Johnny includes a message in the copy of Gone with the Wind that he delivers to Ponyboy. He writes about Robert Frost's poem "Nothing Gold Can Stay," which Ponyboy reads to him, and compares being youthful to being gold. Ponyboy, he believes, has many elements of being gold or enjoying the world.
Johnny also leaves Ponyboy his red guitar. Before leaving, he gives Ponyboy some money so they can have fun together like they used to.
Finally, Johnny tells Ponyboy not to forget how things were when they were young. Then he rides off into the sunset with Tara.
Here is the passage from "Gone with the Wind" that Johnny quotes: "Only youth allows itself such freedoms. When I was your age, I made up my mind what I wanted out of life, and went after it. If it didn't fit me, then I changed it to fit me. If I couldn't change it, I gave up on it."
Ponyboy uses this quote as justification for why he should not worry about finding a job or going to college. Instead, he should live life free from responsibility until something better comes along.
This quote also shows that even though Johnny is a bad guy, he believes that everyone should be given a chance without judgment before all the facts are known.
Johnny, who is aware of his impending death, tells Ponyboy that he doesn't mind dying now because he saved numerous children in the church fire.
Here is the entire text of the letter:
"Dear Pony Boy: I got your letter and was glad to hear you're doing fine. It's too bad about old John-Boy. He was a good friend of mine. I'm sure you'll miss him. Well, I've been thinking. This town needs a law! It's no place for an infant child. So, if you'll go to Star City and get some friends, we'll burn this damn house down before nightfall. That way, none of them will be hurt. Now, don't ask me why I want to kill these kids... I can't explain myself when it comes to things like that. But I think it'll be fun. The more, the better! So, do what you can, but don't forget my little request. Your friend, Johnny."
Later on, after the children have gone home, Ponyboy visits the church again. Inside, he finds John-Boy's body lying in the middle of the room.
The parents of the youngsters have visited the hospital to express their gratitude to Johnny.
The town's only black family, the Parkses, are about to be evicted from their home during Johnny's trial for arson. He burns down the church as a signal for everyone to come see him off. After his suicide attempt fails, Johnny decides to go through with it and die.
Because of the attention Johnny's death has received in the newspapers, school officials ask everyone to keep quiet about what happened. They don't want more trouble for the town so they tell everyone that Johnny died. This way no one will blame anyone else for what happened.
Ponyboy's mother makes sure that he gets an education because she knows how important it is for a man to be able to read and write. Before every game, she takes out a book and reads some poetry or plays by Shakespeare because she wants her son to be well-educated like Johnny.
"Stay gold," an allusion to a Robert Frost poem, is said by Ponyboy to Johnny while the two hide out in the Windrixville Church. "Nothing gold can stay," one line of the poem says, implying that all beautiful things must come to an end. Johnny advises Ponyboy to stay gold, or innocent. This is something Johnny himself will have to do after being forced to shoot someone during a robbery.
This is also a reference to the end of the short story "The Last Picture Show" by Larry McMurtry. In this story, a young man named Lloyd sees a movie several times and assumes many different roles in order to impress girls. He finds that what makes him attractive to women is his ability to act like someone else for a time.
Lloyd's father, who works as a photographer at a small town cinema, tells him about the legend of the "last picture show" in his hometown. The owner of the cinema had a habit of showing old movies instead of new ones so they could preserve their prints. One night there was a fire in the projection room that destroyed everything it contained. The next morning the owner went to check on his business and found nothing but a blackened shell. He decided not to reopen the place and sold it to a developer who turned it into a shopping center.
Ponyboy, stay gold. This is in reference to Frost's poem. Johnny doesn't want Pony to lose his innocence and become a different person. "Remain gold... " Johnny died when the cushion seemed to dip a little. " 5. "Stay gold, Ponyboy," Johnny's final words to Ponyboy. "Remain gold. " Johnny stated this because he did not want Pony to change. He loved him even though they fought often.
Ponyboy reads several other poems as well but "Stay gold" is the only one that really matters for this story.
Johnny admires the golden mist and laments the fact that it is fleeting. Ponyboy recites "Nothing Gold Can Stay," a poem he learnt from Robert Frost on the impermanence of nature, from flowers to sunrises. Johnny doesn't understand most of what is being said, but he enjoys the sound of his friend's voice as much as the meaning of what he says.
Frost was right. Nothing gold can stay. Even sunshine isn't always sunny. But sometimes, especially when you're lucky enough to find a cloud with sunlight shining through it, everything seems bright again.