The Outsiders

S. E. Hinton

Chapters 5–6

Summary Chapters 5–6

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.

Analysis: Chapters 5–6

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.