Ponyboy learns by the end of the novel that he is very protected by his brothers. Darry has sacrificed his own future prospects as a good sportsman and a potential college candidate to take a manual job to support his brothers. He protects Ponyboy from the despair and frustration this creates and instead projects a hard exterior. Darry confesses how afraid he was of losing Pony after the Windrixville incident, and here Pony sees how Darry has suffered due to the loss of their parents.
Darry is seen as over-protective by Ponyboy, but he is realistically a young man fearfully taking on the role of two parents. He makes sure Pony stays in school and wants him to succeed.
Both Soda and Darry ensure that either they or other greasers are around to be with Ponyboy. Darry is frustrated when Pony goes to the movies alone and is jumped by the Soc's in Chapter 1. The conflict between the two gangs is increasing, and Soda and Darry are aware of the trauma Johnny has recently suffered at the hands of the Soc's.
Soda also protects his brother from the complexities of relationships by carrying on despite the anguish of losing Sandy and his dreams of a family of his own.