Compare/contrast the Curtis brothers and discuss how their relationship changes over the course of the novel?
The primary point of contrast between the three Curtis brothers is how they approach consciousness in the modern setting. Each one has a particular point of view that challenges the other two paradigms. Darry's view of the world is one of intense responsibility. The conditions of being the eldest and thrust into the role of guardian has made him look at reality with a focus on what is as opposed to what can be: "Darry's hard and firm and rarely grins at all... He doesn't understand anything that is not plain hard fact. But he uses his head." Darry's point of view is sober and driven by the harsh condition of reality.
In contrast to this would be the transformative capacity of Ponyboy. Whereas Darry looks at life as what is, Pony seeks to find what can be. It is in this light where his love of films, evening sunsets, and poetry is reflected. Pony's antagonism with Darry exists because his frame of reference is fundamentally different from his elder brother's. Pony wishes for Darry to embrace some aspect of transformation, an almost generational disparity because of what the elder one must do and how the younger one perceives being in the world.
Sodapop's middle status is reflective of how he wishes to bring both oppositional forces together. He wishes to bring out peace and consensus out of the conflict narratives in the older brothers. Soda's contrast with the brothers is striking. Darry does not see the need to negotiate and assuage because life does not do this, while Pony sees the need to transform reality as something intrinsic to human beings. Sodapop's conciliatory posture is meant to be a sort of middle ground between both, evident in his demeanor which is "always happy-go-lucky and grinning." This position is enhanced by his disdain for his brothers fighting and his need to make peace between them.
When Sodapop says, "If we don't have each other, we don't have anything," it reflects the transformation of the brothers' relationship. Such an idea becomes the point of convergence as the narrative develops. All three recognize their love for one another. The brothers change and become closer as they realize that their support and love for one another is the only real currency in a valueless world. In a setting where social antagonisms and unfairness permeate, where deaths of good people go unheralded, and where honor and justice seem to be absent, the brothers come to understand and rely on one another. This is seen in the understanding of "I reckon we all just wanted to stay together" and how Darry comforts Pony when he is in the hospital. While so much swirls around the boys that cannot be comprehended, the love they have for one another becomes that which is stable in a world far from it.