Nothing Gold Can Stay Meaning

In The Outsiders, what does the poem "Nothing Gold Can Stay" mean and how does it portray the characteristics of Johhny and Ponyboy?

Asked on by sonjavans

6 Answers

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Johnny and Ponyboy are young and innocent, or “gold” at the beginning of the story.  Since “nothing gold can stay” they lose their innocence.

The poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay” is a poem about nature and life by Robert Frost. 

Nature's first green is gold,

Her hardest hue to hold. (lines 1-2)

Green means youth in nature, and Frost is commenting that youth is valuable.  However, it is also the hardest color to hang on to.  Green does not last.  Youth will always be corrupted.

When Johnny and Ponyboy see the beautiful gold of the country, Ponyboy comments that he read a poem about nothing gold being able to stay.  This symbolizes the boys’ youth and innocence and how they were not able to hold onto it.

"Stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold..." The pillow seemed to sink a little, and Johnny died.

Johnny is asking Ponyboy to stay good, despite the difficulty of doing so in a society where everything seems to work against them.

Here is a video about the characters in the story:

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gpane | College Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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This means that goodness and innocence cannot last. The sensitive Johnny suffers a grim death and Ponyboy, the young naive narrator, is forced to learn about conflict and violence.

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user7870940 | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 3) eNoter

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The poem by Robert Frost displays the innocence of Ponyboy and Johnny and how even they will eventually lose it as did many before then and it cannot be prevented. However, in his final letter Johnny pleads with Ponyboy to try to stay pure for as long as possible. 

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jenifer903 | eNotes Newbie

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I believe that the poem means that everything beautiful always dies. Like Ponyboy and Johnny they both lose their innocence's just because of the conditions they when through. Johnny died with out knowing what is to be a normal childhood.   

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ik9744 | Student, Grade 9 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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It means that being pure can't stay. Meaning one day you will be the opposite of goodness.