Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 765
Ponyboy expects his hearing to take place in a big courtroom, but it does not. It is just a meeting with his brothers, his doctor, Cherry, Randy, their families, and a judge. The Socs speak first, telling the story as they saw it. Ponyboy thinks they get the facts right except that they say Johnny was the one who killed Bob. When the Socs are finished, the judge asks Darry and Soda whether Dallas was a good friend of theirs. Both boys answer yes, although they know that it is risky to claim friendship with a juvenile delinquent like Dallas. Ponyboy is proud of them for standing by their friend.
When it is Ponyboy’s turn to speak, the judge asks nothing about the night Bob was killed. Ponyboy only has to talk about his life, his brothers, and his school. In the end, the judge acquits Ponyboy and sends him back home.
The return to school does not go well for Ponyboy. His concussion has left him confused and forgetful. He does poorly in his classes, especially English, where his teacher tells him he will fail unless he can write a good theme paper for the end of the semester.
At lunch, Ponyboy goes to the gas station with Two-Bit and Steve and the other greasers. Ponyboy is smoking a cigarette and drinking a Pepsi when a car pulls up. Three Socs get out and accuse him of killing their friend Bob. Unafraid, Ponyboy breaks the bottom off of his bottle and threatens the boys with it. He looks so savage that they get in their car and drive away.
Afterward, Two-Bit is upset. He realizes that Ponyboy really would have cut the boys up if they had attacked. “Ponyboy, listen, don’t get tough. You’re not like the rest of us and don’t try to be.” Ponyboy is surprised that Two-Bit is acting so serious, especially about toughness. Being tough is the only way to avoid getting hurt.
Ponyboy tries to work on his paper for English, but he does not know what to write. After dinner, Darry gets angry at Ponyboy for doing so poorly in school, and Ponyboy insists it does not matter anyway. He says he may drop out like Soda did, but Darry refuses to hear of it. Both of them turn to Soda for his opinion, and Soda runs away. Ponyboy and Darry chase Soda down, and Ponyboy tackles him.
When the boys catch their breath, Soda confesses how hard it is for him to listen to Darry and Ponyboy fight. It makes him feel caught in the middle. Darry and Ponyboy are both surprised. Neither of them ever knew it hurt Soda when they argued. Soda begs them to try to understand each other and never to ask him to take sides.
That night, still unable to write his English paper, Ponyboy looks around for a book. He finds Gone with the Wind and picks it up. He is willing to admit now that Johnny is dead and that Johnny was the one who killed Bob. He has realized that he was trying to deny the truth because he wanted to avoid feeling the grief that came with the knowledge.
As Ponyboy is thinking, a note falls out of the book. It is from Johnny, and it explains his final words that Johnny said to Ponyboy: “Stay gold.” Johnny says kids are like gold when they are still young and interested in life and that Ponyboy should try to stay that way. He also says that it was worth dying to save those little kids in the fire and that there is a great deal of good left in the world.
Ponyboy wishes he could share Johnny’s message with Dallas, but Dallas is dead. Ponyboy thinks about all the boys, like Dallas, who die violent deaths because they do not realize there is still good in the world. It occurs to Ponyboy that somebody should tell the greasers’ side of the story to make people understand and respect guys like Dallas.
Excitedly, Ponyboy picks up the phone and calls his English teacher to ask how long his term paper can be. Taken aback, the teacher says it has to be at least five pages but it can be longer. Ponyboy hangs up and sits down, thinking about the friends he has lost and wondering how to start his story. After some reflection, he decides to begin on the day he left the movie theater alone, the day he did not have a ride home.
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