Ponyboy is the narrator in S. E. Hinton's The Outsiders and he describes how the characters relate to one another as members of the "Greasers," a gang from "the east side" of town quite unlike the "Socs," a rival gang whose members are privileged and wealthy; "the west side rich kids." Ponyboy lives with his two brothers, the eldest of whom, Darryl, or Darry for short, takes care of him although he is only twenty himself.
Ponyboy is aware of his own shortcomings and in chapter 1, he talks about how everyone says he is "smart. I make good grades and have a high IQ and everything." Ponyboy loves to read and his friend Johnny recognizes qualities in Ponyboy that gang life could spoil and so Johnny, just before he tragically dies, reminds Ponyboy to "stay gold;" hoping that Ponyboy does not become cynical and jaded like the other gang members. This makes Ponyboy very different from Dallas Winston- Dally.
Dally is "the real character of the gang," and when Ponyboy describes him, he (Ponyboy) recognizes a "hatred of the whole world" in Dally's eyes. Dally is much wilder than the other boys. He is worldly-wise and very tough and his only competition is the Socs' gang but because they have all the luck, Dally is "bitter." Ponyboy admits that he does not really like Dally but he certainly respects him. He thinks that Dally makes trouble for himself, not liking to do things "the legal way" (chapter 2) and deserves what he gets but later, it is Dally who will help Ponyboy and Johnny when they are in trouble and although Dally is "so real he scared me" (ch 5), because Ponyboy has not had the experiences that Dally has, Ponyboy will recognize other qualities in Dally such as his loyalty and reliability which he would have previously overlooked. The boys are very different in their outlook and education, and they appreciate different things. They also deal with problems very differently. Ponyboy tries to run away from his but Dally is always confrontational and it is this that will ultimately claim his life.