How does Johnny lose his innocence when his back breaks in The Outsiders?

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Loss of innocence is a common theme throughout literature. Loss of innocence typically refers to when a character loses his/her childlike perspective on the world and comes to a realization regarding the environment around them. In the novel The Outsiders, Johnny Cade is a quiet, scared member of a gang called the greasers.

In Chapter 6, Johnny and Ponyboy enter a burning church to save children who are trapped inside, when a flaming beam lands on Johnny's back as he is about to exit the building. Johnny is rushed to the hospital where the doctors examine him. They find out that Johnny has a broken back and will likely be paralyzed for the rest of his life. In Chapter 8, Two-Bit and Ponyboy visit Johnny in the hospital. The boys have a conversation about their heroic actions during the fire, and Johnny asks for the book Gone With The Wind. When Two-Bit leaves the room to buy the book, Johnny starts to nod off and close his eyes. Johnny mentions that he cannot feel anything below his waist, and Ponyboy tries to encourage Johnny by telling him he'll get better. Johnny says,

"You want to know something, Ponyboy? I'm scared stiff. I used to talk about killing myself...I don't want to die now. It ain't long enough. Sixteen years ain't long enough. I wouldn't mind it so much if there wasn't so much stuff I ain't done yet and so many things I ain't seen. It's not fair. You know what? That time we were in Windrixville was the only time I've been away from our neighborhood." (Hinton 122)

This scene depicts Johnny's loss of innocence. Johnny comes to the realization that he doesn't want to die because there are so many things he never had the opportunity to experience in life. He realizes that his suicidal wishes were wrong. Johnny is beginning to see how valuable his life really is after he breaks his back.

Another scene that depicts Johnny's newfound awareness and understanding takes place in Chapter 9. When Dally comes to visit, he tells Johnny that they beat the Socs. Johnny says, "Useless...fighting's no good..." (Hinton 148) Johnny understands that fighting does not solve any problems. His mature comment reflects his new perspective on life.

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