“Nothing Gold Can Stay” offers Ponyboy and Johnny a way to understand their lives; it gives the boys a framework for the traumatic events of their story. The poem likens the inevitable loss of innocence that the boys experience to the wilting of flowers. Sunrises transform the night into day, flowers wilt, and paradise is destroyed. In the poem, the conditions of existence dictate that everything loses its initial innocence. This loss of youth and purity does not have to be devastating, however. By using a metaphor from nature, Frost suggests that the loss of innocence is as natural as the death of a flower. Both losses must be accepted as an inevitable part of the cycle of life. Because of their poverty, the greasers will inevitably suffer losses and sacrifices. In citing the poem, Johnny and Ponyboy acknowledge that this loss is unavoidable but not that the loss of beauty is inevitable. Before he dies, Johnny urges Ponyboy to “[s]tay gold,” to hold onto those ideals that will outlast his loss of youth and innocence.
As with any set of starting points, neither of these starting points exists in isolation. High-context communication often corresponds with communitarian settings, just as low-context communication often occurs in individualist settings. This is not always true, but it is worth exploring because it is frequently the case. Where communitarianism is the preferred starting point, individual expression may be less important than group will. Indirect communication that draws heavily on nonverbal cues may be preferable in such a setting, because it allows for multiple meanings, saves face, leaves room for group input into decisions, and displays interdependence. In individualist settings, low-context communication may be preferable because it is direct, expresses individual desires and initiatives, displays independence, and clarifies the meaning intended by the speaker.