In The Outsiders, Robert Frost’s “Nothing Gold Can Stay” represents the fragility of innocence and goodness. The poem speaks to the temporary nature of beauty and we see this reflected in characters like Dally, whose innocence has been lost. Johnny’s dying wish is that Ponyboy will “stay gold” and retain his good nature despite the terrible events that are unfolding around him.
Frost’s poem celebrates the purity of life at its beginning (“nature’s first green is gold”), and laments its impermanence (“nothing gold can stay”). When Johnny tells Ponyboy to “stay gold”, he is referring to the innocence the greasers once had in common as children. As they grow into adulthood, they lose that guilelessness and become hardened and jaded under the relentless pressures of poverty, social pressure, family instability, and violence. Darry, whose dreams of attending college on a scholarship are dashed by the responsibility of caring for his brothers, and Dally, who has given up hope for a better life and descended into a cycle of violence and crime, are bitter examples of this, and the other greasers are not far behind. Ponyboy is different. He is sensitive and perceptive, and can still recognize and appreciate the beauty in a good book or a sunrise. Johnny hopes Ponyboy can keep this ability – that he can “stay gold”.