The Outsiders

Preserving Childhood Innocence Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Divided Communities Theme Icon
Empathy Theme Icon
Preserving Childhood Innocence Theme Icon
Self-Sacrifice and Honor Theme Icon
Individual Identity Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Outsiders, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Preserving Childhood Innocence Theme Icon

The Outsiders shows the importance of preserving the hope, open-mindedness, and appreciation of beauty that are characteristic of childhood. Ponyboy's daydreams about the country, his appreciation of sunrises and sunsets, and his rescue of the children from the burning church distinguish him from other characters in the novel. These traits show that Ponyboy, unlike the other boys, still has preserved some of his childhood innocence. They also allow him to see beyond the shallow hatred between the Socs and greasers.

Primarily through the characters of Dally and Johnny, the novel also shows how easily experience can harden people and cause them to lose these youthful traits. It also shows the tragic results of this process. Dally's rough youth has made him tough and fearsome, and he seems not to care about anything. But Dally has a soft spot too—his love for Johnny. Johnny represents the hope that Dally has lost, and Dally strives to protect Johnny from the forces that threaten to pull him into the cycle of violence that has enveloped Dally. Johnny's dying words, "stay gold," also touch on this theme by referencing the Robert Frost poem "Nothing Gold Can Stay." While the poem's message—that all beautiful things fade with the passage of time—forces the two boys to realize that they can't hide from the realities of growing up, Johnny's call for Ponyboy and the greasers to "stay gold" is also a call for them to preserve the hope and optimism of childhood no matter what the world throws at them.

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Preserving Childhood Innocence ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Preserving Childhood Innocence appears in each chapter of The Outsiders. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Preserving Childhood Innocence Quotes in The Outsiders

Below you will find the important quotes in The Outsiders related to the theme of Preserving Childhood Innocence.
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:

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Chapter 3 Quotes
It seemed funny that the sunset [Cherry] saw from her patio and the one I saw from the back steps was the same one. Maybe the two worlds we lived in weren't so different. We saw the same sunset.
Related Characters: Ponyboy Curtis (speaker), Cherry Valance
Related Symbols: Sunsets and Sunrises
Page Number: 40-41
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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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:

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That was [Darry's] silent fear then—of losing another person he loved. I remembered how close he and Dad had been, and I wondered how I could ever have thought him hard and unfeeling. I listened to his heart pounding through his T-shirt and I knew everything was going to be okay now. I had taken the long way around, but I was finally home. To stay.
Related Characters: Ponyboy Curtis (speaker), Darry Curtis
Page Number: 98-99
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 7 Quotes
"You would have saved those kids if you had been there," I said. "You'd have saved them the same as we did."
"Thanks, grease," he said, trying to grin. Then he stopped. "I didn't mean that. I meant, thanks, kid."
"My name's Ponyboy," I said. "Nice talking to you, Randy."
Related Characters: Ponyboy Curtis (speaker), Randy Adderson (speaker)
Page Number: 117
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 8 Quotes
"Hey," I said suddenly, "can you see the sunset real good from the West Side?"
She blinked, startled, then smiled. "Real good."
"You can see it good from the East Side, too," I said quietly.
"Thanks, Ponyboy." She smiled through her tears. "You dig okay."
Related Characters: Ponyboy Curtis (speaker), Cherry Valance (speaker)
Related Symbols: Sunsets and Sunrises
Page Number: 129-130
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:
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"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:

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Chapter 12 Quotes
"Ponyboy, listen, don't get tough. You're not like the rest of us and don't try to be."
Related Characters: Two-Bit Mathews (speaker), Ponyboy Curtis
Page Number: 171
Explanation and Analysis:

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"We're all we have left. We ought to be able to stick together against everything. If we don't have each other, we don't have anything. If you don't have anything, you end up like Dallas...and I don't mean dead, either. I mean like he was before. And that's worse than dead. Please"—he wiped his eyes on his arm—"don't fight anymore."
Related Characters: Sodapop Curtis (speaker), Ponyboy Curtis, Darry Curtis, Dallas Winston
Page Number: 176
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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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:

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