Dally was so real he scared me.
The next morning, Ponyboy wakes in the church 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 baloney and cigarettes, and a paperback copy of Gone with the Wind, which he wants Ponyboy to read to him. Ponyboy makes a wisecrack and Johnny tells him he is becoming more like Two-Bit every day. Johnny insists that they cut their hair to disguise themselves, and he bleaches Ponyboy’s hair.
For the next week, the boys hide out at the church, reading Gone with the Wind, smoking, and eating sandwiches. The boys admire the southern gentlemen in Gone with the Wind, and Johnny points out that they remind him of Dally. Ponyboy disagrees. He prefers the other greasers to Dally. Most of the greasers remind Ponyboy of the heroes in novels, but Dally is so real he is frightening. Later, Ponyboy recites a Robert Frost poem, “Nothing Gold Can Stay.” Johnny is moved by the poem.
After about five days, Dally shows up at the church with a letter to Ponyboy from Sodapop. Dally says the police approached him about Bob’s murder and he told them that the perpetrators 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 furious about Bob’s death. He also lets slip that Cherry Valance, feeling responsible for the murderous encounter, has been acting as a spy for the greasers. He adds that in a day’s time the two groups will meet for a rumble.
Johnny shocks Dally by telling him he wants to go back home and confess to his crime. Dally tries to change Johnny’s mind, telling him he never wants to see Johnny hardened the way prison would harden him. Johnny is adamant and points out that his own parents would not care what happens to him, but Ponyboy’s brothers care about him and want to see him. Swearing under his breath, Dally begins to drive Johnny and Ponyboy home. As they drive past the church where Ponyboy and Johnny have been staying, they see that it is on fire. Ponyboy thinks he and Johnny must have started the fire with a cigarette butt, so the boys jump out of the car to examine the blaze.
At the church, they find a group of schoolchildren on a picnic. Suddenly, one of the adult chaperones cries out that some of the children are missing, and Ponyboy hears screaming from inside the church. Acting on instinct, he and Johnny climb into the burning building through a window. At the back of the church, they find the children huddled together and terrified. As he runs through the smoky inferno, Ponyboy wonders why he is not 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. Johnny pushes Ponyboy out of the window, and then Ponyboy hears Johnny scream. Ponyboy starts to go back in for Johnny, but Dally clubs him across the back and knocks him out.
When Ponyboy wakes, he is in an ambulance, accompanied by one of the schoolteachers, Jerry Wood. The teacher tells him that his back caught on fire and that the jacket he was wearing, which Dally lent him, saved his life. He says that Dally was burned but will probably be fine. Johnny, however, is in very bad shape—he was struck by a piece of burning timber as it fell, and may have broken his back. The man jokingly asks Ponyboy if he and Johnny are professional heroes. Ponyboy tells him that they are juvenile delinquents.
Ponyboy has suffered mild burns. Jerry stays with him while he is in the hospital, and Ponyboy confides the story of Bob’s death. Jerry agrees that Johnny killed Bob in self-defense. He tells Ponyboy he shouldn’t smoke, something that no one has ever said to Ponyboy before. Darry and Sodapop arrive. Sodapop hugs Ponyboy, and Darry cries, shocking Ponyboy. The anger he has felt toward Darry dissolves. Ponyboy realizes that Darry does care about him; Darry is strict because he loves Ponyboy and wants him to succeed. Ponyboy runs across the room and embraces his brother, thinking that everything will be fine once he gets home.
The Robert Frost poem Ponyboy recites to Johnny in Chapter 5, “Nothing Gold Can Stay,” speaks of innocence by using metaphors from nature. The poem comes to symbolize the innocence of Johnny and Ponyboy. Not all of the greasers possess this innocence, and they long for Johnny and Ponyboy to retain theirs. The poem also suggests the impermanence of gold, pointing to the ending of the idyllic male bonding that Johnny and Ponyboy experience during their week of hiding out and foreshadowing the eventual end of their companionship.
In Chapter 5, the two young men talk and think extensively about what makes them the way they are. Ponyboy thinks about the honor code of the greasers, and suggests that they can be proud of their hair, if nothing else. When Johnny and Ponyboy cut their hair, which has long identified them as greasers, they symbolically shed their social identities. This partial freedom from their social category enables them to communicate more effectively and question the purpose behind their lifestyle. Johnny begins to think that greasers can take pride in their spirit and heritage, not just in their hair. He is finds the southern gentlemen in Gone with the Wind interesting, and he and Ponyboy begin to see their gang as a delinquent posse of southern gentlemen.
Ponyboy feels an increasing sense of membership in the greaser family, even adopting traits from his older counterparts. He begins to resemble Sodapop physically, and he makes wisecracks reminiscent of Two-Bit’s. Dally’s leather coat saves Ponyboy’s life, signifying that Ponyboy thrives because his elders protect him. Finally, Ponyboy stops acting like a spoiled child and realizes that Darry is firm with him for his own good. Ponyboy realizes that the strength of the group lies in the solidarity of its members, and he begins learning to temper his individual needs for the sake of the group.
The events of Chapter 6 provide a mirror image of the events of Chapter 4. In murdering Bob, Johnny and Ponyboy make themselves criminals, and by saving children from a burning building, they make themselves heroes. When the two boys disobey Dally and run into the burning church, they further establish their agency and cement their independence from the older greasers. Moreover, their courageous rescue of the children from the burning church demonstrates that Hinton’s greasers are not stereotypical hoods. Though they live in a harsh, uncertain, and violent world, Ponyboy, Johnny, and even Dally adhere to the values of courage and loyalty. The stereotypes that define the greasers’ social class, Hinton asserts, do not define them as individuals.