What does it mean to "stay gold"?
The allusion to Robert Frost’s poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay” is a significant moment in the story. Originally, Ponyboy is confused by the meaning of the poem. After Johnny’s death, though, he begins to realize that “staying gold” is indicative of a complex moral struggle. Things in life start out “gold”—beautiful, innocent, and pure—but change is certain. For instance, the poem refers to sunrise/dawn, early leaves in autumn, and the Garden of Eden. The analogy works for Ponyboy, who grows up significantly throughout the events of the novel. He begins as an innocent boy who goes through difficult and heartbreaking times. Johnny, who dies a hero, can “stay gold.” However, Ponyboy must realize that despite everything, he must stay believing in goodness and beauty (such as the symbolic sunset). Although gold is the “hardest hue to hold,” it is not impossible. Johnny’s final note to Ponyboy causes this important realization, one that he had been struggling with throughout the novel.