Why can't Dally accept Johnny's death in The Outsiders?

Expert Answers
kwoo1213 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Death is a difficult thing for anyone to have to experience.  When a person is young and only beginning his life's journey, his or her death can be even more traumatic.  Johnny was the more reserved and quiet of the Greasers and Dally and Pony were his protectors, especially Dally.  Dally felt like a big brother to him.  Dally sensed Johnny's need to have him be his protector.  Once Johnny dies, it is incomprehensible to Dally. He is completely shocked by it, even though Johnny was badly injured.  He simply refuses to deal with it, which ends up being the reason behind Dally's demise.  Dally does not know how to cope with Johnny's death and quickly lashes out.

kiwi eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The death of Johnny highlights Dally's inadequacies, which is a very emotional and raw experience for a young man. He has lived a lifestyle which has always indicated that his life will be tough but short, but he has striven for a better existence for Johnny. He has sought to protect Johnny, and though his own mortality may have been in his mind, that of Johnny was not. Once he has seen someone 'good' die, his own life is futile and him carrying on living is an insult to someone 'pure' like Johnny. Dally has no hope of redemption now; he is no one's protector or advocate. He is a failure to himself. His answer is to let the system take him too.

bmadnick eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Dally can't accept Johnny's death because Johnny is the one thing in the world that Dally cares about. The boys in the gang have no one else to depend upon and who cares about them but each other. Dally has always watched out for Johnny in fights, and when Johnny dies, Dally feels he has nothing left that's good in his life. Dally forces the police to kill him because of this. Johnny admires Dally as a hero, and Dally enjoys this admiration and enjoys having someone to take care of and look out for. When Johnny dies, Dally loses all of this and wants to die himself.

sstehle | Student

The relationship between Johnny and Dally is meant to contrast with the relationship between Ponyboy and Darry. The two sets of characters are foils for one another. Through Johnny and Dally we see how things could have turned out for Ponyboy and Darry if their circumstances and attitudes were slightly skewed. Hinton allows us to see both outcomes through two sets of characters. Johnny's mentor is a good guy who makes bad choices, and Ponyboy's mentor is a good guy who makes good choices.

This light/dark distinction in the younger characters is even shown in their hair color, early in the book when the two younger boys are hiding in the abandoned church. Johnny keeps his hair dark while Ponyboy's hair is bleached blonde to disguise them. In the movie version this distinction is visually very clear. Ponyboy's purity and Johnny's taint of malice or darkness or whatever you may call it each comes through quite well.

Side note: I am always very suspicious of characters with the initials J.C. in novels, especially when they die in those novels and this somehow redeems other characters. Religious allegory, anyone?

hoooooo | Student

Dallry need Johnny becasue Dalley was bad and always got into truoble but Johnny, was the reason why Dalley didn't need to be bad. And since Johhny died, Dalley had nothing good left in his life, he was 100% bad so he did bad like rob the bank, and from that leading was his death and because of the bad that he had caused he ended up dying himself. He had nothing else to live for, so he wanted to die since his main goal in life (protecting Johnny) was not possibe.

b-baby | Student

Dally loved Johnny. He had always had a soft spot for him. Dally always stuck up for Johnny. I guess after Johnny died, he felt as if he had nothing else to live for.

jenjenny11 | Student

 He can't accept johnny's death because johnny was like his little brother who he would always protect .When johnny died he felt as if he needed to go with him .He couldn't take it and prefered to die.Pony decided to think or pretend johnny was still alieve because he couldn't take one of hiz best friends waz gone .


badgurl | Student

because johny was dally's best ferien since he died at 16 dally wanted to die at 18

jonesks | Student

When people learn that a loved one dies, they usually go through several phases. First, they are shocked. Then, they often become angry. Eventually, most people accept the fact that the loved one died and are able to go on with their life. There are people, however, that tend to get stuck in one of the phases. Dally did not want to believe that Johnny was dead. He was angry, because he considered himself Johnny's protector. He had trouble admitting to himself that he was unable to protect Johnny from death. In his grief, Dally wanted to die himself. He staged his own death by putting himself in a situation where he knew the cops would kill him. 

ned34 | Student

Dally is unable to accept the death of Johnny for the fact that Johnny is the only thing that Dally truely cares about.  He sees himself as Johnnys protector.  Although these guys are not blood kin they feel that they are the only family ties one another have.  Throughout the book Dally shows himself as the "strong one" then at the end he shows his weaker side by letting the police shot him.