As the three brothers wait at the hospital to find out about their friends' conditions, reporters bombard them with questions. Finally, Darry convinces the reporters to leave, but the nurses still will not give Pony, Soda, and Darry any information about the conditions of Dally and Johnny (medical information is privileged and is only given to family members). Darry manages to convince the doctor that they, the three Curtis brothers, are the only real family that these two boys have, so the doctor gives them the bad news. Dally's one arm is severely burned, but he will eventually regain full use of it. Johnny is in critical condition; his back is broken and he is suffering with third-degree burns. If he lives, he will not be able to walk for the rest of his life. The realization that if he lives, he would have to stay in his parents' house, a place he hates, for the rest of his life is too much for the brothers. They decide to go home for the night.
Ponyboy is the first one up the next morning and is making breakfast when Steve and Two-Bit stop by. They tease Ponyboy about being a hero and show him the story about him in the paper. The coverage is very positive for the brothers, and the final line states that the boys should be allowed to stay together. This is the first time Pony realizes that he and Soda might be put in a boys' home. He questions Darry about it, and then confesses to him that he has had another bad nightmare. The nightmares started after their parents were killed and after one nightmare scenario, he always wakes up screaming or in a cold sweat. The worst part is that he can never remember them.
Ponyboy isn't feeling well, but he and Two-Bit leave the house and walk toward the hospital to visit Dally and Johnny. The blue Mustang reappears and eventually pulls over. Ponyboy recognizes Randy Adderson (Marcia's boyfriend) and the tall Soc who had tried to drown him. Pony hates them, it is their fault Bob is dead, Johnny is dying, and he and Soda might be placed in a boys' home.
Randy asks him why he saved those children at the burning church. Randy says that he would never have done it, and that he can't believe that a greaser would do anything like that. Pony explains that it wasn't a greaser or a Soc issue — the decision is dependent on the individual. Randy states that he isn't going to fight in the big rumble that is planned for that night. The fight isn't going to solve anything and no one will really win. As Ponyboy gets out of the car, Randy says, "Thanks, grease . . . I didn't mean that, I meant, thanks, kid." "My name's Ponyboy. . . . Nice talkin' to you, Randy." Ponyboy thinks, "Socs are just guys after all. Things are rough all over, but it was better that way. That way you could tell the other guy was human too."
Ponyboy has matured remarkably over these past chapters, and those around him make progress as well. His interaction with Randy, a Soc who is older than he is, paints Pony as the mature one. Note also that those characters who have had interaction with Ponyboy seem to have matured the most. When someone is struggling to understand life, the people around are often drawn into the analysis. Johnny, in particular, changed after spending five days with Pony. His sensitivity and appreciation for the world around him is markedly heightened.
Every family has their own traditions. Honoring these traditions is often done subconsciously. Traditions can give individuals a sense of security and belonging, and the same is true for the Curtis family. Ponyboy knew that the first one up in the morning was responsible for making breakfast. He feels a sense of responsibility to honor this tradition, and cooking breakfast provides him with the security of belonging. However, traditions are not always good. Steve Randle, Soda's best friend and fellow greaser, is experienced in painful traditions. About once a week, his father orders him to move out of the family home. Steve knew that the next day his father would give him five or six dollars to make up for throwing him out, but the cruelty of his father still hurt. The reader learns in this chapter that the murder victim, Bob, also did not have the best of family traditions. On the surface he appeared to have everything, but his parents allowed him to "run wild" all of the time; he was "spoiled rotten." Their tradition was to set no limits for Bob, and, unfortunately, Bob knew this. Bob also knew that his parents accepted the blame for everything that he did. Bob didn't necessarily want this parent/child relationship, in which he never faced responsibility, but he knew that parenting style was the tradition.
Everyone needs some limits set on his or her behaviors and to be held responsible if expectations are not met. For example, Darry sets limits for Pony, and Pony now understands that the limits mean that Darry only wants what is best for him. The consequences for Pony's running away now loom frightfully large on the horizon. For he and Soda to be sent away and the family separated would be tragic for all concerned.
Note that in this chapter the reader is told many times that Ponyboy is not feeling well, or not feeling quite right. He is too tired, takes aspirin for a headache, but still doesn't feel right. These health clues are not really foreshadowing, because Hinton does not directly allude to an outcome. However, readers can learn to anticipate possible story directions. Hinton does not come right out and tell readers that more is going on than what is overtly expressed on the page, but a careful reader will not be surprised by future events.
This chapter also makes the first reference to the nightmares Pony has been suffering from since his parents' death. Dreams have been an element in earlier chapters, and it was in Chapter 3 that a daydream about a perfect life in the country turned into sleep that in turn began the nightmare with Johnny.
In both Chapters 4 and 5, Pony wishes that everything that happened was a dream: "I half convinced myself that I had dreamed everything that had happened the night before." Perhaps his nightmare has returned to coincide with the nightmare that he is dealing with in his waking life. Readers can be drawn deeper into the story by attempting to draw potential outcomes from these clues. Have the nightmares returned because the brothers face a permanent separation? Or, is it foreshadowing the possible loss of Johnny? Again, the ability to read between the lines can add insights into characters and draw the reader deeper into the story.
exploit an act remarkable for brilliance or daring; bold deed.
contemptuously in a manner full of contempt; scornfully; disdainfully.