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When the story opens, the mood is bitter and rebellious. Pony and the other Greasers resent the fact that the Socs have lots of money, nice cars, fancy clothes, and many girlfriends. In contrast, they are poor and must work extremely hard for everything they have. In addition, society is prejudiced against them because of their clothes, long hair, and greasy appearance. In the middle of the novel, the mood becomes increasingly angry. The Greasers are tired of the Socs always picking on them, and the Socs are furious about the Greasers hanging out with some of "their girls." As a result, the Socs jump Pony and Johnny. In self-defense Johnny kills Bob, one of the Socs. The mood then becomes one of terror. Pony and Johnny are scared for their own safety and fear the police. Upon Dally's advice, they hide in an abandoned church and worry about being found.


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The mood then switches to great sadness, for Johnny, in trying to rescue the children when the church catches on fire, is killed himself. Dally then gets himself foolishly shot by the police, leaving Pony with two less friends. By the end of the novel, however, the mood has some degree of hope. Pony is determined to rise above his past. He adopts a new mission in life, to tell the world about the problems and deprivations of underprivileged children, like himself. It is obvious that in the end, Hinton is very sympathetic towards the plight of Pony and the Greasers.