Most of the hardship that Ponyboy does endure in the novel stems from his relationship with the Greasers. From the very beginning, he is targeted by the Socs based on his Greaser look and the fact that he is with Cherry Valance.
With that being said, much of Ponyboy's difficulties probably could have been avoided completely if he had a solid family structure at home to support him. Being an orphan put him at an even more 'at-risk' status.
Ponyboy's loner instincts run contrary to his Greaser lifestyle; Greasers were all about community and brotherhood, and since he wants to live the life without constantly associating with other Greasers, he finds himself separated from both the outside world and his chosen social group.
I agree that it is partly because he is a Greaser. But he is different from a lot of the other Greasers, and this brings him trouble as well. He is a good athlete, which has already been mentioned, but he also is a solitary young man by nature. He likes watching movies by himself, for instance, and this gets him beaten up by Socs, who catch him walking home by himself. I also agree that much that is troubled about Ponyboy results from his parents' deaths.
I agree that the challenges Ponyboy faces are due to a combination of issues. He is a teenager,seeking his own identity within a society where you tend to be defined as one group or the other. Ponyboyhas the potential to go to college, as his brother Darry did, but exists amongst the working class Greasers. He meets a young lady who he can confide in and be himself around, but she is older than him, and is a Soc. Ponyboy's biggest challenge is to see that he can exist within AND beyond the restrictions of his environment and circumstance.
Partly. The issues of class are an important part of this book. Ponyboy comes from a "broken home," but this is partly because of his social class. Hinton wrote the book because she was inspired by the struggles of the social classes in her high school and the gangs, Greasers and Socs, that developed as a result of social class. They fight because they are in gangs, but the gangs exist because of class. All of Ponyboy’s relationships are influenced by this, including his interactions with the Soc-class Cherry.
I agree with #2. There is a definite theme of social class and division in the novel, but there are other issues that make Ponyboy experience conflict, such as his status as an orphan and the way that he is an intelligent, thoughtful individual who is trapped in a world that insists on viewing him in one way alone.
That's certainly part of it, but it's not the only thing. He experiences hardship in part because his parents died. But beyond that, the fact that he is a greaser, along with the fact that he doesn't quite fit in that niche, are what make him experience hardship. He doesn't completely fit in anywhere since he is a greaser but he's also good at track and pretty smart.