The easiest simile to use is that Johnny is seen as the "little dark puppy that has been kicked too many times and is lost in a crowd of strangers." This simile captures Johnny's tender side, but one that has been manipulated by the world around him. In this, Johnny is a lotus leaf, who allows the water to roll off its petals. The lotus leaf grows in muck and filth, and opens to reflect beauty. The water and filth that surround the lotus leaf does not permeate it. Rather, the lotus is able to remain apart from it as it grows.
Continuing with organic imagery, Johnny is like the plant that has been besieged by excessive heat, who yearns for the rain so that it can grow. Despite the harsh conditions that have been a part of Johnny's life, he does believe in optimism and does believe in redemption. The plant simile seeks to capture this notion of redemption in a world of condemnation. Finally, Johnny is a mirror, seeking to ensure that Ponyboy "remains true" to his own sense of self. Johnny is a mirror that reminds Dally of what he can be and reminds Pony of what he should be. This mirror enables Johnny to be both of the world and apart from it.