Ponyboy Curtis belongs to a lower-class group of Oklahoma youths who call themselves greasers because of their greasy long hair. Walking home from a movie, Ponyboy is attacked by a group of Socs, the greasers’
rivals, who are upper-class youths from the West Side of town. The Socs, short for Socials, gang up on
Ponyboy and threaten to slit his throat. A group of greasers comes and chases the bullies away, saving Ponyboy.
Ponyboy’s rescuers include his brother Sodapop, a charming, handsome high-school dropout, and Darry,
Ponyboy’s oldest brother (Darry assumed responsibility for his brothers when their parents were killed in a
car crash). The rest of the greasers who come to Ponyboy’s rescue are Johnny, a sensitive sixteen-year-old;
Dally, a hardened street hood with a long criminal record; Steve, Sodapop’s best friend; and Two-Bit,
the oldest and funniest group member.
The next night, Ponyboy and Johnny go to a movie with Dally. They sit behind a pair of attractive Soc
girls. Dally ﬂirts with the girls obnoxiously. After Johnny tells Dally to stop harassing the Soc girls, Dally
walks away. Johnny and Ponyboy sit with the girls, who are named Cherry and Marcia, and Ponyboy and
Cherry discover that they have a lot in common. Two-Bit arrives, and the three greasers begin to walk the Soc girls to Two-Bit’s house so he can drive them home. On the way to Two-Bit’s house, they run into Bob and Randy, the girls’ drunken boyfriends. The girls must leave with their boyfriends in order to prevent a ﬁght
between the Socs and the greasers.
Ponyboy is late getting home, and his brother Darry is furious with him. Sick of Darry’s constant scrutiny
and criticism, Ponyboy yells at Darry. The brothers begin to ﬁght, and Darry slaps Ponyboy across the face.
Ponyboy ﬂees, determined to run away. He ﬁnds Johnny, and the two boys heads for the park. There they
encounter Bob and Randy with a group of Soc boys. The Socs attack the Johnny and Ponyboy, and one of
them holds Ponyboy’s head under the frigid water of a fountain until Ponyboy blacks out. Ponyboy regains
consciousness to ﬁnd himself lying on the ground. He is next to Johnny—and next to Bob’s corpse. Johnny
tells Ponyboy that he (Johnny) killed Bob because the Socs were going to drown Ponyboy and beat up Johnny.
Desperate and terriﬁed, Ponyboy and Johnny hurry to ﬁnd Dally Winston, the one person they think
might be able to help them. Dally gives them a gun and some money and sends them to an abandoned church
near the neighboring town of Windrixville. They hide out in the church for a week, cutting and dying their
hair to disguise themselves, reading Gone with the Wind aloud, and discussing poetry. After several days,
Dally comes to check on Ponyboy and Johnny. He tells the boys that, since Bob’s death, tensions between the greasers and the Socs have escalated. A rumble is to take place the next night to settle matters. He says that Cherry, who feels partially responsible for Bob’s death, has been acting as a spy for the greasers. Johnny shocks Dally by declaring his intention to go back and turn himself in.
Dally agrees to drive Ponyboy and Johnny back home. However, as the boys leave, they notice that the
abandoned church where Ponyboy and Johnny have been staying has caught ﬁre. They discover that a group
of schoolchildren has wandered inside. Ponyboy and Johnny rush into the inferno to save the children. Just as
they get the last child through the window, the roof caves in, and Ponyboy blacks out. He regains consciousness in an ambulance.
At the hospital, he is diagnosed with minor burns and bruises. Dally is not badly hurt
either, but Johnny’s back was broken by the falling roof, and he is in critical condition. Darry and Sodapop
come to get Ponyboy, and Darry and Ponyboy make up. The following morning, the newspapers proclaim
Ponyboy and Johnny heroes. They also report that, because of Bob’s death, Johnny will be charged with manslaughter.
Finally, the papers also state that both Ponyboy and Johnny will have to go to juvenile court so that
a judge can decide if they should be sent to a boys’ home.
Ponyboy and Two-Bit go to get a Coke and run into Randy. Randy tells Ponyboy that he is sick of all the
ﬁghting and does not plan to go to the rumble that night. When Ponyboy and Two-Bit visit Johnny in the hospital, Johnny seems weak.
He asks Ponyboy for a new copy of Gone with the Wind. During their visit with
Dally, Ponyboy and Two-Bit notice that Dally is much stronger than Johnny. Dally asks to borrow Two-Bit’s
black-handled switchblade. On the way home, Two-Bit and Ponyboy see Cherry. She refuses to visit Johnny
because he has killed Bob, and Ponyboy calls her a traitor. When she explains herself, he relents.
At the rumble, the greasers defeat the Socs. Dally shows up just in time for the ﬁght; he has escaped from
the hospital. After the ﬁght, Ponyboy and Dally hurry back to see Johnny and ﬁnd that he is dying. When
Johnny dies, Dally loses control and runs from the room in a frenzy. Ponyboy stumbles home late that night,
feeling dazed and disoriented. He tells the others of Johnny’s death. Dally calls to say that he has robbed a
grocery store and the cops are looking for him. The greasers hurry to ﬁnd him, but they are too late. Dally raises a gun to the police and they gun him down. Overwhelmed, Ponyboy passes out.
Ponyboy wakes up in bed at home. He has suffered a concussion from a kick to the head at the rumble and
has been delirious in bed for several days. When he is well, he attends his hearing, where the judge treats him
kindly and acquits him of responsibility for Bob’s death. The court rules that Ponyboy will be allowed to
remain at home with Darry. For a time, Ponyboy feels listless and empty. His grades slip, he feels hostile to
Darry, and he loses his appetite. At last, Sodapop tells Ponyboy that he (Sodapop) is angry and frustrated
because of the tension at home. He tearfully asks that Ponyboy and Darry stop ﬁghting. Finally understanding
the value of his family, Ponyboy agrees not to ﬁght with Darry anymore. He ﬁnds that for the ﬁrst time he
can remember Dally’s and Johnny’s deaths without pain or denial. He decides to tell their story and begins
writing a term paper for his English class, which turns out to be the novel itself.