From the Movies to the Running Away
The three Curtis brothers (Ponyboy, Darry and Sodapop) know something about tragedy. Their parents passed away in a car accident, and Darry, the oldest brother, had to give up dreams of a college scholarship to take care of his brothers. His heightened sense of responsibility makes him stay all over the youngest, Ponyboy, shouting at him about his grades. Ponyboy is a quiet, shy boy who actually does well in school and takes his work seriously. Sodapop, the middle brother, has dropped out of high school to work at a gas station, and his happy-go-lucky nature often brings peace to the battles between Darry and Ponyboy.
The brothers are part of a gang of "greasers" (so called because of the way they keep their hair in place -- and because the rich "Soc" group assumes they don't bathe). Other members of the group include Two-Bit, Dally and Johnny. Johnny is the youngest and, since his parents treat him so badly that he often sleeps at other houses or outside, he is the gang's pet. He is still shell-shocked from the beating he received from a Soc who had been wearing rings. Dally is the toughest greaser -- the only one who's spent serious time in jail.
One night, Dally, Johnny and Ponyboy are at the drive-in theater and meet Marcia and Cherry, two Soc girls. After the movie, the girls leave with the three greasers, because the girls' dates had gotten drunk. However, on the way home, the two boyfriends catch them. The girls agree to go with their dates to avoid a fight, but the boys take the girls home and then prowl the streets. Because Ponyboy gets in a fight with Darry, because he is late coming home and Darry hits him, he runs away, and Johnny joins him. The two Soc boys find them in a park. In the ensuing fight, the Soc boys almost drown Ponyboy in a fountain, but Johnny knifes Bob (one of the Soc's) and kills him.
Terrified, the boys run to Dally, because he will know what to do. He hands them some cash and a gun, and sends them to an abandoned church a little ways out of town to hide for a few days.