How did Johnny Cade, in S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders, die a hero and how are those deeds heroic?

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Johnny Cade dies a hero after rescuing children from a burning church. The church where Johnny and Ponyboy were hiding burns down, and Johnny feels responsible for possibly having set the fire by smoking in the church. He rushes into the blaze to save the kids. 

Johnny's deeds are particularly heroic because he has a very scared temperament. Ponyboy says of Johnny, "I had seen Johnny after four Socs got hold of him, and it wasn't pretty. Johnny was scared of his own shadow after that." Johnny is only 16 and has been beaten badly by the Socs. He is also abused and neglected at home, and, as a result, he is scared of everything. He is therefore especially heroic when he rescues children in the fire. Ponyboy says of Johnny:

"Johnny wasn't behaving at all like his old self. He looked over his shoulder and saw that the door was blocked by flames, then pushed open the window and tossed out the nearest kid."

Johnny dies as a result of the burns and injuries he suffered during the fire, and he dies knowing that he has lived a short and painful life in which he didn't get a chance to see or do much of what he wanted to; however, he dies a true hero.

misslacey eNotes educator| Certified Educator
In S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders, Johnny died a hero because he ran into a burning church, without thinking twice, to save young children he had never met before who were stuck inside. He was severly burned and injured while doing so. He and Dally were able to save all of the children, but Johnny died later on in the hospital. Earlier in the book, Johnny also protected Ponyboy without thinking when he was about to be drowned by the Socs. Though he is characterized as being timid and fearful, he is a character who acts with impulsive heroism to protect the innocent in times of need. That is what makes him a hero. Even though he is scared, he puts his fear and his own safety aside to defend others.