In The Outsiders, what are Dally's parents like?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Dallas’s parents do not care about him, and he does not care about them.  They are not in his life.

Dally is described as “tougher than the rest of us-tougher, colder, meaner” (Ch. 1), having spent three years “on the cold streets of New York” and arrested by the time he was ten.

Dallas described his parents as not being involved in his life.

Shoot, my old man don't give a hang whether I'm in jail or dead in a car wreck or drunk in the gutter.  That don't bother me none." (Ch. 6)

It’s clear that any kid who wanders around New York City and gets arrested by ten must not have a lot of parental involvement.  Ponyboy says he feels sorry for Dally because he knows that he is telling the truth when he says he does not care about his parents and his parents don’t care about him.

Ponyboy points out that Dally is tough, and could take it, “and when he wasn't, he could turn hard and tough” (Ch. 6).  Growing up without parents, he learned to fend for himself from an early age.  This made him a sort of father figure for the group.  Thus, while he was tough and kind of scary, they also respected and cared about him. 

In a way, they all became a dysfunctional family for each other because their own families were even more dysfunctional.  Darry does his best to hold Ponyboy and Sodapop together after their parents die.  Johnny’s father hits him.  Even the Socs have problems, as Cherry demonstrates.  Dallas is a typical kid who joined a gang in order to have a family because his own family was no longer working, a story that had been going on before and has continued to go on ever since.