Summary: Chapter 7
[G]reasers 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.
The reporters and police interview Ponyboy, Sodapop, and Darry in the hospital waiting room. Sodapop jokes with the reporters and hospital staff, keeping the mood light with his antics. The doctors finally emerge and say that Dally will be fine but that Johnny’s back was broken when the roof caved in. Even if Johnny survives, they add, he will be permanently crippled.
The next morning, Ponyboy is making breakfast when Steve Randle (Sodapop’s best friend) and Two-Bit come in with the morning papers. The papers portray Ponyboy, Johnny, and Dally as heroes for rescuing the schoolchildren. They also mention Ponyboy’s excellent performance on the track team and in school. The papers mention that the state will charge Johnny with manslaughter and send both Ponyboy and Johnny to juvenile court, from which Ponyboy might be sent to a boys’ home. The other boys reassure Ponyboy that his family will stay together. Ponyboy tells them he had his recurring nightmare—which first occurred on the night of his parents’ funeral—the previous night. He never remembers the dream, but it makes him wake up in intense panic.
Ponyboy asks Sodapop about Sandy and learns that she got pregnant and moved to Florida. Her parents refused to let her marry Sodapop because of his age, so Sandy left to live with her grandmother. Sodapop and Darry go to work, and Two-Bit and Ponyboy go to get Cokes at the Tasty Freeze. A blue Mustang pulls up to the restaurant, and in it they see the group of Socs that jumped Ponyboy and Johnny in the park. Ponyboy feels an immediate and intense hatred for them.
One of the Socs, Marcia’s boyfriend, Randy, comes over to Ponyboy. Two-Bit reminds him that no fighting is allowed before the rumble, but Randy says he wants only to talk. He asks Ponyboy why he saved those children and says he would never have thought a greaser could do such a thing. Ponyboy says that it didn’t have anything to do with his being a greaser. Sick about the violence and Bob’s death, Randy says he does not intend to fight at the rumble. Randy explains that Bob was his best friend, a good guy with a terrible temper and overly indulgent parents. Ponyboy feels reassured by his talk with Randy and realizes that Socs can be human and vulnerable.
Summary: Chapter 8
We couldn’t get along without him. We needed Johnny as much as he needed the gang. And for the same reason.
Two-Bit and Ponyboy go to see Johnny and Dally in the hospital. Johnny, weak and pale, whispers that he would like Ponyboy to finish reading Gone with the Wind to him. His mother shows up to visit, but she is a mean-spirited, nagging woman and Johnny refuses to see her. As Ponyboy and Two-Bit leave, she accosts them and blames them for Johnny’s condition, and Two-Bit insults her.
Dally is recovering nicely in the hospital, and for the first time ever Ponyboy feels warmly toward Dally. Dally says that Tim Shepard, the leader of another gang of greasers, came in to talk about the rumble. Dally asks for Two-Bit’s black-handled switchblade, and Two-Bit gladly hands over his prized possession without even asking why Dally needs it.
On the way home, Ponyboy and Two-Bit see Cherry Valance in her Corvette. She says that the Socs have agreed to fight with no weapons. Ponyboy asks her to go see Johnny, but she says she cannot because Johnny killed Bob. She says that Bob had a sweet side and was only violent when drunk, as he was when he beat up Johnny. Ponyboy calls her a traitor, but he quickly forgives her. He asks her if she can see the sunset on the West Side, and when she says she can, he tells her to remember that he can see it on the East Side too.
Analysis: Chapters 7–8
Family becomes increasingly important in the second half of the novel—both the biological Curtis family and the makeshift greaser family. Events begin to threaten the Curtis’s cohesion, since a good chance exists that that state will take Ponyboy from his brothers and put him in a boys’ home. This threat is especially heartrending for the brothers because Ponyboy is finally learning to appreciate Darry. It becomes important to Ponyboy to stay with his brothers as a matter of greaser pride. If the Curtis brothers can stay together, they can prove that greasers have the capability to overcome great odds and be functional, even successful.
For boys such as Johnny, fellow greasers are far more caring and stable than biological parents, and provide a more trustworthy family. His preference for the greasers and disdain for his dysfunctional family become evident when he allows Ponyboy and Two-Bit to visit him in the hospital but will not see his own mother. He refuses her, not because he is callous or because he wants to hurt her, but rather because he does not consider her an important part of his life. She has failed as a mother, denying him the nurturing that every child needs, and Ponyboy and Two-Bit have provided Johnny with an alternative source of support.
Ironically, the closer Johnny comes to death, the more he participates in his own life and considers his individual desires. He has long been involved with the greasers and led his life according to their principles, including disliking the Socs. Like a member of any group, however, Johnny needs an identity that is not wholly confined by the group to which he belongs. Being close to death affords Johnny a new perspective on life, one that is different from that of other greasers. He realizes not only that violence is futile but also, more important, that it doesn’t have to make up his whole identity.
Ponyboy’s conversations with the two Socs, Randy and Cherry, in this section emphasize his new appreciation of interpersonal connections—all people are individuals, as Ponyboy reminds Randy, while he reminds Cherry that the sunset can be seen just as well from the West Side as from the East Side. This discussion of the sunset illustrates yet another similarity between the two sides: no matter where one lives, whether one is a greaser or a Soc, one can still appreciate beauty. These conversations also allow an earlier topic to resurface, which is the discussion of cycles of nature that Ponyboy introduces through the Robert Frost poem. In this section, Ponyboy realizes that natural cycles, specifically life and death, apply to members of all social groups. This emphasis on commonality and connection occurs just as the characters are preparing for the rumble, their moment of sharpest division.