Three major characters die in S. E. Hinton's The Outsiders. All of the deaths are tragic, as the boys who die are much too young to lose their lives so early; as well, all of the deaths call into question the meanings of the words "hero" and "villain."
Bob Sheldon, a Soc and the boyfriend of Cherry Valance, is the first young man to die in the novel. Though Bob dies violently at the hands of Johnny, the murder is in defense of another. Bob had been attacking Ponyboy when Johnny intervened, and though it is unclear if Bob had intended to drown Ponyboy deliberately, Bob's actions were out of control, and Johnny felt he had no choice but to stab him. Though Bob should not have been assaulting Ponyboy, he did not deserve to die; Johnny, however, does not deserve the label of "murderer," as he killed in order to protect.
Johnny Cade, greaser and friend to many of the main characters, is the second to die. While attempting to rescue schoolchildren from the fire in Windrixville, Johnny sustains a serious injury. His back is broken and he is severely burned, and he dies in the hospital despite the best efforts of the doctors. Johnny dies a gallant hero, having sacrificed his life for the lives of others.
Dallas Winston, greaser and hood, dies when he is shot by the police. His death is likely a suicide of sorts. After Johnny dies, Dally is overwhelmed with grief and anger. He goes on a rampage to cope (or to avoid coping) with his grief, and while Dally is robbing a grocery store, the police arrive. Dally pulls out an unloaded gun, but the police do not know that the gun is unloaded, so they shoot Dally, an event Dally likely knew would happen when he pulled out his gun. Dally's death is not heroic, but he dies of a broken heart, revealing his depth of emotion and connection to Johnny.