At the church, Pony and Johnny are unable to watch the sunset. What symbolic meaning might this have?

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Sunsets are extremely important throughout The Outsiders as a representation of unity as well as innocence. Ponyboy often uses sunsets as a reference point for the idea that Greasers and Socs are the same, as they both experience the same sunset.

Maybe the two different worlds we lived in weren’t...

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Sunsets are extremely important throughout The Outsiders as a representation of unity as well as innocence. Ponyboy often uses sunsets as a reference point for the idea that Greasers and Socs are the same, as they both experience the same sunset.

Maybe the two different worlds we lived in weren’t so different. We saw the same sunset.

Another representation goes back to when Ponyboy quotes the poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay” by Robert Frost. Many believe the poem to represent innocence that is lost with the passage of time. Johnny makes the parallel between the two in his final letter, stating,

He meant your gold when you’re a kid, like green. When you’re a kid everything’s new, dawn. It’s just when you get used to everything that it’s day. Like the way you dig sunsets, Pony. That’s gold.

There are two possible interpretations as to why Pony and Johnny can only see the light across the fields rather than the entire sunset. When Pony and Johnny are hiding at the church, they are trying to separate themselves from the outside world. Not being able to see the sunset breaks the unity they have with everyone else—setting themselves apart as well as hiding them. Secondly, it represents a loss of innocence. After killing Bob, Johnny has lost that part of himself in the same way that Eden sinks to grief, having lost its gold, in Frost's poem. This could also be a bit a foreshadowing of Johnny’s fate at the end of the book.

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While walking home after the movie, Ponyboy admits to Cherry that he likes to watch sunsets. He says:

It seemed funny to me that the sunset she saw from her patio and the one I saw from the back steps was the same one. Maybe the two different worlds we lived in weren't so different. We saw the same sunset.

After this realization, Ponyboy starts to think that maybe Greasers aren't such outsiders at all. They are separate but still equal. Not being able to see the sunset from the church can be symbolic of the boys being outcasts.

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