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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.
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From Runaways to Heroes
Dally comes out to check on Johnny and Ponyboy after they've been in hiding for a few days. However, while they are eating in a nearby restaurant, a group of children goes into the church to play, and the church catches fire. When Dally and the two runaways return, the see the fire, and the boys run to rescue them. While inside, though, Johnny's back is broken by falling wood. Ponyboy also has to stay in the hospital, but he is soon released.
That night, the greasers and the Soc's have a "rumble," or a battle. Ponyboy fights even though he is sick. After the greasers win, he and Dally go to see Johnny in the hospital. However, Johnny dies, right after telling Ponyboy to keep his innocence. Dally snaps -- robbing a liquor store and confronting the police with a gun -- intentionally bringing about his own death. Ponyboy is sick for a week, so upset by the deaths of Dally and Johnny that he pretends that he was the one who had killed Bob. However, after the hearing that clears him of guilt, he recovers and decides to write about his story. He also realizes that Darry is just trying to help him succeed.