Friendship is very important to the greasers. They are more than just a group of guys who live in the same neighborhood. They look out for each other, and see each other as family.
For example, Johnny’s parents treat him terribly. His father abuses him physically and his mother abuses him verbally. Johnny’s terrible home life is only survivable because he has his friends to support him.
He would have run away a million times if we hadn't been there. If it hadn't been for the gang, Johnny would never have known what love and affection are. (Ch. 1)
Johnny cares about his friends, and they care about him when his own parents don't. He is the gang’s pet. When he is dying in the hospital, he doesn’t even want to talk to his mother. He wants to talk to his friends. Even though Johnny is not supposed to have visitors, the doctor makes an exception because he knows how important Johnny’s friends are to him.
He was in critical condition. No visitors. But Two-Bit wouldn't take no for an answer. That was his buddy in there and he aimed to see him. We both begged and pleaded, but we were getting nowhere until the doctor found out what was going on. (Ch. 8)
Johnny’s death hits the gang hard. After his death and Dallas’s, the gang has to move on, together, without him. They support each other. They are family.
Loyalty is about more than visiting someone in the hospital. One example of loyalty is the greaser-Soc gang conflict. The greasers stand up for each other, and so do the Socs. If one of them is attacked, the others will defend or protect him. This is part of the self-perpetuating gang feud.
There are other people involved in the conflict, however. When Cherry meets Pony, she sees him as more than just a greaser. Her boyfriend Bob is angry that she is with the greasers and tries to get her to leave. She does, in order to avoid a fight and out of loyalty to him and to the Socs. He may be drunk, but he is still her boyfriend.
"I know," she said quietly, "but we'd better go with them. Ponyboy... I mean... if I see you in the hall at school or someplace and don't say hi, well, it's not personal or anything, but..." (Ch. 3)
Loyalty to one’s social class wins over friendship. Cherry can’t be friends with Pony at school and can’t introduce him to her friends, because he is a greaser and she is a Soc. That is the bottom line.
Another example of loyalty is the rumble at the end, after Johnny dies. The Socs want to get revenge on the greasers for killing Bob, and the greasers want to get revenge on the Socs for killing Johnny. Randy comes to Pony and tells him that he doesn’t want to participate in the rumble.
"You can't win, you know that, don't you? … You can't win, even if you whip us. You'll still be where you were before—at the bottom. And we'll still be the lucky ones with all the breaks. So it doesn't do any good, the fighting and the killing.” (Ch. 7)
The greasers and Socs will keep fighting, because they are always avenging previous wrongs. Randy is right: the Socs are the ones who win in the end because they get all the breaks in life. The greasers know this, but the Socs still won’t leave them alone. So out of loyalty to each other and self-defense, they continue fighting.
Bravery and Heroism
A hero can be a person in your life that you look up to. Pony and Johnny both look up to Dallas, the gang’s resident bad boy, although Pony does not like him much. He is the one they go to when they are in trouble. Johnny considers him a hero.
It had taken more than nerve for him to say what he'd said to Dally—Johnny worshiped the ground Dallas walked on, and I had never heard Johnny talk back to anyone, much less his hero. (Ch. 2)
Johnny looks up to Dally because he is everything Johnny is not. He is strong, he is a good fighter, and he is confident. Johnny is timid and small. He wants to be Dally. This is why it is so important when Johnny stands up to Dally, protecting Cherry and Marcia.
Johnny also displays heroism when Pony is being drowned by Bob. He is scared to death, because Bob and his friends attacked him before. Nonetheless, he defends Pony, risking his own life.
"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..." (Ch. 4)
Johnny certainly did not want to kill Bob, or anyone, and neither did Pony. He felt he had no choice, because they were in so much danger.
Johnny gets to be a hero again at the church. He and Pony run away, and while they are there a group of schoolchildren gets trapped in the abandoned church where they are hiding after it catches fire.
Pony does not seem to think about his own safety in the church. He sees that the kids are in danger and steps up, trying to help them while he can.
I picked up a kid, and he promptly bit me, but I leaned out the window and dropped him as gently as I could, being in a hurry like that.... Dally was standing there, and when he saw me he screamed, "For Pete's sake, get outa there! That roof's gonna cave in any minute. Forget those blasted kids!" (Ch. 6)
Johnny, Pony, and Dallas are called heroes for saving the kids at the church, because they risked their lives to get the kids to safety. Onlookers are surprised that such a motley group of boys would save their children.
"I swear, you three are the bravest kids I've seen in a long time. First you and the black haired kid climbing in that window, and then the tough-looking kid going back in to save him. Mrs. O'Briant and I think you were sent straight from heaven. Or are you just professional heroes or something?" (Ch. 6)
The news media is also interested in the group of murderous runaways turned heroes. It makes quite a story. The whole thing is too much for Dally, who commits suicide-by-cop because of what happened to Johnny.