What made Johnny kill Bob in The Outsiders?

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In chapter 2Johnny and Ponybody meet and hang out with Cherry and Marcia.  The two girls are the girlfriends of Bob and Randy.  The reader also discovers, in chapter 2, why Johnny is so skittish.  He was jumped by a group Socs and beaten to within an inch of...

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In chapter 2 Johnny and Ponybody meet and hang out with Cherry and Marcia.  The two girls are the girlfriends of Bob and Randy.  The reader also discovers, in chapter 2, why Johnny is so skittish.  He was jumped by a group Socs and beaten to within an inch of his life.  Johnny swore then that the next time he was cornered like that, he would kill whoever was doing it.  

In chapter 4, Ponyboy and Johnny are hanging out near a fountain.  The same blue Mustang that carried the Socs to beat up Johnny shows up at the fountain.  A group of Socs gets out the car.  Johnny and Ponyboy try to run, but they are cornered.  One of the Socs grabs Pony and holds his head under the water.  Ponyboy is held under for a long time and is close to passing out.  The next thing that he realizes is that he's sitting on the ground soaking wet.  

The next thing I knew I was lying on the pavement beside the fountain, coughing water and gasping.

Johnny is sitting in a daze next to Ponyboy.  Next to Johnny is the dead body of Bob.  Johnny had stabbed him with a switchblade.  All of the other Socs then ran away.  Johnny killed Bob out of self defense.  He knew that another beating was coming, and he killed Bob before it started. Johnny also killed Bob to protect Ponyboy.  Had Johnny not killed Bob, it's likely that Ponyboy would have drowned in that pond.  

"You really killed him, huh, Johnny?"

"Yeah." His voice quavered slightly. "I had to. They were drowning you, Pony. They might have killed you. And they had a blade... they were gonna beat me up...."

"Like..."--- I swallowed--- "like they did before?"

Johnny was quiet for a minute. "Yeah," he said, "like they did before."

Johnny told me what had happened: "They ran when I stabbed him. They all ran..."

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After Ponyboy gets into a heated argument with Darry, he meets up with Johnny Cade at a local park, and a group of Socs suddenly arrives in a blue Mustang. Five noticeably intoxicated Soc members proceed to get out of the car and surround Pony and Johnny. Bob Sheldon is the leader of the group and ends up attacking Ponyboy. After Bob Sheldon insults Pony and Johnny, he grabs Pony and attempts to drown him by holding his head underwater. As Pony is struggling for his life, Johnny intervenes and stabs Bob Sheldon in self-defense.

Essentially, Johnny stabs Bob Sheldon to prevent him from drowning Ponyboy. When Pony regains his consciousness, he is appalled and scared to discover that Johnny killed Bob Sheldon. Pony and Johnny then travel to Buck Merril's place in order to find Dally and ask for his help. Fortunately, Dally helps them skip town by giving them a gun, some money, clothes, and directions to an abandoned church in Windrixville where they can hide out.

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Johnny has post-traumatic stress from being attacked by the Socs, and all he thought about was defending himself.

Johnny is a good kid, but he has a lot of baggage.  Johnny was attacked by four Socs, and was “scared of his own shadow” after that.

I remembered Johnny-his face all cut up and bruised, and I remembered how he had cried when we found him, half-conscious, in the corner lot Johnny had it awful rough at home-it took a lot to make him cry. (ch 1, p. 5)

Johnny is motivated by this incident for a long time.  He worries about being jumped, and he suffers from a lot of fear as a result of the trauma.  As a result, he is very nervous when they see the Socs in their territory.

Johnny swore under his breath, and I muttered, "What do they want? This is our territory. What are Socs doing this far east?" (ch 4)

Johnny was "scared to death" because he did not want to get jumped again.  Pony had no weapon, but wished he had one.  All Johnny could think about was the last time he got jumped, and when the Socs threatened to cut them he took out his knife and attacked Bob in self-defense.

Of course he felt sorry for killing Bob.  Johnny and Pony had to go on the run.

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