny return to the church and find that it is teeming with flames and has a class on-the-spot for a field trip and cornered many of the kids inside. When they were recovering in the hospital, Dally and Pony talked and recounted what they had done. “‘When you jumped out of the church, I meant to hit you just hard enough to knock you down and put the fire out, but when you dropped like a ton of lead, I thought I broke your neck’” (109). Ponyboy Curtis can take a hit, and we can see that from when he was almost killed, survived the rumble, and saved kids from a burning church. However, when one is hit by Dallas Winston and gets back up, they have to be hard as nails. This goes to show that no matter how old you are, no matter how young you are, being tough is always a necessity. Time and time again, we have seen countless acts of kindness and self-abnegation from the youngest Curtis brother. At the drive-in theater at the start of the book, Pony and his friends Dally and Johnny find some girls and start talking to them.

Bravery, Sacrifice, and Charisma: Ponyboy’s Unwavering Strength in the Face of Adversity

Dally goes too far, and Johnny and Pony have to step in and defend the girls from their friend. “‘Leave her alone, Dally!’” (24). Standing up to your friends can be a hard thing, especially when you are very good friends and do everything together. After they have been hiding out in the Windrixville church for a few weeks, Dally comes to pick them up and drive them to get food. On their way back, they realize there is a school field trip and that some of the kids are trapped inside the church. They spring into action and try to save the kids. “‘I’ll get them, don’t worry!’ I started at a dead run for the church” (81). He makes a beeline for the church in an attempt to save the kids inside the church and get them out safely, with or without the help of his friends. At the end of the book, Pony witnesses Johnny die in the hospital, and he is in shock, and the concept of time is all but gone. Crossing major roads and almost being hit multiple times, he is picked up by a stranger, and on the way, he realizes that he is bleeding on the seat of the man’s car. “I reached up to feel my head where it’d been itching for a while, and when I looked at my hand, it was smeared with blood. ‘Gosh mister, I’m sorry.’ I said, dumbfounded” (131). Pony is obviously in shock from watching his best friend die right in front of him, and the effect of this is forgetting he is bleeding all over the car seat. Well, at least he apologized. And finally, his charisma. Near the start of the book, Pony, Johnny, and Dally go to a drive-in movie theater and meet up with Two-Bit and two girls who just so happen to be affiliated with the Socs. “‘My dad was an original person.’ I said. ‘I’ve got a brother named Sodapop, even says so on his birth certificate’” (23).

Enduring Hope in a Divided World: Ponyboy’s Resilience and Search for Light in the Midst of Darkness

Pony is trying to make conversation with Cherry and trying to get to know her better by talking to her and wondering what goes on over on the West Side. Halfway through the book, Johnny and Pony go on the run and go to a church in the nearby town of Windrixville. There, Johnny and Pony wait for their names to be cleared for the killing of a Soc and decide to cut and bleach their hair. “‘Boy howdy, I thought this really makes me look tuff. I look like a blasted pansy’” (64-65). A little bit of comedic humor to lighten the darkened mood of recent events is what drives the two to endure the impatience and wait things out. Near the end of the book, before the rumble with the Socs, Pony is talking with Cherry about how things could be better all around but are bad all over as Cherry breaks the news to Pony. “‘Can you see the sunset real good from the West Side?’” She blinked, startled, then smiled.’Real good.’ ‘You can see it from the East Side too’”(114). This is a very memorable moment in the book because Pony is basically saying no matter how bad things are, there is always a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel, and it is within reach. And sometimes, all we need is a common goal going down the same path. However, common goals can be split due to different ideas on how to achieve that goal.

Amidst an ongoing class war that engulfs all, Ponyboy Curtis stays vigilant, keeps his cool, and continues to be a good kid. His rough n’ tough upbringing keeps him hardened over the course of the story and never fails him when he is being jumped, mugged, almost killed twice, and beaten by Socs. His selflessness and model of character keep him out of trouble and make him one of the best and brightest to come out of this conflict of warring classes. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, Pony’s charisma charms all who meet him, from Cherry at the drive-in movies to Randall, now head Soc in the car at the corner store parking lot. He never fails to amaze me. The global theme of The Outsiders is that all good things must come to an end at some point, and sometimes not in the way you would expect it to go. Pony did not imagine both of his best friends, Johnny and Dally, dying on the same night. He did not imagine a world where rich and poor beat each other senselessly for kicks, nor did he imagine one where he would be forever inspired by Johnny’s last words as he lays on his deathbed. “‘Stay gold.. Ponyboy. Stay gold’” (98).


  1. Hinton, S.E. (1967). The Outsiders. New York: Viking Press.

  2. Frost, Robert. (1923). New Hampshire. New York: Henry Holt and Co.

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How Did Johnny Die in 'The Outsiders': Defining Ponyboy Curtis. (2023, Aug 16). Retrieved from