The color-coded boxes under "Analysis & Themes" below (which look like this: ) make it easy to track the themes throughout the work. Each color corresponds to one of the themes explained in the Themes section of this LitChart.
Analysis & Themes
The Curtis brothers prepare for the rumble by putting on nice clothes and slicking their hair. Ponyboy, still feeling ill and out of it, takes five aspirin while no one's looking.
Joined by Steve and Two-Bit, the Curtis brothers head to the rumble. Ponyboy still has a bad feeling about the rumble, and as they walk he thinks about why people fight in general, and in particular why his brothers and friends want to fight in the rumble: "Soda fought for fun, Steve for hatred, Darry for pride, and Two-Bit for conformity." Ponyboy decides that self-defense is actually the only good reason to fight.
The greasers arrive at the vacant lot and find Tim Shepard's gang already there, along with another group from a suburb called Brumly. Ponyboy studies the boys from the other greaser gangs, and realizes that these boys are all "future convicts," and that his own brothers and friends are not. He looks over at Darry, and knows that Darry will work his way out of the street life. Ponyboy vows to do the same. When Tim Shepard congratulates Ponyboy on the killing of Bob, Ponyboy pretends to be proud.
The behavior of the other gang members shows Pony that his own brothers and friends may look like hoods and criminals, but aren't criminals at all. Through Darry, he comes to see that he could have a bright future. Yet at the same time, Pony still isn't strong enough in his convictions to tell Tim that he isn't proud of killing Bob.
22 Socs arrive to fight the 20 greasers already there. As Ponyboy observes the Socs' preppy clothes, he reflects that their clean-cut looks mask some of the Socs' actual meanness, while the greasers' looks mask many of the boys' kindness and sensitivity.
Darry offers to take on any Soc. A Soc steps forward whom Ponyboy recognizes as a boy named Paul Holden, a former friend of Darry's on the high school football team, who had gone on to college while Darry had been forced to work.
Just as the rumble begins, Dally runs in to join the fight. He used Two-Bit's switchblade to force his way out of the hospital.
The fight is brutal. Ponyboy suffers numerous injuries, and is about to pass out when he hears a voice yelling that the Socs have fled. Despite their bruises, cuts, and broken bones, the greasers rejoice over their win.
Dally grabs Ponyboy and insists that they rush to the hospital to tell the news to Johnny, whose condition is now critical. Dally drives Buck Merril's car so fast that a policeman stops him. He makes up a lie that Ponyboy fell off of his motorcycle, and the officer, seeing Ponyboy's injured state, believes his story and escorts them to the hospital.
As he drives, Dally says that if Ponyboy and Johnny just got tough like him, nothing could hurt them anymore. They would not have rushed into that fire, for example.
At the hospital, the boys run to Johnny's room. A doctor tells them that Johnny is dying, and Dally threatens him with Two-Bit's switchblade, fearing that the doctor won't let them in. The doctor replies that he'll let them see Johnny because they're his friends, not because of the knife.
Dally excitedly tells Johnny the news about the rumble, but Johnny replies, "Useless fighting's no good." Dally then tells Johnny how proud everyone is of his actions at the fire, and Johnny's eyes glow. Johnny musters the strength to say one last thing, to Ponyboy: "Stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold." He dies. Dally, grief-stricken, runs from the hospital.
More help on this section...
• See quotes from Chapter 9