Explain how Darry and Ponyboy play tug-of-war with Soda in The Outsiders.
Soda is the middle child, and as the most amiable of the three, he often gets caught in-between Ponyboy and Darry when they clash. Ponyboy and Darry often argue, and when they do, they both want Soda to be on their side, forgetting that he has his own problems too. In Chapter 12, this is clearly illustrated when Darry confronts Ponyboy about his behavior since the deaths of their friends. Ponyboy retorts, "You'd like that, wouldn't you" You'd like me just to get out. Well, it's not that easy, is it, Soda?" Soda responds by crying "Don't", and runs out of the house, shocking Darry and Ponyboy, who, in being so wrapped up in his own battles, have never considered that he had troubles of his own and needs their support sometimes too. Soda tells them, "I can't stand to hear y'all fight. Sometimes...it's like I'm the middleman in a tug o' war and I'm being split in half".
In Chapter Twelve, Ponyboy and Darry are fighting over grades when Sodapop suddenly runs out of the house. When Darry and Ponyboy eventually catch up to Soda, he explains to them how difficult it is for him to pick sides when they are arguing with each other. Being the middle child, Sodapop has a good relationship with both Darry and Ponyboy. He can sympathize with both their perspectives, which makes it difficult for him to choose which brother he will support when they get into an argument. Sodapop tells Darry and Ponyboy that he feels like they are both pulling him in opposite directions, like a game of tug-o-war. After Sodapop explains his feelings, Ponyboy comes to the realization that he was never aware of how his fights with Darry negatively affected Sodapop. After their conversation with Soda, Darry and Ponyboy agree to stop arguing and be more understanding of one another.
Darry and Ponyboy fight over Soda similarly to typical siblings: they want a parent, friend, cousin, or someone-they-look-up-to on their side. In this case, that person is Soda. They want him on their side to prove the other wrong. The problem is that Soda sees things in both sides of the agreement.