The greasers prepare for the rumble as if preparing for a high school dance. They bathe, do their hair, and dress carefully. The rumble is a social event, an occasion to defend and celebrate one’s identity. While other teenagers celebrate their identities by attending dances and parties, the greasers celebrate theirs by fighting. After the fight, however, the glamour of the event wears off. Despite their victory, the greasers understand the uselessness of violence. Nothing has really improved for them: greasers are injured, separation still threatens the Curtis brothers, and Johnny still lies dying.
Though everyone looks forward to the rumble as a culmination of tension, the rumble actually proves anticlimactic. Immediately after the rumble, Ponyboy and Dally rush to the hospital to see Johnny. Their actions suggests that the rumble is a minor event interrupting their real concerns. The rumble leaves the other greasers depressed too. Victory does not thrill them as they thought it would. The Socs retreat, but the greasers do not cheer. They bleed, double over, and examine their wounds. When Darry announces their victory, his voice is tired, not celebratory.
The events of these chapters mark the culmination of Ponyboy’s trauma. Constant disaster has kept Ponyboy from feeling pain. Over the course of a few days, Ponyboy almost drowns, learns that his friend has committed murder, runs away and hides, saves children from a burning church, and learns that the state may take him away from his brothers. However, the emotions that surround these events have been pushed to the side by both by the constant onslaught of new trauma and by Ponyboy’s worries about Johnny and the greaser-Soc rumble. Ponyboy’s hospitalization suggests that the string of disasters has ended and that a period of reflection can finally begin.