This lesson features an analysis of Robert Frost's poem 'Nothing Gold Can Stay.' We will look at how it connects with, and helps us better understand the characters and plot of S.E. Hinton's novel 'The Outsiders.'
'Nothing Gold Can Stay'
Have you ever had a moment so perfect that you wanted to freeze it and keep it in time forever? Maybe it was catching your first fish. Maybe it was the way the water on your favorite lake sparkled in the sun. Maybe it was something as totally fantastic as Mrs. Lamb hearing the laugh of her first grandchild. The moment is beautiful in its innocence and natural joy, but as much as we want to keep it, we know it's impossible. Even our memory will distort it with age.
In Robert Frost's poem 'Nothing Gold Can Stay', he describes the transient nature of the beautiful and the innocent. It reads:
'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.'
By expressing that 'Nature's first green is gold,' Frost is saying that the first moments of growth, when nature is at its greenest, is nature at its finest. Think of spring, if it ever comes, and how lush the blossoms are. There is an array of bright and light colors. There is a cool breeze running across the skin that makes everything feel fresh. There is an air of hope and majesty to all the fresh and foundling beauty.
However, this is all fleeting. We know that spring cannot last, that the blossoms and the fresh growth will fade - and that it will happen quickly. In just the wink of an eye, those blossoms fall to the ground and summer takes hold with a sweaty, hot knowledge of spring lost. The blossom of spring truly is nature's 'hardest hue to hold.'
Summer, fall, and winter will all come, but nothing can be captured for long; and with the change of seasons, there is a loss that Frost's poem captures deeply. Eden loses its innocence and 'subsides to grief' as the 'dawn goes down to the day.' The only thing permanent is change, which also brings loss. Loss of spring, loss of innocence, loss of the gorgeous green leaf and all its beauty because 'nothing gold can stay.'
The Outsiders Setup
In the novel, The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, we see a renegade group of wild teens called the Greasers fighting back and forth with a more socially accepted group of teenagers called the Socs (short for Socials). These groups divide along their socioeconomic status. The Greasers are poor, often with minimal to no parental guidance or discipline, living in dangerous or violent environments. The Socs are middle class or well off, coming from strong family units and more nurturing living environments.
There is a beauty to the Greasers' life that Hinton glorifies. These young men create their own families with each other, and they take care of one another. They are young and wild but bonded by their circumstances. Ponyboy Curtis is a thoughtful, somewhat innocent, 14-year-old main character who finds himself running away from town with his friend and fellow Greaser, Johnny. They are on the run because Johnny has killed a Soc who was attacking Ponyboy.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rM5cp_YL77k Types of conflict video
Ponyboy, Johnny, and Two-Bit walk Cherry and Marcia home, but end up in a bunch of trouble when their boyfriends show up. Then, Pony ends up in more trouble at home. This lesson will focus on the summary of Chapter 3 of ''The Outsiders''.
Ponyboy Curtis and his brothers live on the poor East Side of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Their town is a dangerous place with constant strife between the rich Soc kids on the West Side and the Greasers on the East Side. Ponyboy, after getting jumped and beaten up by some Soc boys, goes to the movies with his friends Johnny Cade, Two-Bit Mathews, and Dally Winston. While they are at the drive in, they meet two Soc girls, Cherry and Marcia, who have walked away from their drunk Soc dates. Cherry and Ponyboy have a deep conversation and she tells him that things are tough on the rich side of town, too.
Greasers and Socs
Two-Bit offers to drive the girls home, so Two-Bit, Johnny, Cherry, Marcia, and Ponyboy head to his house to get his car. Cherry says more than money separates the Greasers and the Socs. She says the Socs don't feel anything, and the Greasers feel too much. Pony finds that he can talk more honestly to Cherry than to anyone else in his life except his brother Sodapop.
He finds himself telling Cherry about Soda's horse. Soda loved horses and befriended a horse named Mickey Mouse, who wouldn't let anyone but Soda near him. The poor Curtis family could barely make ends meet, so the horse wasn't really Soda's, but he liked to visit him. On one visit, Soda learned that Mickey Mouse had been sold. Soda had cried, but understood that his family could never afford a horse.
Pony and Cherry are a lot alike. He admits to Cherry that he likes to read and watch the sunset. She does, too, and he says at least they see 'the same sunset'.
Just then, a blue Mustang pulled up.
A Run-In with Cherry's Boyfriend
Just then, the group sees a blue Mustang. Cherry tells them that the boys in the car are Randy and Bob, their boyfriends. Cherry tells the Greasers to ignore them, and the car drives away.
They continue walking. Cherry asks Pony why he's said so much about Soda but almost nothing about his oldest brother, Darry. Pony replies that it is because Darry is mean and doesn't really like Pony all that much. Two-Bit tells Pony that Darry loves him and Johnny is also surprised.
Though Pony has a much better home than Johnny, he's embarrassed and lashes out at his best friend. He says they all know Johnny isn't wanted at home. Johnny is upset and Two-Bit slaps Pony. Pony immediately tells Johnny that he's sorry, and Two-Bit tells him he's needed in the gang.
Ponyboy cries out about the unfairness of life, where the Socs have everything and the Greasers have nothing.
Then the blue Mustang comes to a stop beside them. Two boys in nice clothing get out. One wears rings and Pony notices that Johnny is watching that boy's hands. Pony remembers that Johnny got beaten up badly by a boy wearing rings in a blue Mustang. The boy with the rings, Bob, is Cherry's boyfriend. Cherry tells Bob she won't be with him when he is drunk.
Bob calls Pony, Johnny, and Two-Bit 'bums', and tells them there are four more guys in the car. Two-Bit smashes a bottle and hands Pony his switchblade. Cherry begs them not to fight and says she and Marcia will go with them.
Pony tells Cherry he wouldn't have used the knife. Cherry tells him he is a great kid, but they can't be seen together. Then she tells Pony that she could fall in love with Dally Winston's charm and danger and she hopes to never see him again. The girls get in the car and leave.
The boy who beat up Johnny was wearing rings.
Things Have to Get Better Soon!
Two-Bit heads home, so Pony and Johnny go to the vacant lot to smoke. Johnny tells Pony that he is thinking about killing himself, that the life they lead is so awful. He just wants to be away from the constant fighting in the streets and at home.
While walking in the park in the middle of the night, the blue Mustang arrives and five drunk Socs get out of the car. They begin to argue with Johnny and Ponyboy and one of the Socs grabs Ponyboy and holds his head under water in the fountain.
Ponyboy loses consciousness. When he wakes up, he sees Bob bloody lying nearby. Johnny reveals that he killed him with a switchblade. Ponyboy begins to panic. They decide to go see Dally for help. Dally gives them fifty dollars, clothing, and a gun. He tells them to take the train to a place called Windrixville. He explains how to find an abandoned church and tells them to stay there.
They board the train and follow Dally’s instructions. They finally make it to the church where they fall asleep.
When Pony wakes up the next morning, he finds a note from Johnny. The note says he has gone into town for supplies.
Johnny returns with baloney, cigarettes, and a copy of Gone With The Wind (for Pony to read to him).
After cutting and dying their hair, they stay in the church for a week spending their days smoking eating, and reading.
Johnny thinks that one of the characters in the novel (southern gentleman) reminds them of Dally. Pony shares that he likes the other Greasers much more than Dally. He thinks the heroes in novels remind him of the other Greasers, but that Dally is to frighteningly real.
Later, Ponyboy recites the poem, “Nothing Gold Can Stay.” By Robert Frost. Johnny connects with the poem.
After 5 days of hiding in the church, Dally arrives with a letter from Soda. Dally says that the police had asked him about the murder, but that he covered them by saying the killers went to Texas. He takes Johnny and Pony to the local Dairy Queen and reveals that after Bob’s death, the Greasers and Socs have been basically at war. He also shares that Cherry has been a spy for the Greasers.
There will be a big planned fight between the two groups very soon.