The Outsiders

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Johnny Cade Character Analysis

The second youngest of the greasers. Johnny is 16, a close friend to Ponyboy, and beloved by the entire gang. He comes from an abusive and neglectful home, and he spends as little time there as possible. The greasers are his true family, and they regard him as a little brother. Johnny's courageous acts and words, as well as his premature death, inspire Ponyboy to write about his experiences and to pursue a better path in his life.

Johnny Cade Quotes in The Outsiders

The The Outsiders quotes below are all either spoken by Johnny Cade or refer to Johnny Cade. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Divided Communities Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Speak edition of The Outsiders published in 2006.
Chapter 2 Quotes
Johnny never walked by himself after that. And Johnny...now carried in his back pocket a six-inch switchblade. He'd use it, too, if he ever got jumped again.
Related Characters: Ponyboy Curtis (speaker), Johnny Cade
Related Symbols: The Blue Mustang
Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:

Before this scene, Ponyboy, Dally, and Johnny are introduced to Cherry and her friend Marcia at a local drive in. Ponyboy takes Cherry to get concessions and she asks him why Johnny is so quiet and skittish. Ponyboy explains that a few months back, Johnny was jumped by four Socs. They snuck up on him in a blue Mustang. One, who we will later learn is Bob, was wearing rings on his fingers, and left a long scar across Johnny's face. Since that moment, the sweet, nonviolent Johnny never goes anywhere alone and carries a switchblade for protection. 

Here, Hinton highlights how dangerous the divide between the Greasers and the Socs truly is. This moment is also another instance of juxtaposing innocence and violence. Johnny and Ponyboy are young, introspective, and non-violent youths living in a world where they are forced to face and react with violence. 

The blade and the Blue Mustang become important symbols of the divided communities of the Socs and Greasers. For Johnny, there's no turning back, and if given the opportunity to use the blade on a Soc and kill him, he would. 

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Chapter 5 Quotes
Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
Related Characters: Ponyboy Curtis, Johnny Cade
Related Symbols: Sunsets and Sunrises
Page Number: 77
Explanation and Analysis:

Johnny and Ponyboy are hiding out in an abandoned church. They are now fugitives. Several days have passed, and the boys are avoiding being outside during the day. One morning Ponyboy wakes up at dawn and watches the sunrise. Johnny awakes and sits with him, both admiring the natural beauty of the sun. Yet Johnny also laments the sunrise, wishing the sun would always stay red and low as it is in dawn. This reminds Ponyboy of the Robert Frost poem Nothing Gold Can Stay. He then recites the poem to Johnny. Johnny asks him what it means, but Ponyboy can't seem to explain it. He supposes that the beauty of the poem is that he doesn't know the meaning. 

Here, Ponyboy reveals another part of his sensitivity to Johnny. Not only is he the introspective dreamer, but he also recites poetry and finds deep meaning in parts of life like the sunrise. The poem itself also represents the fleeting nature of youth and innocence. Staying "gold" is remaining in that beautiful, sparkling place in life where nothing can harm you. Staring at the sunrise with Johnny, Ponyboy is having a "gold" moment himself during a time of tumult and tragedy. But of course it cannot last.

Chapter 6 Quotes
"Johnny," Dally said in a pleading, high voice, using a tone I had never heard from him before, "Johnny, I ain't mad at you. I just don't want you to get hurt. You don't know what a few months in jail can do to you. Oh, blast it, Johnny...you get hardened in jail. I don't want that to happen to you. Like it happened to me..."
Related Characters: Dallas Winston (speaker), Johnny Cade
Page Number: 89
Explanation and Analysis:

After five days of solitude, Dally arrives to the church where Ponyboy and Johnny are hiding out. Dally tells the boys that a massive war has broken out between the Socs and Greasers and that Cherry is acting as a spy, keeping the Greasers safe. Johnny feels guilty for putting Ponyboy in this situation, and tells Dally that he wants to turn himself in. Dally is frustrated that Johnny just didn't turn himself in five days ago when the incident happened. In this quote, Dally apologizes for being frustrated with Johnny. His anger is rooted in the fear that jail time will forever change the sensitive and sweet Johnny. 

This is the first time we see sensitivity from the tough Dally. He wants to make sure Johnny doesn't end up like him—he wants to protect Johnny's innocence as any parent or older brother would, but particularly one who has experienced the harsh loss of his own innocence. Similar to Darry's self-sacrifice for Ponyboy, Dally shows the same deep emotional tie to and protectiveness of Johnny. 

Chapter 7 Quotes
I stared at the newspaper. On the front page of the second section was the headline: JUVENILE DELINQUENTS TURN HEROES.
"What I like is the 'turn' bit," Two-Bit said. ... "Y'all were heroes from the beginning. You just didn't 'turn' all of a sudden."
Related Characters: Ponyboy Curtis (speaker), Johnny Cade, Two-Bit Mathews
Page Number: 107
Explanation and Analysis:

The morning after Ponyboy returns from the hospital, Two-Bit and Steve visit. Two-Bit shows Ponyboy the article that has been written up about him in the local newspaper. He laments the headline JUVENILE DELINQUENTS TURN HEROES, saying that the newspaper was wrong about them "turning" into heroes. They were always heroes.

The headline of the article signifies the way Greasers are perceived by their own community, signifying another divide—this one between young gang members and the community at large. The Greasers (and probably Socs as well) are written off as criminals from the start, and not judged as normal young people. It is only in an instance of deep self-sacrifice and self-endangerment that Ponyboy and Johnny are considered "heroes." The article also outlines the entire story up until this point: the murder, the turf wars, an interview from Cherry and Ponyboy and Johnny's life story. The article ends with a suggestion that Ponyboy may be sent to juvenile court for running away. In this case, he may be put into a boys' home and taken away from Sodapop and Darry. 

Chapter 9 Quotes
"We won," Dally panted. "We beat the Socs. We stomped them—chased them outa our territory."
Johnny didn't even try to grin at him. "Useless...fighting's no good..."
Related Characters: Johnny Cade (speaker), Dallas Winston (speaker)
Page Number: 148
Explanation and Analysis:
After the Greasers win the rumble, Dally takes Ponyboy to the hospital to see Johnny. When they arrive, the Doctor informs them that Johnny is dying. They go into Johnny's room and tell him that they've won the rumble. Johnny isn't impressed by this. He knows that fighting won't change anything. They will never "win" against the Socs. They will always be seen as the dirty low-lifes of the community, and there is very little that can change that. As he approaches the end of his life, Johnny also begins to realize what is truly important. It isn't gang wars or violence, but rather preserving one's identity, sense of self, and close community of friends and family. 
"Stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold..." The pillow seemed to sink a little, and Johnny died.
Related Characters: Johnny Cade (speaker), Ponyboy Curtis
Page Number: 149
Explanation and Analysis:

The moment before Johnny dies, he pulls Ponyboy close to him and tells him (in the book's most famous quote) to "stay gold." He is referring to the Robert Frost poem Ponyboy recited to him during their time hiding out in the church. These immortal last words are used to urge Ponyboy to maintain his idealism and heart—to try to resist the entropy Frost's poem suggests and somehow maintain his innocence. Johnny knows it's too late for himself—he has lost his "gold"—but it's not too late for Ponyboy, and so he asks Ponyboy to preserve his own childhood. Johnny has realized what is important in life during the last moments of his own. 

Chapter 10 Quotes
And even as the policemen's guns spit fire into the night I knew that was what Dally wanted...Dally Winston wanted to be dead and he always got what he wanted...Two friends of mine had died that night: one a hero, the other a hoodlum. But I remembered Dally pulling Johnny through the window of the burning church; Dally giving us his gun, although it could mean jail for him; Dally risking his life for us, trying to keep Johnny out of trouble. And now he was a dead juvenile delinquent and there wouldn't be any editorials in his favor. Dally didn't die a hero. He died violent and young and desperate, just like we all knew he'd die someday...But Johnny was right. He died gallant.
Related Characters: Ponyboy Curtis (speaker), Johnny Cade, Dallas Winston
Page Number: 154
Explanation and Analysis:

After returning with the news of Johnny's death, Ponyboy and his brothers set out to find Dally, who has run off. They meet Dally at a parking lot. He has just robbed a bank and the police are on his tail. He carries an unloaded gun and as the police get closer, he brandishes the gun and is shot by the police. Here, Ponyboy reflects on the look of satisfaction on Dally's face as he is shot down. He has always wanted to die, and now that Johnny is gone he has a reason to. 

Ponyboy then reflects on Dally's death. He will never be written up as a hero, but he died the way he wanted to, with a sense of bravery and for him, dignity. It was the last shred of honor he had. We also learn just how much Dally valued Johnny's life. Keeping him safe and out of trouble was the reason why Dally kept going. He failed at preserving Johnny's "gold"- his innocence. Without Johnny, Dally is simply a delinquent and has nothing to live for, except for the grandeur of his own death. In many ways, Dally has spent his life sacrificing himself for Johnny, and this moment is his grand finale. 

Chapter 12 Quotes
I've been thinking about it, and that poem, that guy that wrote it, he meant you're gold when you're a kid, like green. When you're a kid everything's new, dawn. It's just when you get used to everything that it's day. Like the way you dig sunsets, Pony. That's gold. Keep that way, it's a good way to be...And don't be so bugged over being a greaser. You still have a lot of time to make yourself what you want. There's still lots of good in the world. Tell Dally. I don't think he knows. Your buddy, Johnny.
Related Characters: Johnny Cade (speaker), Ponyboy Curtis, Dallas Winston
Related Symbols: Sunsets and Sunrises
Page Number: 178-179
Explanation and Analysis:

Before he died, Johnny made sure that Ponyboy received his copy of Gone With The Wind. During this moment, Ponyboy opens the book and sees a note that Johnny has written to him. Close to his death, Johnny realized the meaning of the Robert Frost poem Ponyboy recited in their hideout at the church. To stay gold is to stay young, to preserve one’s innocence and always see the world as new, like the dawn. This is why Johnny tells him to stay gold before his death. It is another moment where someone is urging Ponyboy to preserve his innocence, because it’s too late for everyone else. He is special, and his entire community of Greasers knows it. This moment gives Ponyboy a sense of universal empathy. He thinks about the other boys living on the “wrong” side of town, without opportunity. Ponyboy is inspired, and he realizes that someone should do something about this. He then begins to write.

One week had taken all three of them. And I decided I could tell people, beginning with my English teacher. I wondered for a long time how to start that theme, how to start writing about something that was important to me. And I finally began like this: When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home...
Related Characters: Ponyboy Curtis (speaker), Johnny Cade, Dallas Winston, Bob Sheldon
Page Number: 180
Explanation and Analysis:

Johnny’s letter to Ponyboy has made Ponyboy realize that his problems, his poverty, and his struggles aren’t exclusive to him. There are other kids out there, living the same life. He decides to write about this for his English assignment—taking a risk and writing the truth. Ponyboy realizes in this moment that in order to make change happen, to give opportunities to boys like himself, he has to share his own story. He has now come full circle, just as the book itself has. He realizes that the empathy and innocence he has always struggled with can be used to do good, and that the pen is mightier than the sword (or switch blade). The book itself also comes full circle when we learn that the first line of his essay is the first line of The Outsiders. Ponyboy’s essay has become the book in our hands. His story is heard, and his voice is shared.  

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Johnny Cade Character Timeline in The Outsiders

The timeline below shows where the character Johnny Cade appears in The Outsiders. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Divided Communities Theme Icon
Individual Identity Theme Icon
...Corvair following him. He suspects it's a group of Socs, and thinks of his friend Johnny, who was recently badly beaten by the Socs. The car pulls up next to Ponyboy.... (full context)
Preserving Childhood Innocence Theme Icon
Individual Identity Theme Icon
...Dallas Winston radiates danger and toughness, and was first arrested at the age of ten. Johnny Cade is younger than the others, has a violent home life, and is treated with... (full context)
Divided Communities Theme Icon
Empathy Theme Icon
Dally invites everyone to the double feature at the drive-in the next night. Ponyboy and Johnny agree to go. Dally reveals that he has broken up with his girlfriend, and Ponyboy... (full context)
Chapter 2
Divided Communities Theme Icon
The next night, Johnny and Ponyboy meet Dally and head to the drive-in. On the way, they make a... (full context)
Divided Communities Theme Icon
Preserving Childhood Innocence Theme Icon
Individual Identity Theme Icon
When Johnny returns, Cherry smiles at him. But when Dally soon returns and offers Cherry a Coke,... (full context)
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Empathy Theme Icon
The Soc girls continue talking with Ponyboy and Johnny. Johnny eventually asks Cherry why she isn't afraid of them the way she is of... (full context)
Divided Communities Theme Icon
Preserving Childhood Innocence Theme Icon
Self-Sacrifice and Honor Theme Icon
Suddenly, Two-Bit comes up behind the boys and shouts, "Okay, greasers, you've had it." Johnny and Ponyboy jump, thinking that they're being confronted by a Soc. Johnny is particularly shaken.... (full context)
Divided Communities Theme Icon
Preserving Childhood Innocence Theme Icon
Ponyboy tells Cherry that the Socs attacked Johnny four months earlier: the greasers found Johnny lying motionless in the park. The severity of... (full context)
Divided Communities Theme Icon
Empathy Theme Icon
Individual Identity Theme Icon
...shocks Cherry. She assures Ponyboy that all Socs are not like the ones who jumped Johnny. Ponyboy is doubtful. Cherry persists by reasoning, for instance, that not all greasers are not... (full context)
Chapter 3
Divided Communities Theme Icon
...then, Marcia notices a blue Mustang coming down the street, and everyone becomes nervous, especially Johnny. The car passes slowly and keeps going. (full context)
Divided Communities Theme Icon
Empathy Theme Icon
Preserving Childhood Innocence Theme Icon
Individual Identity Theme Icon
...them is Cherry's boyfriend, Bob, who pleads with the girls to forgive them for drinking. Johnny seems spooked, and Ponyboy realizes that Bob was the one who attacked Johnny. Insults fly... (full context)
Divided Communities Theme Icon
Preserving Childhood Innocence Theme Icon
After the Mustang drives off, Two-Bit leaves Johnny and Ponyboy in the vacant lot where the greasers hang out. As they smoke and... (full context)
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Empathy Theme Icon
Preserving Childhood Innocence Theme Icon
Ponyboy returns to the greaser lot, where he finds Johnny, tells him what happened, and adds that he has decided to run away. Johnny agrees... (full context)
Chapter 4
Divided Communities Theme Icon
Preserving Childhood Innocence Theme Icon
The park is deserted. As Johnny and Ponyboy walk and talk, the blue Mustang suddenly appears. Bob, his friend Randy, and... (full context)
Divided Communities Theme Icon
Preserving Childhood Innocence Theme Icon
...When he comes to, the Socs are gone and he's on the pavement next to Johnny and Bob's dead body. Johnny says, "I killed him." Johnny's switchblade is covered in blood. (full context)
Divided Communities Theme Icon
Preserving Childhood Innocence Theme Icon
Self-Sacrifice and Honor Theme Icon
Ponyboy panics, but Johnny is calm. He decides that they should go to Dally for help. They find Dally... (full context)
Divided Communities Theme Icon
Preserving Childhood Innocence Theme Icon
Individual Identity Theme Icon
Hidden in a boxcar on a train they've hopped to Windrixville, Johnny looks at Dally's gun and wonders why Dally gave it to him, saying he could... (full context)
Preserving Childhood Innocence Theme Icon
Individual Identity Theme Icon
At the Windrixville station, Ponyboy realizes how his and Johnny's appearance make them look like hoods. He misses home, and thinks about how his dream... (full context)
Chapter 5
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Preserving Childhood Innocence Theme Icon
Individual Identity Theme Icon
...Saturday morning with his brothers. When he becomes fully alert, he sees a note from Johnny, who's gone out for supplies. (full context)
Preserving Childhood Innocence Theme Icon
Later, Ponyboy and Johnny talk about killing Bob, and both of them cry out of fear and shock as... (full context)
Self-Sacrifice and Honor Theme Icon
...The boys entertain themselves by playing poker and reading aloud from Gone with the Wind. Johnny admires the Southern gentlemen in the novel and says that they remind him of Dally.... (full context)
Chapter 6
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Empathy Theme Icon
Individual Identity Theme Icon
As Johnny and Ponyboy devour a big meal at the Dairy Queen, Dally explains that Cherry felt... (full context)
Preserving Childhood Innocence Theme Icon
Self-Sacrifice and Honor Theme Icon
Johnny announces that he thinks he and Ponyboy should turn themselves in to the police. Dally... (full context)
Preserving Childhood Innocence Theme Icon
Self-Sacrifice and Honor Theme Icon
Individual Identity Theme Icon
...the church. Suspecting that their discarded cigarette butts may have started the fire, Ponyboy and Johnny dash into the burning building. They find the children and lift them one-by-one out a... (full context)
Preserving Childhood Innocence Theme Icon
Self-Sacrifice and Honor Theme Icon
Individual Identity Theme Icon
...Ponyboy out while smothering a fire that had caught on Ponyboy's back. Dally then saved Johnny. He adds that Dally is burned but will be fine, while Johnny is in very... (full context)
Divided Communities Theme Icon
Empathy Theme Icon
...from the hospital. He sits in the waiting room with Jerry, worrying about Dally and Johnny, and finds himself telling Jerry the story of Bob's murder. Jerry agrees that Johnny acted... (full context)
Chapter 7
Preserving Childhood Innocence Theme Icon
Individual Identity Theme Icon
Ponyboy, Darry, and Sodapop wait in the hospital waiting room for news about Johnny and Dally. Reporters and police question and take photos of Ponyboy and his brothers. Sodapop... (full context)
Divided Communities Theme Icon
Self-Sacrifice and Honor Theme Icon
...headline "Juvenile Delinquents Turn Heroes." Two-Bit objects to the verb "turn," asserting that Ponyboy and Johnny were heroes all along. The article credits the boys with saving the children's lives. The... (full context)
Chapter 8
Preserving Childhood Innocence Theme Icon
Self-Sacrifice and Honor Theme Icon
Two-Bit and Ponyboy go to the hospital. First, they visit Johnny, who is very weak. Johnny asks for a copy of Gone with the Wind, and... (full context)
Preserving Childhood Innocence Theme Icon
Self-Sacrifice and Honor Theme Icon
...but is unhappy that he'll have to miss the rumble that night. He asks about Johnny's condition, and is visibly upset when Two-Bit reluctantly tells him the truth. Dally asks for... (full context)
Chapter 9
Preserving Childhood Innocence Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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Dally excitedly tells Johnny the news about the rumble, but Johnny replies, "Useless fighting's no good." Dally then tells... (full context)
Chapter 10
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Ponyboy also learns that Johnny left him his copy of Gone with the Wind, but the book and its Southern... (full context)
Chapter 11
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...let down his father by his involvement with Bob in the attack on Ponyboy and Johnny, and he tells Ponyboy that he plans to tell the truth at the hearing the... (full context)
Chapter 12
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...doesn't question him about anything other than his home life. Randy and Cherry testify that Johnny killed Bob in self-defense. The judge acquits Ponyboy and sends him home with his brothers. (full context)
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Back at home, Ponyboy picks up Johnny's copy of Gone with the Wind while trying to write his essay. A letter from... (full context)