What does Ponyboy mean when he says , "I was supposed to be the deep one" (pg 75)?
During chapter five, the story begins as Pony and Johnny are hiding out in the church after murdering the Soc and going on the run. In this section of chapter five, both boys pass the time by reading Gone with the Wind. Pony then states,
It amazed me how Johnny could get more meaning out of some of the stuff in there than I could—I was supposed to be the deep one.
In order to understand the intent behind this statement, you would also need to consider Pony’s characterization throughout the novel, and especially during this chapter. Essentially, though, Pony is considering two main ideas: Who am I and how do I fit into this group? After all, Pony drops this line after Johnny has cut and bleached Pony’s beloved hair.
Shoot nothing... It took me a long time to get that hair just the way I wanted it. And besides, this just aint us. It’s like being in a Halloween costume we can’t get out of.
Well, we got to get used to it…We’re in big trouble and it’s our looks or us.
This commenting goes on with Johnny proclaiming that he should not have brought a 13 year old kid into this. Think back in the novel when Pony lamented being treated poorly by Darry as the insignificant little brother. Also, consider how Pony described himself after he spoke with Cherry. He defined himself by his hair, by his innocence, and by his intelligence. After this incident though, Pony is questioning who he is and how his character is defined within this larger group. Likewise, Johnny’s identity is now questioned.
Johnny was the sweet kid, who wasn’t seen as very bright, or intellectual, but he is now understanding things that Pony wasn’t connecting and understanding. When these elements are considered together, they paint an uncertain picture about Johnny and Pony, but also about the group as whole. Does Pony actually understand who anyone is, becomes a third pertinent question. Since an overall theme of the novel is about identity, this seemingly inconsequential quote speaks highly to that theme.
In my opinion, this quote sets Pony up to reconsider how he views life, the group, and what really binds them as a psuedo family. He is maturing and beginning to understand that his perspective about life may not be accurate.
Ponyboy says this in chapter 5, while he is hiding out at the church with Johnny and reading Gone with the Wind to pass the time. He is referring to Johnny's understanding of the book which surpasses his own:
It amazed me how Johnny could get more meaning out of some of the stuff in there than I could; I was supposed to be the deep one.
Ponyboy is surprised at the way Johnny picks up on the story better than he himself does - even although he is the more educated of the two, and in consequence, might be regarded as being more of a thinker, an intellectual. This is what he means by referring to himself as 'the deep one.' This is the image that he has amongst the gang. No-one else appears to be as literate as he is. The others are all older and tougher, but he is more artistic and dreamy, liking his books and sunsets.
Johnny is similarly sensitive, if not artistic, and under Ponyboy's influence, as he says, he enjoys things like sunsets too. The pretty Soc girl, Cherry Valance, is the only other person Ponyboy remarks he can talk about sunsets to, apart from Johnny. In this chapter Johnny is also impressed by Ponyboy's quoting of 'Nothing Gold Can Stay', Robert Frost's wistful poem on the transience of beauty, purity, and joy.
There is something about Ponyboy that sets him apart from the other Greasers. He is a good student who loves literature, movies, and sunsets. He has a sensitive, caring, and idealistic nature and has not yet become jaded like Dally or overwhelmed by the cares of the world like Darry. The other Greasers recognize and respect this and expect Ponyboy to act differently. Johnny calls this quality about Ponyboy "gold", and Two-Bit recognizes it also - when Ponyboy scares off a bunch of Socs with a broken bottle, Two-Bit is concerned that he might be becoming just another hardened Greaser, but then Ponyboy's real nature comes through, and he stoops in a very un-Greaserly manner to pick up the broken glass so no one will be hurt.
When Ponyboy says the poem Gone With the Wind. Johnny picks up on it very quickly. Pony thought he should have been the deep one because Johnny says something that foreshadows a lot. He says something about what and how glod is and it foreshadows that Johnny will come back to it when he is about to die.