When Dallas, or Dally, pays Johnny and Ponyboy a visit at the hideaway to which they had fled after Johnny killed the Soc who was holding Ponyboy's head under water, he gives Ponyboy a letter from Sodapop addressed to the youngest of the Curtis brothers. As Dallas relates the story to the boys about the chaos back home that ensued following the murder, including the police department's suspicion that the two young fugitives headed to Mexico, and as Johnny and Dallas discuss their mutual need for food, Ponyboy is focused on his letter from Sodapop. The letter expresses Sodapop's, and their eldest brother Darry's, concern for their missing younger sibling and their sadness at his departure. Ponyboy, however, finishes the letter and expresses only the following thought:
He could improve his spelling, I thought after reading it through three or four times. "How come you got hauled in?" I asked Dally.
Ponyboy's reaction to his brother's letter is telling. That he states that he read it "three or four times" clearly indicates that the letter is very important to him. That his thoughts also include the notion that Sodapop's spelling needs improvement, however, goes to this young boy's character. Ponyboy is a thoughtful, sensitive boy hardened by the life he has been forced to live. He is capable of much greater things than his circumstances would seem to warrant, and his focus on the grammatical aspects of his brother's heartfelt letter speaks to his intellectual capacity. His is a life that shouldn't be wasted on the streets -- a sentiment that seems very much at variance with the life of Dallas.