How does Ponyboy's relationship with Darry and Sodapop differ in The Outsiders?

Expert Answers
durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton reveals the life of Ponyboy Curits as he struggles to find his way in a society which makes unfair distinctions between the gangs on the "west side" of town such as the "Socs" or Socials who can be "a public disgrace one day and an asset to society the next" compared to those on the "east side' like the "Greasers" to whom Ponyboy belongs and who are seen as "hoods."

Ponyboy has two brothers who have to look after him since their parents were killed in a car crash. In chapter one, the reader learns that Sodapop is older than Pony and he is "always happy-go-lucky and grinning" whereas Darrell or Darry, the eldest is always "hollering" at Ponyboy. Ponyboy admits that he loves Sodapop even more than he ever loved his parents. Pony appreciates Soda's ability to understand most things although he does know that Darry has suffered more than he should have at age twenty. Ponyboy knows that he has a high IQ and Darry has high expectations of him because of that and so Darry often gets mad when Ponyboy doesn't think about the consequences of his actions and so he is close to Soda but not to Darry. 

Darry is hard on Ponyboy who says he is "always rough without meaning to be" and he is only interested in real facts whereas Soda is "reckless and thoughtful at the same time", which Ponyboy appreciates. Pony would never think of crying in front of Darry and Soda makes him feel better. Ponyboy is afraid of Darry suggesting that a "full grown grizzly" is less intimidating and Ponyboy is in awe of Soda who even teases Darry and never treats Ponyboy like a little boy. Pony tells Cherry that Darry is "hard as rock...with eyes exactly like frozen ice" (ch 3 ). Ponyboy even suggests that Darry "can't stand me" and given a chance he would put Ponyboy in a home. However, by the end of the novel, Ponyboy has a different understanding of Darry and realizes that he has made sacrifices for his brothers but that Ponyboy himself has never tried to understand his brother before. 

Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Ponyboy's relationships with his two brothers are different because of the roles that Darry and Sodapop play in their brother's life. 

Darry has taken on the role of acting as Ponyboy's father figure.  Even though "Darry yells too much and tries too hard and takes everything too serious," he has Ponyboy's best interests at heart (174).  Darry works hard to provide for his family, and because he is the oldest brother, he feels a responsibility toward making sure Ponyboy does well at school and makes good choices.

Easy-going Sodapop is Ponyboy's confidante.  Ponyboy and Soda have a very close relationship, because Sodapop is a very good listener.  He comforts Ponyboy through difficult times and often feels like the "middleman in a tug o'war" when Ponyboy and Darry have arguments (174). 

In the end of the novel, Ponyboy comes to understand that he "had expected Darry to do all the understanding without even trying to understand him" (176).  Part of the novel's resolution includes Ponyboy strengthening his relationship with his brothers, understanding that if "[they] don't have each other, [they] don't have anything" (176).