Ponyboy has a love/hate relationship with his oldest brother, Darry, in The Outsiders. Pony complains that Darry picks on him, yells at him and is too strict. But, of course, Darry loves his brother. Darry has had to assume the position of adult/parent in the household after the boys' mother and father are killed in a car wreck. He tries to take the position as seriously as possible, foregoing a possible college football scholarship and working two jobs to support the family. Darry is also responsible for keeping Pony out of trouble, since the threat of the boys being separated by family services is always a possibility. Darry also wants to keep Pony safe, since their greaser activities and battles with the Socs always poses potential danger. Although Pony is often angry with Darry, and vice versa, Sodapop tries to keep the peace between his two brothers.
When Darry hits Pony on the night of Bob Sheldon's death, Darry has instant regret. "Pony, I didn't mean to," he tries to explain. At the church, Dally tells Pony that "you ought to see Darry. He's takin' this mighty hard..." Soda tries to comfort Pony, insisting that
"Darry and me nearly went nuts... Darry is awfully sorry he hit you. You know he didn't mean it... it's nearly killing him."
At the hospital after the fire, Pony finally recognizes the truth.
Suddenly, I realized, horrified, that Darry was crying.
In that second what Soda and Dally and Two-Bit had been trying to tell me came through. Darry did care about me.
... I wondered how I could ever have thought him hard and unfeeling. I... knew everything was going to be okay now.