Johnny had already been beaten to within an inch of his life during a previous encounter with a gang of Socs, so he had decided to carry a knife for protection. When the group of Socs attacked the two smaller greasers, Johnny watched as the other Socs tried to drown Ponyboy in the fountain. Johnny must have thought the Socs meant business, so he used his knife to protect his best friend. Legally, it is easy to defend Johnny's actions, since he must have felt that both of their lives were in danger. If the Socs succeeded in drowning Pony, would they come after Johnny next? Johnny's action was one of self-defense, heroically saving Pony's life at the cost of the attacker's life. Without his knife, Johnny would have probably watched Pony die before watching the other Socs turn on him. Murder is never an acceptable act, but Johnny's act was not one of murder: Instead, it was a case of one teenager using acceptable force against greater numbers in a life-threatening circumstance.