In the novel The Outsiders, what did Johnny mean when he told Ponyboy to "stay gold" at his deathbed ?

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mizzwillie eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the novel, The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, a 17 year old girl, Johnny tells Ponyboy to "stay gold" which means to stay out of trouble and follow his dream.  The "stay gold" is a reference to the poem Johnny read to Ponyboy earlier in the novel which is a poem by Robert Frost called "Nothing Gold can Stay".  Johnny knows that Ponyboy doesn't really belong in a gang, and that he could follow his dreams as the others cannot.  Johnny does not want Ponyboy to end up like him, a hero who saved children but cannot save himself and dies by the police shooting him even though Johnny's gun is not loaded.  He wants Ponyboy to be the golden boy of the group and succeed at following his dreams.