Ponyboy's relationship with Darry and Sodapop differs in The Outsiders in that Darry, the eldest of the three brothers, is more like a parent to Ponyboy, while he and Sodapop have a more typical brotherly relationship. After their parents die, Darry steps in to hold the family together so that the state and social workers do not take the two younger boys from their home to place them with foster families. Thus, Darry agrees to take on the role of caregiver. He works to support the family so that Ponyboy can stay in school and fulfill his aspirations.
Because of the responsibilities on him, Darry has little time for fun and games. Ponyboy says of Darry,
Darrel, who we call Darry, works too long and hard to be interested in a story or drawing a picture ... but Soda tries to understand, at least, which is more than Darry does.
Ponyboy thinks that Soda is different from anybody else he knows. Soda seems to understand almost everything or perhaps it just seems that way to Ponyboy because Soda is so caring. He never yells at Ponyboy the way Darry does and he does not treat him as if I were a small child. Ponyboy notes that Soda is
always happy-go-lucky and grinning, while Darry's hard and firm and rarely grins at all.
When Ponyboy gets beaten up, it is Soda who comforts him. Ponyboy berates himself for walking to the movies by himself and leaving himself vulnerable to an attack by the Socs. He thinks,
It drives my brother Darry nuts when I do stuff like that ...
It is clear that Ponyboy regards Darry as a parental figure. He wants to heed Darry’s rules when he can, and he does not want to upset his oldest brother. On the other hand, Ponyboy can be more comfortable with Soda, and they share social aspects of their lives together.