What did Johnny mean when he told Ponyboy to "stay gold" in The Outsiders?

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Johnny's advice to Ponyboy to "stay gold" in The Outsiders is a plea to maintain his innocence, youth, and dream-chasing spirit. Deriving from Robert Frost's poem "Nothing Gold Can Stay", it underscores Johnny's desire for Ponyboy to avoid gang involvement and not to let his life be marred by hardship and violence, unlike his own tragic fate.

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He means for Ponyboy to hold on to his innocence and youth as long as he can. The source of quote is a poem by Robert Frost, "Nothing Gold Can Stay."

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In the novel The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton, Johnny tells Ponyboy to "stay gold," which means to stay out of trouble and follow his dream. The "stay gold" is a reference to the poem Johnny read to Ponyboy earlier in the novel which is a poem by Robert Frost called "Nothing Gold Can Stay". Johnny knows that Ponyboy doesn't really belong in a gang, and that he could follow his dreams as the others cannot. Johnny does not want Ponyboy to end up like him, a hero who saved children but dies from the injuries he sustained while doing so. He wants Ponyboy to be the golden boy of the group and succeed at following his dreams.

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What does it mean when Johnny tells Ponyboy "be gold" in The Outsiders?

Johnny says these words to Ponyboy as he lies in a hospital bed, dying from his burns. His remarks are significant as they show that Johnny has achieved some wisdom in his last few moments on earth. At long last, he now realizes the futility of fighting, of the importance of "staying gold," staying young and innocent for as long as possible. That's what he means by the reference to the Frost poem that Ponyboy used to read to Johnny when they were hiding out in the church. It's too late for Johnny, but there's still hope for Ponyboy. Johnny's sure that Ponyboy can still hang on to his "gold," that residue of youthful innocence that elevates him far above the common run of gang members.

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What does it mean when Johnny tells Ponyboy "be gold" in The Outsiders?

I assume you are referring to The Outsiders.  In The Outsiders, there is reference to the following poem:

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leafs a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

This poem is called "Nothing Gold Can Stay" by Robert Frost.  The meaning of the poem is that everything starts out young and innocent, but it cannot stay.  Good is "the hardest hue to hold" because there are so many influences just from living life that can corrupt us.  When Johnny tells Ponyboy to "stay gold" he means that he wants him to stay good, and not be corrupted by the negative forces in the world.

The Outsiders is a coming of age story.  Although Ponyboy is a good person, he gets caught up in gang life and ends up going on the run after a boy dies.  Throughout the story, Ponyboy keeps his good heart and does manage to stay gold.

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Why does Johnny give Ponyboy the advice of staying gold in The Outsiders?

Johnny told Ponyboy to stay gold to remind him that he did not need to stay in the gang life.

Although Pony describes the greasers as protecting each other like family and assures the reader that the kids in his town divide their affiliation by socioeconomic status, the greasers are still a gang.  The often get into trouble, with the law or with the other gang, the Socs.

Pony tells us that greasers are poorer than Socs, and also “wilder.”

Not like the Socs, who jump greasers and wreck houses and throw beer blasts for kicks … Greasers are almost like hoods; we steal things and drive old souped-up cars and hold up gas stations and have a gang fight once in a while. (Ch. 1)

Although he says he does not do those things, they are part of the life of a greaser.  Pony is expected to participate in these activities eventually, especially fighting.  He says that greasers can’t walk alone for fear they will be jumped by Socs.  

Pony is different from the other Socs.  He does well in school and likes to read.  He is just a deep thinker overall.  Johnny is aware of this.  When he and Pony spend time on the run after Johnny accidentally kills a Soc, Johnny brings Pony a book and the two spend their time discussing the novel and poetry.

While on the run, in addition to reading Gone with the Wind, they discuss the Robert Frost poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay.”  The poem is about young things in nature not lasting, but it also has a metaphorical quality for Pony.  It means that as you get older, you get more corrupt.  In the hospital, Johnny tells Pony to stay gold.

"We told him about beatin' the Socs and... I don't know, he just died." He told me to stay gold, I remembered.  What was he talking about? (Ch. 10)

Johnny means that Pony has the potential to get out of the gang life. He can get an education, leave town, and become a responsible and contributing member of society.  With Johnny’s last words, he reminds Pony that the gang life is dangerous and while not all greasers have a choice, he does.

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What do you think Johnny means when he tells Ponyboy to "stay gold"?

Johnny Cade utters this last phrase, likely one of the most famous lines in all of The Outsiders, to Ponyboy as he lies dying. The quote is a reference to the line "Nothing gold can stay" from the Robert Frost poem that Ponyboy recited to Johnny when the two were hiding at the church. This notion is applied to the concept of youthful innocence throughout the novel, and Johnny is begging Ponyboy not to grow bitter and cynical and to retain his childlike sense of wonder about the world.

The quote is also a reference to the time at the church, where the two could temporarily forget about the hardships of their lives outside that particular interlude. It was a part of their lives that made their friendship into a brotherhood. That was the "gold" that couldn't stay. Johnny is asking Ponyboy to be an exception to the rule, by being something gold that stays.

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What do you think Johnny means when he tells Ponyboy to "stay gold"?

After the rumble, Dallas and Ponyboy go to the hospital to see Johnny. When they arrive, Johnny is still and quiet. During their visit, Johnny tells Ponyboy to "Stay gold." This comment is in reference to an earlier event in the story. In chapter 5, Johnny and Ponyboy observe a beautiful sunrise. Johnny comments on the mist, "All gold and silver." Ponyboy then quotes a line from a Robert Frost poem in his reply to Johnny by stating that "Nothing gold can stay." He remembers the line but is unsure of the poet's intent.

After Johnny's death, Pony finds a letter inside the copy of Gone With the Wind that Johnny had in the hospital. By reading the letter, Pony understands why Johnny told him to "Stay gold." Johnny explains that being gold is like being a kid, when "everything's new." He compares Pony's love of sunsets to being gold and instructs Pony to have Dallas look at a sunset. Johnny's words help Pony understand that Johnny wants him to see life through a youthful and positive perspective.

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What does the metaphor in Johnny's letter mean when he asks Pony to stay gold?

What Johnny is saying to Pony is that he does not want him to change.  He does not want Pony to become hardened and bitter.  He thinks that Pony has the potential to become something and he does not want him to end up like, for example, Dallas Winston.

In the poem, Frost says that things that are beautiful (like gold) cannot stay that way.  He says that the first leaves that come out are the most beautiful, but they too cannot stay that way.  Johnny is trying to encourage Pony to resist that trend and to stay beautiful (inwardly) and good.

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