I think that a good case can be made that Dally is a hero in Hinton's work. Part of this might lie in how he is able to transcend his own condition in life. His background is one where "the fight for self-preservation had hardened him beyond caring." Dally shows his heroism in his selfless love for Johnny. His love for Johnny is heroic because he shows himself to be different from the life he has lived. Dally tells Johnny, "I just don't want you to get hurt...You get hardened in jail. I don't want that to happen to you." This is heroic because he understands how jail has hardened him and he does not want that to happen to another person. Heroism is going beyond oneself and looking out for another person. In his care for Johnny despite the harsh conditions of his own life, heroism is evident.
Hinton establishes that the only way restoration will be present is through someone's sacrifice. Someone has to sacrifice in order for others to be happy. Dally does this. When he walks into certain death and does not hesitate in understanding his role as a sacrifice, Dally becomes a hero. He becomes a hero because he does what others do not want to do. He recognizes the need to embrace something larger than himself, and in his sacrifice, Dally is a hero.