By S. E. Hinton
He lives together with his two older brothers Soda and Dally after his parents died in a car-accident. Apart from Johnny he is the most emotional out of his friends and family. The rough times he went through didn't make him as hard and cold as many of his friends, especially Dally.
He grew up in a broken home with his parents beating and ignoring him. After he got beaten up badly by a group of Socs he was suffering hard from it and promised himself that nobody would ever beat him up again.
He is Pony's best friend and the one out of the gang that understands Pony best.
Pony's brother. A high-school dropout who is working at the local gas-station and is fixing cars. He is always in a good mood and he is getting on well with Pony all the time.
Pony's oldest brother who had to give up his hopes on going to college because after the car-accident that left their parents dead he had to care for his younger brothers.
While he's not always getting on well with Pony he cares a lot for him and constantly tries to protect him from any harm.
He grew up in New York as a gang-member and therefore he is the toughest of the Greasers. Dally is extremely proud of his criminal record and seems to be lacking any emotions.
As it turns out as the story evolves, Dally really cares about Johnny, this explains his reaction when Johnny finally dies.
Ponyboy and his friends and family belong to a lower-class group of boys who call themselves 'Greasers'. (Greasers because they use lots of grease in their long hair)
They are in constant rivalry with another group of boys called the 'Socs' which have a more wealthy middle-class background. They regularly engage in fights and whenever they get a chance the Socs are jumping (intercepting and beating up) Greasers when they are walking alone or just in a small group.
One day after Pony had a dispute with Darry because he had been out late and Darry was worried, Pony angrily runs off with Johnny to cool off.
He had been out watching a movie and there they had met two girls, two Socs, and became friends. So when Pony and Johnny run off they get surrounded by some male Socs who are angry because the two had been out with Socs.
The Socs decide to teach them a lesson and grab Pony and hold him under a water-fountain until he nearly falls unconscious. Johnny who had been traumatized by a past beating by the Socs panics and fearing they would drown Pony he stabs one of the Socs.
Fearing that Johnny would be prosecuted as a murderer they decide to run off and meet Dally who equips them with a gun and some money.
They leave the city and hide in a abandoned church in the country. There they spend some days talking about all the things that bother them.
At home everybody is terribly worried about them because Dally can't tell anybody where they are. Especially Darry who thinks it's his fault that they ran off.
When the situation has cooled off a bit, Dally decides to pay Pony and Johnny a visit but when they return to the church after a meal they see that it is burning. They fear that they may have ignited it with their cigarettes and then they realize that there are some small kids trapped in the church. Fearless they enter the burning church and rescue the kids, one by one.
When they got the last kid out, a part of the roof collapses and buries Johnny and Pony gets burned. With a daring stunt, Dally gets Johnny out of the church and they get driven to hospital.
There Pony meets his family again and they are being handled as stars by the media.
Dally and Pony are not hurt severely but Johnny is burnt badly as his back is broken.
The killing of the Soc by Johnny has stirred up emotions and there is a huge rumble which the Greasers win. After the fight, Ponyboy and Dally leave to check on Johnny's condition but when they arrive Johnny is dying. When Dally sees Johnny die he loses control over himself and runs off in a frenzy. He robs a grocery shop and runs away from the cops but when they reach him, he raises an unloaded gun and gets shot and killed by the cops.
In this part of the story we finally find out that Dally did have emotions, he cared about Johnny and the news about his death broke him, he wanted to die and Dally always got what he wanted.
After these tragic incidents, Pony has to appear in court which rules that he is allowed to stay with his brothers but Pony seems to have lost his meaning in life. He had received a letter which Johnny had put into a book he left Pony which urges Pony to stay how he is and not to let him get changed by his rough life. He tells him to stay gold, an indication to a poem they recited while they were hiding from the police.
Apart from Pony's struggle with life, his grades drop too and to avoid failing school he has to write an essay and this essay turns out to be the book itself.
- True friendship: Ponyboy and Johnny are best friends who share their emotions and thoughts. For instance Pony and Johnny start talking about their shared love to watch sunsetsgiving each other couragehaving lively talks/helping friends in need.
- Social differences: The constant rivalry between Greasers and Socs who feel superior but both groups have their own problems as Pony finally understands in the end.
- Violence (on the street and in families): Johnny parents and the frequent rumbles are examples for unnecessary violence.
- Growing up too early and being rendered brutal and emotionless: This is what Johnny warns Pony of in his letter. In the worst case, personalities such as Dally emerge who are unable to show any emotions and feelings.
- Responsibility: friends, brothers (elder brothers act as responsible as parents)
Pony and Randy's talk: 'People get hurt in rumbles, maybe killed. I'm sick of it because it doesn't do any good. You can't win even if you whip the others. You'll still be where you were before – on the bottom (or at the top).
Greasers will still be Greasers, Socs will still be Socs.
It's the ones in the middle that are the really lucky ones.
(->Moderate views will always win over extreme views!)
Basically we all want the same; being accepted, making friends, having a place in society. By no means we can reach these aims by fighting.
- Johnny's parents: don't care a damn, rude, violent, loveless, no guides
- Bob's parents: too permissive, spoilt him. He kept trying them to say 'no'.
And they never did; no limits, no guides;
- Pony's brothers: loving (though sometimes harsh -> Darry); responsible
caring with a limited amount of freedom. -> guides
The amazing value of Johnny is that he, a victim of violence and carelessness at home (mother wouldn't notice his 2 days" absence from home!), developed such an enormous capacity of friendship. –He, who has never received love and warmth, is able to evoke such a spirit and of giving love to his buddy.
His enormous strength of character is finally also conveyed in the way he respects the value of 'those kids" lives', which he has saved.