The rumble between the greasers and the Socs is set for 7 p.m. that night. Pony slams down five aspirins while no one is looking; he is still successfully hiding his illness. Still apprehensive about the rumble, Pony questions everyone's motivation for the fight: "Soda fought for fun, Steve for hatred, Darry for pride, and Two-Bit for conformity." Pony can only think of one good reason to fight — self-defense.
As the greasers gather together at the vacant lot, Pony compares the other greasers to his own gang. His gang never uses weapons and has never really hurt anyone. Pony realizes that they (his gang) are not hoods, and they don't belong with this group of future convicts. Ponyboy realizes that, unlike these hoods, Darry has the potential to be successful in life. Pony wants to be like Darry. When the Socs gather, Darry steps forward and says, "I'll take on anyone." One Soc steps forward and says hello to him. It is a former buddy, one who is now in college, while Darry has to work for a living. Just as the rumble begins, Dally shows up. Able to fight with only one arm, he announces that a rumble can't happen without him. The Socs lose the rumble because they run first. Everyone in Pony's gang is banged up, but the greasers win and that is all that matters.
Dally grabs Ponyboy and says that they have to quickly go to the hospital because Johnny is dying. Ponyboy isn't feeling very well himself. He is still sick and has been cut and bruised. When they are stopped by the police for speeding, Dally is able to point to Pony and say that he is rushing him to the hospital. The police officer believes him and escorts them the rest of the way.
Dally and Ponyboy make it to the hospital in time. Johnny is dying and is not impressed that the greasers won the rumble: "Useless . . . fighting's no good." He asks to speak to Ponyboy, and, leaning over him, Johnny's last words are "Stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold."
When Johnny dies, Dally bolts out of the room and takes off running.
In this chapter, Ponyboy questions his identification with the East Side greasers. As the seriousness of life hits him and he is forced to deal with the issue of mortality, he begins to challenge some long-held beliefs.
He calls the rough and dangerous Shepard and Brumley gang members "Young hoods — who would grow up to be old hoods." He had never thought about the issue before, but now he realizes that their behavior — and their lives — will continue to get worse, not better. He tells himself that Darry isn't going to be an old hood, that he is "going to get somewhere." And Pony vows that he will be successful like Darry and leave behind the neighborhood gang life.
Johnny's dying wish for Pony was for him to "Stay gold." Here, gold symbolizes idealism and goodness. Johnny knew that Pony was capable of accomplishing many goals, but most importantly he saw the good life that Pony had with his brothers. He wanted Pony to realize the importance of these gifts, especially having brothers who are truly family, while he still had them.
The perspective of being an outsider has now almost come full circle. Pony is now beginning to view himself and his brothers as outsiders within the East Side greasers. It is important to remember that seeing oneself as an outsider is a matter of perspective. That perspective can shift as a person begins to look at life and life's situations through different eyes.
In this chapter, Pony begins to notice and show concern about the self-destructive behaviors and attitudes of his gang: for example, Two-Bit's excessive drinking and the gang's motivations for fighting ("Soda fought for fun, Steve for hatred, Darry for pride, and Two-Bit for conformity."). Just before the rumble begins, Ponyboy looks around at the Shepard and Brumley gang members and thinks, "We're greasers, but not hoods, and we don't belong with this bunch of future convicts. We could end up just like them." And, again, the readers can see Ponyboy turning away from the gang life and values.
But he also struggles with the values of the world outside of the gang. He does not place value on a world in which the only thing a young person can be proud of is a reputation, especially a reputation for being a hood and having greasy hair: "I don't want to be a hood, but even if I don't steal things and mug people and get boozed up, I'm marked lousy. Why should I be proud of it?"
Unfortunately, people are often judged by their appearances. And this line of thinking is linked to the "life isn't fair" theme that weaves its way throughout this story. The greasers grow their hair long and grease it down for a hoody look. The Socs, on the other hand, dress nicely and look decent, which, Pony acknowledges, is "why people can't ever think to blame the Socs and are always ready to jump on us."
Pony realizes that appearances are meaningless (". . . half of the hoods I know are pretty decent guys underneath all that grease, and from what I've heard, a lot of Socs are just cold-blooded mean — but people usually go by looks.").
Pony is recognizing the unfairness of the division between the greasers and the Socs, dictated by economically drawn neighborhood lines. At the beginning of the rumble, when Darry faces off against his former football buddy who is a Soc and now in college, Ponyboy thinks, "
they used to be friends, and now they hate each other because one has to work for a living and the other comes from the West Side. They shouldn't hate each other . . . I don't hate the Socs anymore . . . ."
The fact that Pony is attempting to incorporate into his own life the idea that these class divisions and roles are superficial is another factor that demonstrates his continuing character growth. Life doesn't always make sense; life isn't always fair.
Teachers often explain that fair is a four-letter word, and they discourage its use in their classrooms. All students have different learning abilities, and what may be considered fair for one student would be totally inappropriate for another. The concept that life isn't fair is a very hard one to understand. Numerous self-help books are on the market today that try to explain the concept to frustrated adults. The fact that Pony is attempting to incorporate that concept in his own life is another factor that demonstrates his continuing character growth.
conformity the condition or fact of being in harmony or agreement; correspondence; congruity; similarity.
amplifier 1 a person or thing that amplifies 2 Electronics a device, especially one with electron tubes or semiconductors, used to increase the strength of an electric signal.