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Johnny's Death in The Outsiders

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  • 0:05 Johnny Wants to Die
  • 0:50 Johnny Kills Bob
  • 1:34 The Church Fire &…
  • 2:52 The Impact of Johnny's Death
  • 3:37 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In this lesson, we'll learn how Johnny Cade's outlook on the preciousness of life changes through his experiences with Bob's death, the near death of the children in the church and ultimately his own death in ''The Outsiders.''

Johnny Wants to Die

As early as the third chapter of S.E. Hinton's famous novel, The Outsiders, it's clear that Johnny Cade had reached his breaking point when he says, 'I can't take much more. 'I'll kill myself or something.' The other Greasers try to alleviate his sadness, helplessness, and loneliness, but the constant fear that consumes Johnny brings him to the edge. Foreshadowing is used by the author here to let the reader know that something bad is about to happen. Is death the only thing that can bring Johnny relief from his pain?

In this lesson, we'll take a look at how Johnny's feelings about life and death change based on his experiences with Bob's death, the incident with the church fire, and the events surrounding his own death.

Johnny Kills Bob

Johnny is the most sensitive and caring member of the group. He's never hurt anyone before. It's a shock to the others to discover that he killed Bob. Bob's murder isn't an act of aggression but rather a reflex triggered by fear. Killing Bob and facing unknown consequences escalate Johnny's fear to the point that he feels he has no choice but to run.

When Johnny has a chance to reflect while hiding in the abandoned church, guilt consumes him. He realizes how precious life is and is saddened that Bob lost his life so soon. Johnny comes to the conclusion that hiding out in a church is a waste of his life. He has to deal with his fear by facing it head-on and accepting the consequences.

The Church Fire & Johnny's Injury

Not soon after Johnny had announced his courageous decision, the boys stumble upon the church fire. Without hesitation, Ponyboy and Johnny run inside to save the children that are trapped. They believe they may have caused the fire and are ready to take responsibility for making sure everyone is saved. This is the first time during the story that Johnny shows no fear.

After getting everyone else, including Ponyboy, out of the church, Johnny is hit by a falling timber that breaks his back. Dally tries to save him by dragging him out of the church, but Johnny is hurt pretty badly by the time Dally gets to him. Johnny is in severe shock, and he's suffering from third degree burns. If he lives, he'll be paralyzed. He says, 'I used to talk about killing myself…I don't want to die now. It ain't long enough. Sixteen years ain't long enough.'

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