BY S.E HINTON
Ponyboy Curtis and his brothers, Soda and Darry, belong to a gang of lower-class youth called the Greasers in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1965. They often fight with the Socs, a group of wealthy, privileged boys. Ponyboy is a shy, quiet 14-year-old boy who gets good grades and likes to draw and read. Sodapop, the middle brother, is handsome and gets along well with the otherGreasers. Darry, the oldest brother, has been caring for his brothers since their parents died in a car crash. He is very serious, works most of the time, and often yells at Ponyboy. Darry is athletic and was a good student, but he had to give up his education to care for his brothers so that they wouldn't have to separate and go to an orphanage. Dallas (Dally) Winston is the roughest of theGreasers, having lived on the streets of New York City for three years. He seems to enjoy being a criminal and thinks that the law is a big joke. Two other Greasers are Two-Bit Mathews, who has a prodigious sense of humor, and Steve Randle, Sodapop's best friend. Finally, Johnny, the pet of the Greasers and 16 years old, is Ponyboy's closest friend and lives with his alcoholic and abusive mother andfather. Johnny was jumped and beat up by a Soc wearing heavy rings. Ever since then, Johnny has been paranoid about the Socs and always carries a switchblade.
As the novel opens, Ponyboy is leaving a movie theater when he is jumped by a group of Socs. He is saved from the attack by his friends and brothers, Darry and Sodapop. That night, Dallas, Johnny, and Ponyboy meet two Soc girls, Sherri(Cherry) Valance and Marcia . Ponyboy realizes that Cherry is nothing like the Socs he has met before. She tells Ponyboy that "things are rough all over", indicating that the rich kids have problems of their own. On the way home, Cherry and Marcia's boyfriends, Bob Sheldon and Randy Adderson, see them with Johnny, Two-Bit, and Ponyboy outside the movie and think the boys are trying to "pick them up".The boys also realize that Bob is the boy with rings who once beat up Johnny. Cherry and Marcia prevent a fight by leaving with Bob and Randy willingly. When Ponyboy comes home, Darry gets really angry and hits him. Ponyboy storms out of the house and meets up with Johnny. As they wander around the neighborhood, Bob, Randy, and three other drunk Socs confront them in a vacant lot. They chase andcatch both of them. Ponyboy is nearly drowned in a fountain by David, another Soc, so a terrified Johnny stabs Bob, accidentally killing him and scaring away the other Socs. The two boys run to find Dally, who gives them some money and a loaded gun and tells them to hide in an abandoned church a short distance out of town. They stay there for a few days, during which time Ponyboy reads Gone with theWind to Johnny and recites the poem "Nothing Gold Can Stay" by Robert Frost.
When Dally comes to find them, he reveals that Cherry has become a spy for the Greasers and that the fights between the two rival groups have exploded in intensity since Bob's death. Johnny decides that he wants to turn himself in, as it isn't fair to Ponyboy to have to hide out while his brothers are worried about him.As they leave for home, they notice the church has caught on fire and that several small children are trapped inside. Johnny and Ponyboy rush to rescue them, but a large piece of burning wood falls on Johnny and breaks his back. Dally rescues Johnny from the burning church, burning his own arm along the way. Ponyboy spends a short time in the hospital. When his brothers arrive to see him, Darrybreaks down and cries. Ponyboy then realizes that Darry cares about him, and is only hard on Ponyboy because he wants him to have a good future.
As Ponyboy is recovering at home, Two-Bit shows up and informs him that Johnny and Ponyboy have been declared heroes for rescuing the kids, but that Johnny will be charged with manslaughter for Bob's death. Also, the Greasers and Socs have agreed to...