Explain why it seems to Ponyboy that Darry doesn't care for him in "The Outsiders".

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sullymonster eNotes educator| Certified Educator

After the death of the Curtis parents, Darry has to take over the role of head of the household.  Sodapop, just a few years younger than Darry, is basically grown up.  He doesn't need active parenting.  Ponyboy, however, is still young, and Darry has to be a father to him.  Darry worries about Ponyboy, and he worries about his own ability to care for and keep Ponyboy - one slip up and the state could separate the brothers.

Because of this worry, Darry is strict with Ponyboy.  He spends most of his time lecturing Ponyboy and not much time talking with him.  He tells Pony to study and then tells him to spend time outside.  He gets on Pony's case for daydreaming, because he understands the dangers that face his brother every day. 

It is because Darry is so strict that Pony thinks that Darry doesn't care.  Darry gave up college - a full scholarship - to be a parent, and Ponyboy assumes that Darry yells because he resents having to stay at home.  He thinks that Darry sees him as a burden, not as a brother. 

After Ponyboy comes back from the church, he finally sees that Darry missed him and was honestly worried.  He understands that Darry loves him and says:

I had taken the long way around, but I was finally home. To stay.