What made the Greasers become hardened and jaded? Can you "stay gold" when you live on the East Side?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Throughout the novel, traumatic events make the members of the Greaser gang become hardened and jaded. Dally laments to Johnny about how he became hardened after he went to prison. Following Johnny's death, Dally loses his mind and robs a store. Shortly after robbing the store, the police shoot and kill Dally in a vacant lot. The two traumatic events drastically affect Ponyboy's mental stability. Ponyboy starts to become hardened and callous like Dally. He becomes extremely depressed and stops caring about his life. Experiencing significant tragedies at such a young age causes Ponyboy and the other Greasers to become jaded about their future. They essentially feel hopeless because they live in constant fear and poverty. Johnny encourages Ponyboy to "stay gold," which is another way of telling him to remain innocent. In my opinion, it would be impossible to "stay gold" in such a violent society with little to no support. Growing up on the East Side, tragedies are frequent and traumatic experiences are inevitable. An adolescent could not avoid tragedy and remain innocent in such a tough environment.