After the rumble, Dallas and Ponyboy go to the hospital to see Johnny. When they arrive, Johnny is still and quiet. During their visit, Johnny tells Ponyboy to "Stay gold." This comment is in reference to an earlier event in the story. In chapter 5, Johnny and Ponyboy observe a beautiful sunrise. Johnny comments on the mist, "All gold and silver." Ponyboy then quotes a line from a Robert Frost poem in his reply to Johnny by stating that "Nothing gold can stay." He remembers the line but is unsure of the poet's intent.
After Johnny's death, Pony finds a letter inside the copy of Gone With the Wind that Johnny had in the hospital. By reading the letter, Pony understands why Johnny told him to "Stay gold." Johnny explains that being gold is like being a kid, when "everything's new." He compares Pony's love of sunsets to being gold and instructs Pony to have Dallas look at a sunset. Johnny's words help Pony understand that Johnny wants him to see life through a youthful and positive perspective.