In The Outsiders, what did Bob want from his parents that he never got? How is Bob like Johnny or Dally?
The section of the book that has the answer can be found near the end of chapter seven. Randy has come to talk to Ponyboy, and Ponyboy is surprised at how much emotional pain Randy is in.
Randy was supposed to be too cool to feel anything, and yet there was pain in his eyes.
Randy is very broken up over Bob's death. He's not mad at Ponyboy, nor does he blame Pony. He's sad over the loss of his friend. Additionally, the loss of his best friend has caused Randy to call into question the point of all of the gang fighting.
"I'm sick of all this. Sick and tired. Bob was a good guy. He was the best buddy a guy ever had. I mean, he was a good fighter and tuff and everything, but he was a real person too. You dig?"
What's interesting about Randy seeking out Ponyboy is that Randy knows his fellow gang members won't understand the feelings that he is going through. He feels that Pony, a Greaser, will be able to feel and empathize with his pain.
"I couldn't tell anyone else. My friends -- they'd think I was off my rocker or turning soft."
Ponyboy doesn't do that much talking, which is what Randy needs. He needs somebody to listen to him, and that's what Ponyboy does. He listens to Randy explain about Bob and Bob's parents. He says that Bob's parents catered to his every need. They never said "no" to Bob, and that's what Bob wanted more than anything else. He wanted his parents to set down some kind of boundary. He wanted rules and order.
"They spoiled him rotten. I mean, most parents would be proud of a kid like that--- good-lookin' and smart and everything, but they gave in to him all the time. He kept trying to make someone say 'No' and they never did. They never did. That was what he wanted. For somebody to tell him 'No.' To have somebody lay down the law, set the limits, give him something solid to stand on. That's what we all want, really."
Randy even goes so far as to say that Bob's dad should have "belted" him just once in order to show Bob that rules are in place and consequences exist for breaking the rules.
Johnny, Dally, and Bob are similar to each other in that they each come from dysfunctional homes. All three sets of parents "don't care" about their children in slightly different ways. Bob's parents appear to care by giving him everything he asks for, but they don't care about him enough to set out rules and consequences to protect him. Readers don't know much about Dally's parents, but Dally does tell readers that his parents absolutely don't care what happens to him one way or another.
"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."
That's perhaps why Dally is so rebellious. He could be trying to get any authority figure to tell him "no."
He liked to show that he didn't care whether there was a law or not. He went around trying to break laws.
While Dally's parents do not show any interest whatsoever in Dally, Johnny's parents show all the wrong kind of interest in Johnny. Johnny's parents are both abusive to him. His mom emotionally abuses him, and his dad physically abuses him. Johnny, like the other two boys, suffers from a lack of parental love.
In spite of all the materialistic things Bob's parents gave him, they failed to give him what he truly wanted and needed and that was some structure. Rules to live by. When Randy and Ponyboy talk at they Tasty Freeze, Randy confides in Ponyboy about Bob's home life. He tells him:
" ...they gave in to him all the time. He kept trying to get someone to say 'No' and they never did. They never did. That was what he wanted. For somebody to tell him 'No' to lay down the law, set limits and give him something solid to stand on. That's what we all want really."
Randy's quote couldn't be more true. Bob, Johnny and Dally grew up in very different homes, but their parents had similar attitudes towards parenting. We know that Dally's parents had given up on him a long time ago. Johnny's parents could care less about his well-being. They don't care if he comes home or not and when he goes missing for five days, they don't ask about him.
All three boys are like plastic bags blowing in the wind. No direction, no purpose, and their parents are not willing to grab hold of them and point them in the right direction.