In S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders, why is Ponyboy nervous at the church?

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kipling2448's profile pic

kipling2448 | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In S.E. Hinton’s novel The Outsiders, Ponyboy and Johnny are forced to flee after Johnny has killed a Soc.  In Chapter Four, Dallas, who is experienced at interacting with the criminal justice system and is hardened to the life the Greasers, instructs the two younger boys to hide out in “an old abandoned church on top of Jay Mountain.”  The boys head for that destination, where they hope to remain safe while the police investigate the killing. 

“I'd been in church before. I used to go all the time, even after Mom and Dad were gone. Then one Sunday I talked Soda into coming with Johnny and me. He didn't want to come unless Steve did, and Two-Bit decided he might as well come too. . .well, Soda can't sit still long enough to enjoy a movie, much less a sermon. It wasn't long before he and Steve and Two-Bit were throwing paper wads at each other and clowning around, and finally Steve dropped a hymn book with a bang--- accidentally, of course. Everyone in the place turned around to look at us, and Johnny and I nearly crawled under the pews. And then Two-Bit waved at them. I hadn't been to church since.

“But this church gave me a kind of creepy feeling. What do you call it?

“Premonition?”

That the church where Johnny and Ponyboy find refuge will, in Chapter Six, be the same building that the boys discover is on fire, setting in motion the chain of events that includes their heroic rescue of children and that leads to Johnny’s death, serves to legitimize Ponyboy’s “premonition.”  Johnny is badly burnt in the fire and will succumb to his injuries.  Ponyboy is nervous at the church because his last visit to one resulted in his embarrassment, courtesy of his brother’s and is brother’s friends conduct, and because he had a premonition that something bad was going to happen.

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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When Ponyboy returns home late and his brother Darryl is upset with him, Ponyboy runs back out of the house and meets up with Johnny. Unfortunately, the Socs return in a Mustang and a fight ensues in which Johnny knifes Bob, one of the Socs, and kills him. Johnny takes Ponyboy with him to Dally Winston, who advises them of an old church where they can hide. 

"Hop the three-fifteen freight to Windrixville," Dally instructed. "There's an old abandoned church on top of Jay Mountain. There's a pump in back so don't worry about water. Buy a week's supply of food as soon as you get there--- this morning, before the story gets out, and then don't so much as stick your noses out the door. I'll be up there as soon as I think it's clear. Man, I thought New York was the only place I could get mixed up in a murder rap."

After the boys descend from the train, they get directions and reach the old church on a hill. Exhausted, Pony flops down onto the stone floor. When he awakes in the morning he hears the whistle of Johnny, who has procured some food and supplies for them. Johnny tells Pony they must cut their hair and dye Pony's blond, but his complexion is too dark for him to pretend to be a blond. Afterwards, Ponyboy describes Johnny leaning

...back beside me, and I could feel him trembling. "Good ol' Two-Bit," he said in a quavering voice. He must have been as homesick as I was.

They are both homesick and nervous about being caught by the police for the murder of Bob because they observe boys riding their horses past the church; in addition, they are nervous about being discovered in the church as they wait for Dally to show up and help them in their situation.

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