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When Johnny and Ponyboy are hiding in the church after the incident with Bob and his gang, the boys pick up a copy of Gone With the Wind; although the novel is Ponyboy's favorite, Johnny quickly becomes a fan as well. Johnny is fascinated by the idea of the southern gentlemen, who he sees as exemplifying grace, gallantry, and manners. Strangely (to me) Johnny equates the qualities of the southern gentleman with Dally, but Ponyboy insists that Johnny more closely approximates those ideals. Certainly there is no arguing that Johnny's manners are better! We see that right away when the boys are at the drive-in movie and Dally is harassing the girls until Johnny tells him to stop. Saving the children in the church was, sadly, Johnny's swan song, an opportunity for him to live out the ideals that he admired so, and as the boys of his gang grieved, he was able to go out "on top".
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