Summary and Analysis Chapter 3



The movie comes to an end and the group decides to walk over to Two-Bit's house to get his car to take the girls home. Two-Bit and Marcia are continuing to get along, and as they walk Ponyboy and Cherry amaze themselves as they divulge insights as confidants.

Cherry shares her philosophy on what separates the two gangs — not only money but passion as well. The Socs lack strong emotions; they are cool almost to the point of not feeling. Ponyboy is amazed, though, at how similar the two gangs really are; they share a "basic sameness." However, Ponyboy does concede that the two groups' emotional responses to life are different: "It's not money, it's feeling — you don't feel anything and we feel too violently."

As the new friends — Pony, Johnny, Two-Bit, Cherry, and Marcia — walk, a blue Mustang passes, a car that the girls identify as belonging to their boyfriends, Randy and Bob.

After a moment of tenseness, the car continues on its way and the group continues their walk. Ponyboy and Cherry resume talking and Cherry asks Ponyboy about Darry. Ponyboy unexpectedly explodes. He complains bitterly about Darry and concludes that he knows that Darry does not like him. Two-Bit and Johnny are stunned. They cannot believe that Ponyboy has made this statement, much less that he believes it. They defend Darry, which only infuriates Ponyboy, so he verbally attacks Johnny about his own terrible home life. In response to this attack, Two-Bit slaps Ponyboy on the side of the head, which sets off a tirade from Ponyboy about the injustice in their world.

The blue Mustang returns and this time it stops. Two Socs get out, and Ponyboy notices that one of them is wearing three heavy rings. Ponyboy puts the blue Mustang together with the rings and realizes that this is the group that had attacked Johnny. Johnny stands terrified. A fight is threatened, but Cherry puts a stop to it, and the girls leave with the Socs.

Two-Bit heads off to hunt up a poker game and maybe to get drunk, and Johnny and Ponyboy decide to lay down in an empty lot and watch the stars. Ponyboy's curfew is midnight, but he assumes that he has plenty of time to make it home. After a rambling fantasy of Ponyboy's — in which he visualizes the perfect life in the country, free of gangs and with his parents still alive — the boys drift off to sleep.

Johnny awakens and sends Ponyboy home, whereupon Ponyboy discovers that it is 2 a.m. Darry has been waiting up for him and is furious. In the heat of the moment, Darry slaps Ponyboy and instantly regrets it. Ponyboy now knows for sure that Darry doesn't want him and runs out the door followed by Darry's cries of regret.

Pony heads back to the vacant lot, wakes Johnny, and announces that it is time for them to run away. Johnny tries to calm Ponyboy. Johnny points out that Ponyboy is lucky to have family who cares about him, and that the gang members never really take the place of family in Johnny's life. They walk to the park, and Ponyboy decides to return home after cooling off a bit.


Ponyboy's character grows as his perspective changes, and he realizes the many similarities that he and Cherry share. Cherry asks whether he watches sunsets, and Ponyboy answers that he does. She admits that she enjoys watching them, but that she hasn't had much time for it lately. A sunset, which they both can watch from their respective homes, represents their outlooks on life.

To Cherry, a sunset is the fading of daylight, when the sun drops below the horizon. It takes away a day and signals the beginning of another, a fresh start. Cherry has, at this point, apparently given up and accepted the rat race: "We're always going and going and going, and never asking where." She also accepts that she is a Soc ". . . if I see you in the hall at school or someplace and don't say hi, well, it's not personal or anything."

To Pony the sunset signals that everyone now is in the dark, one cannot escape the sunset no matter how rich or poor they may be. It is the great equalizer, and it gives everyone a second chance. Ponyboy realizes that "maybe the two different worlds we lived in weren't so different. We saw the same sunset."

Ponyboy and his gang are not the only outsiders; Cherry is an outsider as well. She feels trapped in her world and from her perspective can only see Ponyboy and his friends as unattainable, a realization that saddens her. Her comments about Dally justify her irrational admiration for him: "I could fall in love with Dallas Winston . . . I hope I never see him again, or I will."

Ponyboy's fellow gang members internalize differently the premise that life isn't fair. However, Two-Bit appears to accept his place in life good-naturedly. "Like it or lump it" is his philosophy. On the other hand, Johnny, having been pushed to the brink, vents his frustration and foreshadows his future when he says, "I can't take much more."

At this point, Ponyboy's character is the only one that the reader can actually perceive to be growing in understanding. But readers must remember that Ponyboy is narrating this tale; his views are being related.

Often, a literary work that is narrated by one of the main characters creates limitations in terms of the readers' ability to objectively analyze other characters. The story is being told by only one character, and, obviously, readers empathize with that character's outlook.

This chapter reveals that Ponyboy's parents were killed only eight months previously, an important element concerning the concept of family in the novel. Ponyboy is probably still working through the stages of grief. He is filled with anger over losing his parents, which in itself is an important component in his internalization of the unfairness of his life.

After the death of this parents, his life turned from a stable existence to a series of uncertainties, especially with the threat of the authorities revoking Darry's guardianship and splitting up the brothers always looming over his head. Ponyboy is undoubtedly very unstable at this point in his life. One slap from Darry could easily make him overreact.

The power of three again asserts its strength in this chapter, but note that this theme applies not only to the greasers but to the Socs as well.

For example, when the Socs stop Ponyboy, Johnny, and Two-Bit on the way home from the movie with Cherry and Marcia, the three rings on the Soc's hand send Johnny over the edge: "Johnny was breathing heavily and I noticed he was staring at the Soc's hand. He was wearing three heavy rings." These were the rings that enabled the Soc to severely beat Johnny and thereby turn his life a different direction.

However, the three greasers — Two-Bit, Ponyboy, and Johnny — were able to stand together against the Socs and use their number to avoid a confrontation.

This chapter concludes with a statement by Ponyboy that foreshadows impending doom: "Things gotta get better, I figured. They couldn't get worse. I was wrong." The reader has already been introduced to a group of possible villains, Johnny's attackers, and this sentence opens up a world of possibilities. Readers begin to feel the insecurity that the constant threat of violence instills in the novel's characters.

Hinton employs the use of a tease sentence very effectively throughout the book. Readers are compelled to go on to the next chapter to find out what happens, and they are engaged in trying to guess the next turn in the plot.


buckskin a yellowish-gray horse.

ornery 1 having an ugly or mean disposition 2 obstinate.

quarter short for "quarter horse," any of a breed of light, muscular horse of a solid, usually dark color: because of its quick reactions, it is much used in Western range work and in rodeos.

soused [Slang] intoxicated.

snooker a variety of the game of pool played with fifteen red balls and six other balls.

cur a dog of mixed breed; mongrel.

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