The Outsiders – Johnny Cade

Johnny Cade is a vulnerable sixteen-year-old greaser in
a group defined by toughness and a sense of invincibility. He comes
from an abusive home, and he takes to the greasers because they
are his only reliable family. While Johnny needs the greasers, the
greasers also need Johnny, for protecting him gives them a sense
of purpose and justifies their violent measures. When Johnny, little
and vulnerable, suffers at the hands of the Socs, the greasers feel
justified in their hatred of the rival gang.
Passive and quiet, Johnny is the principal catalyst for
the major events of the novel. He stands up to Dally at the drive-in
and tells him to stop harassing the two Soc girls, Cherry and Marcia. Johnny’s
intervention on the girls’ behalf pleases the girls, and they talk
and walk with the greasers. This interaction between female Socs
and male greasers sparks the anger of the Soc boys and motivates
them to attack Johnny and Ponyboy. Ultimately, Johnny’s small acts
of courage lead to murder, death, and heroic rescue. But Johnny
ends by advocating against gang violence, stating that he would
gladly sacrifice his life for the lives of little children. Although a
gentle boy, he has a profound impact with his startling, persistent demand
for peace. His courage in rescuing the children from the burning
church and his subsequent death as a result of injuries sustained
in the rescue make him a martyr. Ponyboy’s decision to write the
story that becomes The Outsiders ensures that Johnny’s
bravery will not be forgotten.