Summary and Analysis
That Cherry Valance is acting as a spy for the greasers shocks Ponyboy and Johnny, but then they learn that Bob, the dead Soc, had been her boyfriend. Dally informs them that Cherry has said that she is willing to testify that the Socs were drunk that night and that Johnny acted only in self-defense. Cherry's stance gives Johnny the hope he needs, and he announces that they are going to turn themselves in to the police. A stunned Dally rejects this plan, but Johnny only maintains, "I don't aim to stay in that church the rest of my life."
Dally relates to the two boys how worried the gang is about them. Johnny just keeps asking whether his parents have been worried. Dally avoids the question as long as he is able, but then has to admit to Johnny that, no, his parents have not asked about him. Johnny doesn't say anything, but looks devastated. Driving back from Dairy Queen, they spot the church on fire. A group of people stands around the church; a school evidently out on a picnic, and Ponyboy and Johnny jump out of the car to find out what's happening. As they arrive on the scene, one of the women shouts that some of the children are missing.
Both Ponyboy and Johnny leap through a window in search of the kids. An older man — later identified as Jerry Wood — follows them, but he is unable to get through the small window. The boys quickly find the kids and hand them out through the window to safety. Dally is now on the scene and he warns the boys to get out because the roof is starting to cave in. After dropping the last kid out the window, Johnny shoves Pony out the window, and the roof collapses. Pony blacks out, but Dally goes back inside for Johnny.
When Ponyboy regains consciousness, he hears sirens. He assumes that he is in a police car until Jerry Wood (who accompanies him) tells him that they are in an ambulance, and Johnny and Dally are in the ambulance behind them. Dally has a badly burned arm, but Johnny is in far worse condition, with a possible broken back and bad burns. They are all considered heroes for saving the children. At the hospital, doctors examine Ponyboy, and except for a few burns and a big bruise across his back, he's fine. He is in the waiting room, worried about Johnny and Dally, when Darry and Soda arrive. Soda gives Pony a great big bear hug, and Darry stands back with his hands dug into his pockets. When Pony looks at Darry he sees that he is crying. In that split second, Ponyboy realizes that Darry does care for him, that he was just trying too hard. After losing his parents, Darry fears losing another loved one.
Cherry's willingness to clue the greasers in on Soc activity shows her to be in a kind of limbo. She is no longer affiliating herself as a Soc, but instead is watching them as an outsider. However, the gang definitely does not consider her to be a greaser, because she is merely reporting to them to prevent any more fights between the rival groups. This existence, not being affiliated with one group or another, can be a scary one. It is especially frightening to adolescents who use the group mentality as a barometer of their own self worth. However, sometimes it is necessary to step outside of one's own comfort zone to stand up for an issue in which you believe. This is what Cherry is doing: Tired of the fighting and the gang mentality, she attempts to resolve the many perceived differences that separate the two groups.
This turn in Cherry's personality in some ways more closely aligns her with Dally. Dally is a greaser, but he is the most outcast of the group. He is the only one who has ever been in serious trouble, and he is the only one whom everyone in the group, including Darry, is afraid of: "Not even Darry wanted to tangle with him. He was dangerous," Ponyboy remembered.
Hinton describes Dally's hair as "white"-blond" a good color for someone who could be an outsider from all groups. White contains all of the visible rays of the color spectrum. It is a crossover color that cannot be affiliated with anyone. If Hinton were to write a sequel using Dally and Cherry, it would be easy to draw an analogy between them and Romeo and Juliet. Both couples are teenagers who come from different worlds. Romeo and Juliet deal with feuding families who oppose their relationship, and Dally and Cherry battle opposing gangs.
The perception that the three boys are heroes goes beyond gang lines. (The power of three is a theme that is prevalent throughout Western literature.) Three greasers, whom Bob had defined as "white trash with long hair," seemingly defy all stereotypes and risk their lives to save some children. This is a concept that Ponyboy thought no one could believe. Ponyboy explains the events to Jerry Wood — from the drive-in theatre, to the killing, to their escape — but Wood does not change his perception of the bravery displayed by Johnny, Pony, and Dally. Ponyboy notes of Wood, "He didn't seem to mind our being hoods."
The most important revelation in this chapter is Ponyboy's redefinition of his family. From talking with both Dally and Johnny, Ponyboy realizes how lucky he is to have two brothers — not just gang-member brothers, but two real brothers. Pony internally admits that he loves them both even if they aren't always the way he wants them to be.
He understands that he is lucky compared to Johnny, who relies on the gang to be his brothers and serve as his only family because his parents don't care about him: "Darry and Sodapop were my brothers and I loved both of them, even if Darry did scare me; but not even Soda could take Mom and Dad's place. And they were my real brothers, not just sort of adopted ones."
In the hospital, when Pony, Darry, and Soda reunite, this new appreciation of his brothers is tested. Ponyboy demonstrates no hesitation in showing his love for Soda when he arrives at the hospital, but he initially stands off from Darry. It isn't until Pony sees Darry crying that the love for his brother triggers a moment of enlightenment: "In that second what Soda and Dally and Two-Bit had been trying to tell me came through." Now Pony understands that Darry had been trying too hard in his new role of guardian and protector.
Pony realizes that Darry really does care. Pony is able to go to Darry and hug him, just like he hugged Soda. This love that he feels from and for his brothers makes everything all right. The three brothers are united as a family, a source of strength to all of them.
JD short for juvenile delinquent.