'The Outsiders' Quotes

The most important quotes in The Outsiders pertain to friendship, social divides, and the characters’ need to overcome them. 

Quotes About Overcoming Social Impostions

“Stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold...” (Chapter 9)

These are the words that Johnny says to Ponyboy in his dying moments in Chapter 9. He is about to die following the injuries he suffered when he was trying to save children from the church in Windrixville that had caught fire, when the roof collapsed on him. By saying “Stay Gold,” he is referencing the poem Nothing Gold Can Stay by Robert Frost, which Ponyboy had recited to him when they were hiding together in Windrixville. The meaning of that poem is that all good things are fleeting, which applies both to nature and to personal lives. It also serves as a metaphor of youthful innocence, which everyone is destined to outgrow, including Ponyboy. With his final words, Johnny urges him not to get too hardened by the harsh reality of life, especially because Ponyboy has many qualities that differentiate him from his fellow greasers. 

"Darry doesn't love anyone or anything, except maybe Soda. I didn't hardly think of him as being human." (Chapter 1)

This is the way Ponyboy feels towards his eldest brother, Darry, at the beginning of the novel. Since their parents had died in a car crash before the events of the novel took place, Darry now has legal guardianship over both Ponyboy and his older brother Sodapop, and he can avoid their being taken to a foster home provided they all stay out of trouble.

While Sodapop deemed himself too stupid to continue studying and is content with working at a gas station, Ponyboy has enough potential to be put through college with a scholarship, and this is why Darry is very stern with him, often accusing him of having his head in the clouds. At first, Ponyboy believes that Darry doesn't love him, but when he sees his eldest brother cry at the hospital, he understands that he acts that way only because he is pushing him to be his best self, and actually defends his capabilities as a legal guardian when talking to Randy. At the end of the novel, they even stop bickering for the sake of the middle brother, Sodapop, who can no longer endure their fights.

Quotes About Social Norms and Status

“A Soc, even, worried because some kid greaser was on his way to a foster home or something. That was really funny. I don't mean funny. You know what I mean.” (Chapter 11)

This is a consideration that Ponyboy makes in Chapter 11 after Randy comes to visit him before the hearing. In the hearing concerning Bob’s murder, Ponyboy risks getting sent away if the judge deems his household unfit for him, and Ponyboy is worried about that. Despite his conflict with Darry, he knows that his eldest brother is a good guardian: he makes him study and knows where he is all the time, and generally keeps him out of trouble, even when that means being overly strict. Randy, on his part, encourages Ponyboy to tell the truth—that it was Johnny, and not him, who killed Bob—, but Ponyboy has a post-traumatic reaction to that. Randy’s reaction, which indicates concern, surprises Ponyboy, because he did not expect a Soc to care about the fate of a greaser boy. However, Randy acted in character, as he was the Soc who said he wouldn’t take part in the final rumble as nothing ever gets resolved from these brawls.

“I'll bet you think the Socs have it made. The rich kids, the West-side Socs. I'll tell you something, Ponyboy, and it may come as a surprise. We have troubles you've never even heard of. You want to know something?" She looked me straight in the eye. "Things are rough all over.” (Chapter 2)

With these words, Sherri “Cherry” Valance discusses her social group with Ponyboy Curtis after they bond at the drive-in movie theater in Chapter 2. Ponyboy had just told her about Johnny being attacked by a Mustang full of Socs and being brutally beaten, to the point that he always carries a switchblade with him. She is horrified at Ponyboy’s story—“white as a sheet” is how he describes her—and wants to make it clear that not all Socs are like that. The way she put it to Ponyboy, who was skeptical at Sherry’s defense of her social group, is “That's like saying all you greasers are like Dallas Winston. I'll bet he's jumped a few people.” Cherry and Ponyboy develop a friendship that seems to bridge the divide between Socs and Greasers, but she is still mindful of the social norms that she has to adhere to. “Ponyboy... I mean... if I see you in the hall at school or someplace and don't say hi, well, it's not personal or anything, but…,” which Ponyboy quietly acknowledges. 

Greasers will still be greasers and Socs will still be Socs. Sometimes I think it’s the ones in the middle that are really the lucky stiffs. (Chapter 7)

These words are spoken by Randy, Marcia’s boyfriend, who happens to be an “enlightened” Soc. He acts as the voice of reason in the novel, displaying nuance of thought and understanding of individuals beyond the Socs/greasers divide.

Ponyboy and Johnny’s heroic act at the church prompted him to question all his beliefs. “I don't know. I don't know anything anymore. I would never have believed a greaser could pull something like that,” he tells Ponyboy prior to opting out of the final rumble. He expresses weariness at the toxic dynamics between Socs and Greasers, and blames his best friend Bob’s terrible personality on his parents, who were way too permissive with their son. Randy thinks that engaging in rumbles is pointless, because, regardless of the outcome of any fight, the status quo is preserved. He decides to confide in Ponyboy because, just like he is a Soc who sees beyond appearance, Ponyboy is not the average Greaser hoodlum, but a person who has, potentially, a deeper understanding of interpersonal relationships.

Quotes About Friendship

We couldn’t get along without him. We needed Johnny as much as he needed the gang. And for the same reason. (Chapter 8)

Ponyboy has this thought as he sits by Johnny’s deathbed in chapter 8. He was injured in the church fire alongside Dally and Johnny, but while him and Dally only sustained minor injuries, Johnny had it much worse: his back was broken after a piece of timber fell on him during the fire, and he had sustained third-degree burns.

Johnny is who keeps the gang together: he relies on the gang to protect him, as he is quiet, fragile—which makes him an easy target— and does not have support from his family. On the other hand, Greasers band together in order to protect Johnny, as their efforts in protecting him give them a sense of purpose, somehow justifying their sometimes less-than-commendable actions.