Posted: Monday, November 26, 2012 5:04:53 AM
“Stay gold, Ponyboy, stay gold.” When I encountered that particular quote in my eighth grade English class while reading The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, I marveled at how those five words scratched the surface of an exponentially deeper meaning. In the novel, those words were spoken by Johnny Cade, a close friend of Ponyboy. Together, they were the two youngest of a neighborhood greaser gang, and because of their common age, shared a special bond and need to protect each other. Despite being in a gang, Ponyboy tried his best to avoid trouble and fights, and also nurtured a sensitive, sunset-loving side that was uncharacteristic of a gang member. In these ways, he was dubbed golden as he stayed true to himself and what he wanted to be. At times, he felt the pressure to conform to his group, but in the end, his desire to hold his own values prevailed.
I admired the fictional Ponyboy and his gallant efforts to stay true to himself. While reading the story, I felt subconsciously empowered that I could do the same. But once the story was over and I returned to my reality that was not filled with dramatic situations, orphaned gangmembers, and beautiful lines about shared sunsets, I wondered what I was supposed to do to make myself golden and stay that way. I read the novel a couple of times again to search for an answer and what Ponyboy did. All I could think was that he was a generally upstanding character who stood up for what he believed in. I thought, “How cliché. Could adhering to self identity really be the thing that made him golden?”
The five little words uttered by Johnny meant Ponyboy was supposed to stay true to himself. They embodied the permanence of Ponyboy’s love for sunsets, his tendency to dislike fights, and his more upright conscience. These were attributes that revealed his true nature, as opposed to his deceiving exterior that was molded to those of his friends and brothers. His traits were gold - valuable to everyone because of their goodness, shining because they were illuminated by the dullness around them, and permanent because they were forever a part of him. Being told to stay who you are in this fast paced day and age can seem impossible, and sometimes it is difficult to decipher what that even means. But after reading this book, I confirmed that being true to oneself is about giving in to your uninfluenced, natural state of mind, which does not necessarily mean there is no room for change.
I fell in love this book because it taught me how to stay golden in the simplest way possible. It is not nearly as difficult as I had initially thought when I came across that thought provoking “stay gold, Ponyboy, stay gold.” All that I really need to do is to stay myself and what I believe in, because that is gold too.