Throughout the novel, Hinton has used foreshadowing to alert us that something tragic will happen to Johnny, and the careful reader will notice that several of these instances of foreshadowing deal with the phrase, “Stay gold.”
In chapter 5, while they were hiding in the church together, Ponyboy recited for Johnny a Robert Frost poem entitled, “Nothing Gold Can Stay.” Johnny is deeply moved by the way the poem says exactly the way he felt about the gold and silver mist as it disappeared with the sunrise they’d watched through the church door.
“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.”
Johnny never forgets the poem, and talks to Pony about it as he’s lying in his hospital bed after the fire. This quote from Johnny is one of the most famous instances of figurative language in the novel.
“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. I want you to tell Dally to look at one. He'll probably think you're crazy, but ask for me. I don't think he's ever really seen a sunset. And don't be so bugged over being a greaser. You still have a lot of time to make yourself be what you want. There's still lots of good in the world. Tell Dally. I don't think he knows. Stay gold, Ponyboy.”
― S.E. Hinton, The Outsiders, Chapter 9
In the space below, compare the Frost poem with Johnny’s final quote. How does the meaning of the poem act as foreshadowing for what will happen to Johnny?