After Johnny's death and Dally's departure, Ponyboy wanders through the hospital's halls in a daze. Pony is in denial about Johnny's death, and keeps repeating that he isn't dead. He leaves the hospital and roams the streets until a stranger picks him up and drives him home.
Upon arriving home, Pony tells the rest of the gang about Johnny's death and everyone is silent. The phone rings, and the call is from Dally. He says that he has just robbed a grocery store and he needs someplace to hide out. The gang members agree to meet at the vacant lot.
They race to the lot to the accompaniment of sirens wailing in the streets. Everyone reaches the lot at the same time: Dally, the gang, and the police. As Dally stands in a circle of light under a street lamp, he pulls out his gun. Pony knows that it isn't loaded and he realizes that Dally knows that, but the police don't. Dally wants to die, and he gets his wish. He is gunned down as his gang watches, knowing that Dally always gets what he wants and this time Dally wants to be dead.
As these events are happening, Pony's condition is worsening. He can barely run to the lot and his vision is shifting in and out of focus. Ponyboy collapses at the lot, as his brothers and gang rush to help him.
The next thing Pony remembers is waking up at home. He doesn't remember being in the hospital or being unconscious for three days, but he does remember that both Johnny and Dally are dead. Darry tells him that he has been suffering from exhaustion, shock, and a minor concussion. The concussion came from the rumble when a Soc had kicked him in the head.
Gone with the Wind is lying on the table. Darry tells him that Johnny had instructed the nurse to give the book to Pony. All Pony can think about are the Southern gentlemen who were going off to certain death in the war — just like Dally. Pony vows never to finish the book.
Soda and Darry spend every moment by Pony's bedside. They are as exhausted as Pony. The future for all three is uncertain. Pony has missed a lot of school, he has missed track, and the threat of being placed in a boys' home is still a very real possibility.
Dally's death forces readers to take another serious look at themes that are vital to understanding the novel.
One important theme is the evolution of family relationships. In this chapter, Pony is concerned that he may have only called for Soda, not for Darry, while he was sick and barely conscious. Finally, Soda eases his concerns with assurance that he did ask for Darry.
Early in the book, Pony believed that Darry didn't even like him, much less need him as a brother. After the fire at the church, when Pony was reunited with Darry, Pony finally saw Darry for what he really is: a caring brother who loves him, has sacrificed a great deal for him, and has done his best to parent him. Since the killing of Bob, the flight from the law, and other events, Pony has developed greater maturity and a broader perspective. He is now less self-absorbed, and he is upset when he thinks that he may have hurt Darry's feelings by not calling for him.
The issue of who is an insider and who is an outsider is another important theme. How readers and the novel's characters interpret Dally's death is totally dependent on perspective. For example, Ponyboy says, "Two friends of mine had died that night; one a hero, the other a hoodlum." Readers are forced to examine the question, who is the hero and who is the hoodlum?
Johnny did save the children from the burning church, but he would never have been there in the first place if he hadn't been on the run. Did he kill Bob just to save Ponyboy and himself, or was the killing a self-fulfilling prophecy? Approximately four months ago, the Socs had badly beaten Johnny and he had vowed that "He would kill the next person who jumped him." Hinton is careful not to judge Johnny, deciding instead to leave the decision to the readers.
Dally did rob a grocery store and take the police on a chase that ended in his being shot. However, earlier in the book, Dally had risked going to jail himself in order to help Johnny and Pony when they were fleeing from the law. And Dally did save Pony from certain death by pulling him out of the burning church. He also risked personal injury to go in after Johnny, and pulled him out as well. Even the papers considered him a hero. Note, too, that Dally was always Johnny's hero.
Pony is only beginning to sort out his feelings about the gallantry or futility of the deaths of his two friends. He is in denial, and in this chapter, he often reminds himself not to think about Johnny and Dally. This struggle is made clear by his attitude toward the Gone with the Wind novel that Johnny has left him: "I didn't want to finish it. I'd never get past the part where the Southern gentlemen go riding into sure death because they are gallant."
When Pony and Johnny were reading the novel while hiding in the church, Johnny had been impressed with the gallantry of the Southern gentlemen as they faced certain death in battle. The Southern gentlemen had reminded Johnny of Dally. Now, Ponyboy pictures the Southern gentlemen looking like both Johnny and Dally. And then he tells himself, "Don't remember. Don't try to decide which one died gallant."
Dally's dying in a circle of light is intensely symbolic. Light is often connected with enlightenment. Dally knew what he wanted after the death of Johnny: He wanted to die. He pulled an unloaded gun in order to force the police to shoot him.
The fact that his gang witnessed the death of their second gang member in one day suggests that perhaps the circle of light was for them. The light allowed them to vividly see Dally's death, giving them the opportunity to think about whether they, too, want to die, as Pony says of Dally, "violent and young and desperate." Johnny believed Dally was the gallant Southern gentleman. And maybe he was; perhaps by his dying, he showed his friends another way to live.
stupor a state in which the mind and senses are dulled; partial or complete loss of sensibility, as from the use of a narcotic or from shock.
indignant feeling or expressing anger or scorn, especially at unjust, mean, or ungrateful action or treatment.