Ponyboy – Stay Gold 

By Judy Berman

Living life on the fringes. Always feeling like you’re on the outside looking in.

That’s the theme of the novel, “The Outsiders,” by S.E. Hinton. It’s one I can relate to, and I’ve been out of school for a few decades. The book and the movie still resonate with readers today.

Elvis, The Beatles, leather jackets, D.A.’s greased-back haircuts and madras shirts. They evoke a different time – the early-‘60s. That was when America worried about a nuclear attack and building bomb shelters. We had not yet gotten involved in Vietnam and the flower children of the mid-1960s were still a few years away.

Many look at those times as being more innocent. But it had its share of troubles, too. Like the author, I had friends who were rich, as well as those who were poor and lived “on the other side of the tracks.” A few were “hoods” and, around me, they were great guys. I knew that neither life was problem-free.

S. E. Hinton wrote about the clash of those two groups. She was 15 and still in high school when she began writing her novel. It was published in 1967, when she was a freshman in college. She has said that the characters were not based on any one person she knew. Ponyboy, Johnny and Dally’s characters each had their own universal appeal, she said.

The movie, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, is one I’ve shown to my students the past several years. I prefer the PG-13 version over the PG because the story thread is much closer to the book.

“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.” That’s Ponyboy Curtis’ opening line in the novel.

A few blocks later, Ponyboy is jumped by members of the Socs (or Socials, the rich kids). When he yells for help, his brothers and gang members of the Greasers, the hoods, rush to his defense.

Their next encounter is deadly. It forces Ponyboy and his friend, Johnny, to run away to avoid arrest. At one point, they’re focused on the countryside’s beauty and wish that scene could remain forever.

I recall a similar experience when I lived in the country. As I looked out our kitchen window, the whole countryside was awash in gold. Then, sadly, as the sun rose higher, the golden hues began to yield to nature’s green coloring. Ponyboy, in repeating lines from Robert Frost’s poem, “Nothing Gold Can Stay:”

“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.”

When Johnny asks what it means, Ponyboy tells him that things cannot remain as they are.

Like the scene they witnessed, their innocence will slip away. What they’ve gone thru will transform them forever. Near the end of the book, Johnny told Ponyboy to “stay gold.”

Little has changed since the book was published in 1967. But there are still cliques and those who are on the outside. Hopefully, as teens read this book and see the movie, they will see the harm that comes from stereotyping, from forming cliques, and how they view others who are not part of their group.

Ponyboy realized that just because he was poor didn’t mean he’d be stuck in that life. He was going to make something of himself. That’s an excellent observation. One that I hope my students take away from the story that Hinton crafted when she was a teen herself.


* Video clips from the movie, “The Outsiders,” and Stevie Wonder singing “Stay Gold.”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAdlVRn1xYc

* Video of Ponyboy and Johnny. Scene where Ponyboy recites Robert Frost’s poem, “Nothing Gold Can Stay.”  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TwJ-ppxCGPk

* Video of author S. E. Hinton on location in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She talks about some of the inspiration she drew on for her novel, “The Outsiders.”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJnfleLeOZg

Wordpress - milestone-200 posts

This is my 200th post on WordPress. I chose to repeat a story that I first published April 28, 2012. I love “The Outsiders” message and how this novel continues to speak to young people today as it did to their parents. Some students tell me that while they hate to read they really love this book.

What story – or movie – has stayed with you long after you put the book down?

  1. Judy, I had no idea Hinton was 15 when she started the book. Perhaps that’s why it has such an appeal with students. I know it was my favourite back then! I, too, love the message, that just because you’re born into a situation, doesn’t mean you have to stay there<3
    Diana xo

    1. Thanks, Diana. Some of my students are poor, are the Outsiders, and I do hope they embrace that message. It is one of hope. They have the ability to make positive changes in their lives. 😉

  2. Ponyboy is jumped by members of the Socs (or Socials


    1. Carl, in high school, I was on the fringe of several groups. The cliques’ exclusionary practices are not beneficial to those within or those without. I tell my students that we have more in common than differences. If people would reach out to find those common elements, what a wonderful world this might be.
      What’s a ‘Gant’ shirt?

  3. Congrats on your 200th post – quite a milestone as you combine writing with your teaching life. What story or movie has stayed with me? Eudora Welty poignant writing about an ordinary life with an episode about riding trains in her childhood, which makes we recall the railroad track behind my Gramdma’s house and woods. Writing about it in my memoir occupies my thoughts right now.

    1. Just the thought of riding on trains and railroad tracks makes me nostalgic, Marian. I haven’t read much of Eudora Welty. Sounds like I must correct that. Wishing you all the best in writing your memoir. 😉

  4. Congratulations on your 200th post, Judy! That is quite an accomplishment. I loved “The Outsiders” both the book and the movie.
    “Rudy” is a story that has always stayed with me. It’s a powerful display of what can happen when we follow are dreams and ignore the naysayers.
    Enjoy the holiday!

  5. i loved this story, both in the written and film formats. love the poem and message too, it’s a lesson and reminder for the ages, for there will always be those who are considered, ‘the outsiders.’ like you, my hope is that they know they are in control of their destinies, and they have a choice in their own futures. )

    1. They do have that power, Beth. I tell them that no one is born, lives and dies in the same spot. Just because someone is rich – or poor – today does not mean they will always be so. They can attain their goals by focusing on what is most important – their future. 😉

  6. Congrats on your milestone post. Sounds like this book/movie is good for kids. When I was in high school I was a fringer. I got along with all the cliques but didn’t exactly belong to any. I had a couple besties.

    1. It sounds like our high school experiences were very similar, Kate. I had friends in several different groups and I did feel like an outsider. But I think that experience helped me get along with a wide range of people. 😉

      1. I don’t know if I felt like an outsider. It was more like I didn’t feel like an insider. The only time it bit me in the butt was when it came to participating in sports or activities. Cliques were helpful then.

  7. Congratulations, Judy. You chose an excellent topic for this post. When I taught THE OUTSIDERS to my students, I was always fascinated by the various interpretations, the ways students applied certain characters’ situations and responses to their own and saw new lessons in each scene. One year, parents who owned a silk-screening T-shirt business made T-shirts for all the students in their son’s class that said Stay Gold. For me the T-shirt had an extra line–“…and KEEP READING.”
    STAY GOLD, Judy…and keep writing these wonderful posts.

    1. I love that T-shirt, Marilyn. “The Outsiders” is one of my favorite books and each year I discover something new about it. I had them look for the common phrases in rapper Common’s song, “A Dream,” to the novel. It was amazing how many things they spotted like “dark clouds seem to follow me” and “struggle is my address.” That song was written in 2006 almost 40 years after S.E. Hinton’s book was published. It’s still relevant.

      My students also were able to see themselves in some of the characters’ situations. It sounds like you had a lot of fun with this book, too. 😉

  8. Judy I enjoyed the movie, I never read the book but am one of those people who believe the book experience is always better. I am amazed at how young the Author was when she began. I think Nothing Gold Can Stay, is beautiful.

    1. Kath … One of my students told me that she doesn’t like to read, but she loves this book. I hear that a lot. I think you can really get into a book in a way that you can’t in a movie.

      I also loved Robert Frost’s “Nothing Gold Can Stay.” It evokes memories of my teen years when we lived in the country. 😉

    1. “To Kill a Mockingbird” is another book I love. But it is not one I am able to teach because it’s taught in 9th grade. I teach 7th grade Language Arts (English). Powerful message. Love Scout and her dad. 😉

  9. I’m not familiar with this book or the film, Judy. We did of course have “gangs” here when we were growing up. There were famously the Mods ( who rode scooters) and the Rockers (motorbikes). Later there were greasers and skinheads. I was never part of a group, just lucky enough to have a lovely group of friends at school. We never seemed to have any bother from any self proclaimed gang members, although many of our classmates belonged to one sect or the other.

    1. Jenny … I knew “hoods” (greasers) and some that might fit the Soc set. Individually, they’re all great. Sometimes, as a group, not. I really wasn’t hassled by either group. When I was bullied, it was by one very big classmate in 4th or 5th grade.

  10. I have to be honest I had not heard of ‘The Outsiders’ but would you believe after reading your blog

  11. Sorry half and answer sent before I should . I will continue…
    I picked up a cookery / crafts book and they mentioned ‘The Outsiders ‘ I must read it or maybe watch the film . I loved ‘To Kill A Mockingbird . I can not imagine a sequel but I’m sure I ‘ll read it at some point .

    1. Cherry … Better yet … Read “The Outsiders” AND watch the movie. You’ll enjoy both. I’m curious to see what Harper Lee’s sequel to “To Kill a Mockingbird” will be like. If it’s anything like the first, it’ll be wonderful. 😉

  12. Congratulations on your 200th post! I know of The Outsiders, but somehow I don’t think I’ve ever read it. I didn’t remember you teach teach 7th graders; my younger daughter will start teaching 8th graders on Tuesday.
    There are so many books that stay with me right after I read them. I kind of fall in love with some books as I’m reading, and get so caught up with the characters and their world. I love To Kill a Mockingbird, as others have mentioned, Rebecca, and Jane Eyre. More recently I haven’t been able to forget City of Women, a novel about ordinary people in WWII Berlin, and about the choices they make.

    1. Merril … Best wishes to your daughter on her teaching post. Is this her first year teaching? Middle school is both fun and challenging. 😉

      I hadn’t heard of “City of Women.” It sounds interesting. Two novels with an historic tie in that I really enjoyed were: “Fever 1793” by Laurie Halse Anderson and “Number the Stars” by Lois Lowry,

      1. Thanks, Judy. She had a full-time sub position last year at my husband’s school. That was her first teaching job. Then this year she had a full-time sub position at a high school in Pennsylvania, so she’s going from teaching seniors to teaching 8th, but she likes middle school, too. This is a permanent position back in my husband’s district.

        I’ve wanted to read Fever 1793, as I’ve done work on the yellow fever epidemic. Thanks for the reminder. I did read Number the Stars many years ago when my girls read it.

    1. By now, the movie shouldn’t faze you. There were fight scenes and the fatal one in the park did not show the actual stabbing. Check it out, Amy. I think you’ll like it. 😉

  13. I know the title but wasn’t really aware of the movie as something new in the 80’s or heard of the book – strange that. I think I thought it was a much older film, probably because of the era it was set in. It sounds an interesting story and nothing like the kind of environment I grew up in or my parents. I shall have to add it to my ‘look this up list’ which gets longer by the week! 😉

    The video by the author herself was very interesting, and what fun she must have had being given a small part as a nurse in that movie!! 😀 A lot of authors are not involved in the making of a film at all today and certainly wouldn’t be invited to onto the set. Probably from fear that they would object to the way it’s being made. But I think they should involve more authors than they do. Often films today are not much like the book, which is a bit of a disappointment and may not be good for the book either. Sometimes the book is better than the movie.

    Congratulations on your 200th post, and a very good idea to get the first post reposted – good way to celebrate! 😀

    1. Suzy … I would definitely recommend that you put this book and movie high up on your list. It is the book that my students and former students talk about most.

      It’s true that many movie directors/producers feel they have a better vision when they get hold of a book. Too often, their vision gets lost in translation from page to screen. I congratulate Francis Ford Coppola for sticking to the book’s plot. He did an excellent job and had a tremendous cast.

      This wasn’t my first post three years ago … but it was originally written within my first year of the start of my blog. 😉

  14. Happy 200, Judy. Your tales, like you personally, relate to people of all walks of life. That’s your charm, my friend. I love you for it.

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