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Other than their backgrounds, there are a few differences between the two characters. Ponyboy is definitely a stronger character in terms of the mental anguish that he is able to deal with. Pony is constantly fighting with his brother; however, it does not affect him the way that Johnny’s relationship with his parents affects him. This could have to do with the difference in the two relationships but it is a character difference as well – the end of the novel does a great job of showing Ponyboy’s strength. Johnny is also always nervous while Ponyboy seems to be able to handle situations with ease most of the time. Finally, Johnny makes rash and impetuous decisions while Ponyboy always seems to think things through before he acts on anything.
Throughout the novel, Ponyboy is portrayed as a more confident individual than Johnny. Ponyboy knows his strengths which are in the fields of academics and athletics, while Johnny doesn't have any overt accomplishments or talents that are mentioned. However, Johnny has the unique ability to understand individuals on an emotional level, and has an intrinsic capacity to sympathize with the gang members in a way that Ponyboy cannot. He is a great listener and seems have a more developed perspective than Ponyboy does for the majority of the novel. At the beginning of the novel, Ponyboy fails to understand Darry's situation, Soda's feelings, and Dally's personality. Ponyboy is self-centered and would rather express his opinions, rather than ask about other's feelings. In this sense, Johnny is depicted as a more understanding and selfless character because he seeks to understand the people around him, rather than judging them the way Ponyboy does. While they are reading the novel Gone With the Wind, Ponyboy mentions that Johnny could get more meaning out of the novel than he could. Ponyboy's comment reflects Johnny's developed introspective personality. Although Ponyboy does better in school, it is Johnny who has the ability to grasp abstract concepts and understand the deeper meaning of the text.
I think that Johnny is a little more beaten up and sensitive than Ponyboy.
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