Ponyboy is the narrator in The Outsiders and he describes his family, friends and his life in terms of his own understanding. As a teenage boy whose parents died in a motor vehicle accident, Ponyboy is cared for by his twenty year old brother Darry who he feels treats him like he is "six not fourteen" and who is "hard and firm and rarely grins at all" (chapter 1). Ponyboy is smart and does well at school. He is even in the "A classes." When he takes his switchblade out in Biology class so that he can do a dissection, he shocks a pretty girl next to him who calls him a "hood." His high IQ sets him apart from the other members of the "Greasers'" gang but a poor decision on his behalf when he runs away after Darry scolds him, telling him off for coming home too late, results in tragedy for the Greasers.
The "Socs" are the rival gang in the neighborhood and they apparently think they are better than Greasers; Ponyboy describes them as "the west side rich kids." After chatting with two "Socs'" girls, Cherry and Marcia, at a movie, Ponyboy and Johnny are threatened by the Socs, and after a confrontation, Johnny kills one of the Socs in self-defense. Ponyboy and Johnny are forced into hiding, and with Dally's help, they hide away in a "spooky" church (chapter 4). Ponyboy and Johnny pass the time in the church reading Gone with the Wind and playing poker but then a fire in the church after the boys have left, means that they run back to save some children who have gone exploring in the church. Ponyboy breaks the window of the church and climbs through, closely followed by Johnny. The boys save all the children and are suddenly "professional heroes" (chapter 6) according to the teachers who escort them to hospital.
Ponyboy is not badly hurt but Johnny is, and only at the hospital does Ponyboy realize how much Darry really loves him. After an inquiry, Ponyboy is relieved that he will not be going to prison or to a boys' home but unfortunately, Johnny will never recover and will die of his injuries, sustained while rescuing the children.