The Outsiders

Summary and Analysis of Chapter 5

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Summary

Ponyboy wakes up in the abandoned church, and at first thinks he has dreamed everything that has happened. He pretends for a moment that he is back home, and it is a usual weekend morning. When he gives up pretending, he realizes that Johnny is gone, and has left a note in the dust on the floor that he's gone to get supplies.

Ponyboy wanders outside to get a drink from the pump behind the church. He feels overwhelmed, and can't keep track of how much time has passed since the night before. Johnny returns, and Ponyboy is so glad to see him that he trips and falls down the steps. They go inside the church, and Johnny reveals that he's bought food (including a week's supply of baloney) and a copy of Gone with the Wind for Ponyboy, since he remembered that Ponyboy had wanted to read it.

Johnny has bought peroxide, and reveals his plan to cut their hair and bleach Ponyboy's, as a disguise. Ponyboy is horrified, since he is proud of his hair. After it's all done, Ponyboy looks at himself in the mirror and thinks that he looks "younger and scareder," not at all like himself. Then Johnny washes the grease out of his hair, and Ponyboy cuts it off. Ponyboy sulks about losing his hair, but Johnny is optimistic, saying "It's just hair."

The boys talk about the little store that Johnny bought the goods from, and how Two-bit would have stolen everything easily from it because the products were just lying out. Thinking about Two-bit makes them homesick for the gang, though, and when Ponyboy starts talking about the night before, Johnny tells him, "Stop it!" and begins to cry. Ponyboy comforts him, but starts to cry himself. Soon they fall asleep, and when they wake up, they decide they're "all cried out now," and that they can "take whatever was coming now."

Over the next four or five days, Ponyboy and Johnny kill time by playing cards and reading Gone with the Wind. Johnny becomes interested in the idea of gallant southern gentlemen, and says he thinks that Dally is most like them. Ponyboy is shocked, but realizes for the first time "the extent of Johnny's hero-worship for Dally Winston." They stay in the back of the church so they won't be seen by the rare passers-by.

One morning, Ponyboy wakes up early and goes to sit outside and have a smoke. He watches the sunrise, and soon Johnny joins him, commenting on the beauty of the sunrise and saying it's "too bad it couldn't stay like that all the time." That reminds Ponyboy of the poem "Nothing Gold Can Stay" by Robert Frost, and he recites it for Johnny. They are both baffled by the poem, and Ponyboy admits that "I never quite got what he meant by it." Johnny brings up Ponyboy's family, and they decide that the two of them are different from the rest of the gang.

On the fifth day, Ponyboy is sick of eating baloney and also sick from smoking so much, and just as he curls up to fall asleep, he hears a whistle. It is Dally, and Ponyboy sees him as representing "one thing: contact with the outside world." He hands Ponyboy a letter from Sodapop, who suspected that Dally knew where the boys were hiding, and asked him to bring the letter to Ponyboy. It says that Darry feels terrible for the events of the night the boys ran away.

Dally tells them how he was brought into the police station because "I get hauled in for everything that happens in our turf," and how he misled the police into thinking the boys ran off to Texas. He teases Ponyboy for his new haircut and color. Then they get in the car and drive to Dairy Queen, where they "gorged on barbecue sandwiches and banana splits," since they have been starving and are tired of an all-baloney diet.

Dally updates them that the Socs are "having all-out warfare all over the city," since Bob had a lot of friends and now they want revenge on the Greasers. Dally has started carrying a gun, although he says it's not loaded. He also tells them that Cherry Valance is spying for them.

Analysis

Ponyboy continues pretending, in the beginning of this chapter, to deal with the frightening situation in which he finds himself. When he doesn't recognize his surroundings upon waking, he imagines that he is home in bed, and that his brothers have already woken up. In his fantasy, they eat breakfast and then go outside and play football.

Cutting and dying their hair is an important change for the boys, especially for Ponyboy, who has purposefully grown his hair long like Soda's. When Johnny reveals his plan to cut it, Ponyboy narrates, "It was my pride... Our hair labeled us greasers, too - it was our trademark. The one thing we were proud of. Maybe we couldn't have Corvairs or madras shirts, but we could have hair." Cutting it off causes a kind of identity crisis, a Samson-like transformation.

Gone with the Wind is also introduced in this chapter, as an important indicator of the two boys' different outlooks. They are both interested in the idea of the gallant southern gentleman, but have different ideas of who of their gang is the most gallant. Johnny thinks it is Dally, but Ponyboy thinks of Soda, Two-bit, and even Darry as having more "superman qualities."

The poem "Nothing Gold Can Stay" serves as a reflection on the boys' lives, although Ponyboy admits that the meaning eludes him. We as readers can understand the melancholy message that their youth is gold, but is passing; Johnny's life is gold, but will pass by the end of the story.

Tied to the poem "Nothing Gold Can Stay" is the theme of sunsets, which reappears in this chapter as representing the intangible thing that makes Ponyboy, Johnny, and Cherry Valance "different." Johnny confesses that he never noticed "colors and clouds and stuff" until Ponyboy pointed them out to him. The fact that Ponyboy cannot see the sunset from the back of the church represents how disconnected he feels from reality and his own identity. In this sense, sunsets separate, whereas in other parts of the novel they connect; Hinton thereby hints at how we might imbue everyday occurrences and objects with our own hopes, wishes, and emotions. Like that other great expressionist of youthful rebellion, filmmaker Nicholas Ray, Hinton posits a world colored by the dreams of its under-age inhabitants.