Johnny's favorite aspect of Gone with the Wind was the gallant southern gentlemen "with their manners and charm," who reminded him of Dallas Winston (76). Johnny admired their bravery and resolve, and even explained to Ponyboy about how one night Dally got picked up by the police for vandalism that Two-Bit committed. When the police were tough on Dally, he stayed cool and collected and even took the blame for his buddy. Even though Johnny was not particularly 'book-smart' at school and had a lower reading level, Ponyboy appreciated just how much his friend enjoyed the novel and was able to get out of it.
In S.E. Hinton's 1967 novel, The Outsiders, the character of Johnny is among the story's more tragic, long before this young boy's fate is even determined. As readers of Hinton's classic know, Johnny carries within himself the emotional wounds inflicted at the hands of sadistic Socs, and it is Johnny who kills a Soc in order to save his friend Ponyboy, the story's narrator, from being drowned. And, it is Johnny who will display heroism in the act of rescuing children from the burning church, but who will die from the burns and smoke inhalation suffered in that effort. It is in Chapter 5 of The Outsiders, that Ponyboy reveals his friend's love of Margaret Mitchell's novel of the Civil War-era American South, Gone With the Wind. As the two boys hide in the old church following the stabbing of the Soc, Ponyboy describes his friend's infatuation with Mitchell's novel -- an infatuation that the narrator takes pains to place in the context of Johnny's difficulties as a student:
"Johnny sure did like that book, although he didn't know anything about the Civil War and even less about plantations, and I had to explain a lot of it to him. . .He was especially stuck on the Southern gentlemen- -- impressed with their manners and charm.
"I bet they were cool ol' guys," he said, his eyes glowing, after I had read the part about them riding into sure death because they were gallant. "They remind me of Dally."
"Dally," of course, is Dallas Winston, one of the more hardened of the Greasers. Dally is a tough kid with a track record of physical and emotional toughness, and Johnny is far more enamored of this "role model" than is Ponyboy, who notes that, "of all of us, Dally was the one I liked least." What Johnny admires so much about Dally, though, is precisely the latter's willingness to stand tough in the face of threats from Socs and cops alike, and to stand-by his friends. Johnny's love of Mitchell's novel is a theme that runs throughout Hinton's story. In Chapter 8, with Johnny lying in the hospital fighting for his life following the aforementioned heroics, the theme of Southern courage exemplified in Gone With the Wind is revived:
"Johnny almost grinned as he nodded. "Tuff enough," he managed, and by the way his eyes were glowing, I figured Southern gentlemen had nothing on Johnny Cade."
So much does Mitchell's novel mean to Johnny that Two-Bit, another Greaser, is dispatched to a store to get a new copy for Johnny. Prior to the church fire, Johnny is defined as much as anything by the emotional scars he wears following his beating at the hands of the Socs. Now, however, he will forever be remembered for his act of courage. He has, in his final hours, become that which he admires from Margaret Mitchell's novel.