Cherry and Marcia realize that they don't have a ride home from the drive-in. Two-Bit talks them into accepting a ride from him, and the three boys and two girls walk to Two-Bit's house to get his car. On the way, Cherry tells Ponyboy about what it's like to be a Soc, including the search for fulfillment from sources beyond just material possessions, and the pressure to be cool and unemotional. The two of them agree that in contrast to the aloof Socs, who try to hide their emotions, the greasers tend to feel their emotions too strongly. As they talk, the two of them also discover a shared love of reading and watching sunsets. Ponyboy realizes that, despite their different classes and friends, the two of them see the same sunset.
Cherry already helped Ponyboy see that Socs are individuals who have similar concerns to greasers. Now Ponyboy and Cherry find that they too have a number of common interests. The sunset here symbolizes the connections between Ponyboy and Cherry, and the connections between all people, regardless of their different situations and group affiliations. Ponyboy's love of sunsets also displays his appreciation for life's beauty, something that many of the gang members, on both sides, seem to have lost.
Just then, Marcia notices a blue Mustang coming down the street, and everyone becomes nervous, especially Johnny. The car passes slowly and keeps going.
The blue Mustang represents the Socs' wealth and power: the greasers must always walk, while the Socs drive fancy cars.
Cherry then asks Ponyboy about Darry. Ponyboy responds that Darry doesn't like him. Two-Bit and Johnny are surprised. They had thought all was well among the Curtis brothers. Ponyboy gets upset and comments on Johnny's own dysfunctional family, but he quickly apologizes after Two-Bit smacks him in the head.
Ponyboy's touchiness regarding Darry reflects the simmering conflict between the two of them, but Johnny and Two-Bit's surprise indicates that Ponyboy may have misunderstood Darry—he may not have empathy for Darry's point of view.
The Mustang approaches again and this time stops beside the group. The boys in the car are Socs. One of 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 between the Socs and greasers, and the tension builds: Two-Bit hands Ponyboy a broken bottle and pulls out a switchblade. A fight seems inevitable until Cherry intervenes, agreeing to leave with Bob. Before she and Marcia get in the car, though, Ponyboy tells Cherry that he would never have actually used the broken bottle. She responds that if she sees Dally again she just might fall in love with him.
Johnny's fear of Bob highlights the toll the violence between the gangs has already taken and foreshadows the confrontation between Bob, Ponyboy, and Johnny in the next chapter. Cherry's intervention in the brewing fight reflects her role as someone who can see the good in the individuals in both groups. Ponyboy's insistence that he would not use the bottle shows that he is not as hardened as some of the other greasers.
After the Mustang drives off, Two-Bit leaves Johnny and Ponyboy in the vacant lot where the greasers hang out. As they smoke and watch the stars, Pony voices his anger over the Socs' advantages in life and their mistreatment of the greasers. Johnny responds that he can't take much more of the conflict and contemplates committing suicide, then takes it back and instead wishes for a place where he could be free of the constant fighting. Ponyboy imagines a place in the countryside where his family could be happy and intact again. He imagines Johnny living with them and Dally benefiting from the kind attention of Ponyboy's mother. Ponyboy drifts off to sleep. After Johnny eventually shakes Ponyboy awake, Ponyboy hurries home.
Stargazing is a form of escape for Johnny and Ponyboy—the two of them are still young enough to try to daydream their way out of the gang conflict. Johnny's comment about suicide underscores both the seriousness of the problem and Johnny's own particular vulnerability. Ponyboy's vision of the country highlights his desire to return to a simpler state and to regain the childhood bliss that is slipping away from him in the wake of his parents' death and his growing involvement in the conflict with the Socs.
When Ponyboy gets home, Darry is furious at him for losing track of time and arriving so late. Sodapop tries to intervene, but Darry silences Soda and, losing control, slaps Ponyboy. Darry is immediately remorseful and tries to apologize, but Ponyboy runs out of the house before his brother can say anything
Darry is angry out of concern that Ponyboy's thoughtless behavior might get him hurt. But Ponyboy can't see things from Darry's side. Likewise, Darry's overwhelming rages shows that he can't understand Pony's point of view
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 to join him, describing the abuse and neglect he faces at home. Johnny's home life makes Ponyboy realize that his own situation isn't actually so bad, though, and the boys decide to take a walk to the park and back before deciding whether to run away.
Ponyboy gets a better sense of his own family life through his new understanding of Johnny's much worse situation. The boys go to the park, a place for children, to decide whether to face or run away from their lives. But what they find in the park will change their lives and force them to grow up.