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Meaning of “Nothing Gold Can Stay” in the Outsiders

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Pony introduces a Robert Frost poem to Johnny called “Nothing Gold Can Stay” that becomes a very symbolic theme throughout the book “The Outsiders”. The poem was always something that stuck with Pony because he never understood what it meant. Although the meaning keeps eluding him, he continues to make the effort to understand it. The poem is a mere eight lines long yet the few words speak volumes as they relate to the story of “The Outsiders”.

The poem is referenced again at the end of the book when you read the letter Johnny wrote to Pony. He tells Pony that he knows what the poet means by “nothing gold can stay”. Johnny is talking about innocence, childhood and purity. Johnny says that although Pony has grown in a world that’s dirty and grimy he still managed to stay shiny and golden and he tells him to STAY GOLD!

The poem “Nothing gold can stay” relates to the life of Pony and Johnny throughout the story. Just like nothing in nature can stay new and fresh and beautiful forever, people can’t either. Everything changes over time. Nature changes and people change.

In the first line of the poem, “Nature’s first green is gold”, I think of a fresh spring where all of the light green color and flowers sprouting on the trees is beautiful. In “The Outsider’s” this is symbolic to the childhood innocence of the boys before struggles, gangs and heartache were around. This was a time when everything was golden, or beautiful. Johnny’s life was carefree and happy until the night he got beat up.

The poem talks about how innocence and good thing do not last. Life may seem perfect one moment and then it goes away. However, even though the great times come to an end, they will be followed by more and more great things. It means that all things are going to change eventually, like people, seasons and nature. I think that in “The Outsiders”, the gold referenced in Robert Frost’s poem symbolizes the youth of the boys. But as the poem continues, it symbolizes that youth is very hard to hold on to because everyone gets older. A child will become older and lose the innocence they have as they become an adult and begin to do wrong things. This is very much how Johnny and Pony’s lives were until the night Johnny killed the soc, Bob.

The poem continues to go from the innocence of youth to the realization that they are no longer a child and they must face the world on their own. It closes with the meaning that the childhood of a person is finished and will never return. In the last line, “Nothing gold can stay” means that people change and our innocence of youth can’t stay forever.

Two events in the book changed the innocence of the boys forever. After Johnny was beat up and he killed Bob both boys were never the same. These events made them grow up fast; find shelter and accountability of the consequences they faced. They were not children anymore. The poem describes nothing good lasting. This is very much like Johnny’s life. Johnny’s life was slightly good because of Pony but his life did not last.

Pony is in Johnny’s eyes “golden”. He is still young and innocent because he has not made the same mistakes as his peers. But like the poem says, nothing gold can stay, nothing can stay the same forever. Pony is living in a world that is far from being golden and over time it’s going to rub off on him and he’s going lose his shininess but Johnny tells him to hold on for as long as he can because he’s beautiful.

“Nothing Gold Can Stay” is a poem that Johnny and Pony in the novel can relate to and tried to understand. To me it is a poem about the meanings of life and innocence.

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