His words speak to an important idea in the novel—the futility of the recurring Soc-greaser violence.
The idea Randy presents here has another side to it, however.
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In a sense, Ponyboy’s and Johnny’s comments about Dally reveal that Ponyboy is even more vulnerable than Johnny.
Randy delivers these lines in Chapter 7 when he tells Ponyboy that he will not be fighting in the rumble.
Here, Johnny urges Ponyboy to remain gold, or innocent.
Johnny now senses the uselessness of fighting; he knows that Ponyboy is better than the average hoodlum, and he wants Ponyboy to hold onto the golden qualities that set him apart from his companions.
It seems obvious that Johnny needs the greasers—he is small, passive, and poor, which makes him an easy target of Soc violence. The greasers need a vulnerable friend to give them a sense of purpose.
Telling themselves that they exist to protect people like Johnny lets them avoid thinking about the fact that their poverty and vulnerability leave them no choice but to band together.Ponyboy comes to this conclusion at the end of the novel, as Johnny is dying.He understands Johnny’s value only when he is about to lose Johnny, which amplifies the pain of the loss.One line in the poem reads, “Nothing gold can stay,” meaning that all good things must come to an end.By the end of the novel, the boys apply this idea to youthful innocence, believing that they cannot remain forever unsullied by the harsh realities of life.I saw—with shut eyes, but acute mental vision—I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. The monster conceives of himself as a tragic figure, comparing himself to both Adam and Satan.