S.E. Hinton uses a lot of foreshadowing throughout the novel "The Outsiders". In chapter 3, Ponyboy decides to run away from home after Darry slaps him. Ponyboy flees the house and runs to the vacant lot where he has left Johnny a short time before. The two share a cigarette and talk. Ponyboy briefly mentions that he:
"wonderd what it would be like to be inside of a burning ember."
This is an odd statement, but the reader must keep in mind that Hinton is giving us a peek into what is to come later on in the story.
The second example of foreshadowing comes in Chapter 4 when the boys first arrive at the church on, Ponyboy states that even though churches usually are calming places, this particular church gave him an eerie feeling. He flashes back to the last few times he had gone to church and actually enjoyed the services. Still, this church makes Ponyboy uneasy from the very beginning.
This type of foreshadowing by Hinton makes it easy for readers to infer that this church is going to play a big role in the progression of this story.
There are two ways in which S.E. Hinton foreshadows that the church will catch fire. One is that at the end of Chapter 4, Ponyboy says, "But this church gave me a kind of creepy feeling. What do you call it? Premonition?" When Johnny and Ponyboy first approach the church, Ponyboy feels that it's a creepy place, and he has a sense that something bad will happen there. He repeatedly describes it as an old, spiderwebby place that makes him feel scared.
Second, in Chapter 5, Ponyboy says that while he is hiding out at the church, he smokes a lot more than he usually does because he is bored. He says, "We were careful with our cigarettes---if that old church ever caught fire there'd be no stopping it." At this point, Ponyboy and Johnny have been hiding out for five days, and Ponyboy doesn't have any Pepsi (which he is addicted to). He smokes a lot and passes the time reading Gone with the Wind. These two passages foreshadow the fire in the church.