Most notably, Ponyboy finds himself in conflict with his society. The class conflicts drive the other plot conflicts. Pony is a greaser, characterized by a lower socioeconomic status and a generally tougher background. The group is known for stealing things and holding up gas stations once in a while; however, Pony stays out of this kind of trouble, because "Darry would kill [him] if [he] got into trouble with the police." They are often harassed by the Socs, who have substantial wealth and drive nice cars. The transgressions of the Socs are generally overlooked by authorities. Pony notes,
The Socs get editorials in the paper for being a public disgrace one day and an asset to society the next.
The Socs typically come out on top, and they use this advantage to jump the greasers and initiate conflict with them. Thus, Pony and Johnny directly confront Bob; after Johnny kills him, it establishes the context for the rest of the plot.
Ponyboy also finds himself in conflict with another person—specifically, his oldest brother, Darry. Darry had a bright future of his own; he passed up an opportunity to go to college because he needed to take care of his younger brothers after their parents died. Because Pony is so young, he doesn't realize the sacrifice that Darry has made, nor does he understand that his oldest brother has been thrust into a parenting role with no experience.
Darry makes some mistakes, but Pony interprets it without allowing Darry much grace because of their situation. Pony and Darry often find themselves in conflict, but they reach a relative peace after Johnny's death and the trial's outcome. In chapter 6, Pony vocalizes a new perspective about Darry's own struggles:
That was [Darry's] silent fear then—of losing another person he loved. I remembered how close he and Dad had been, and I wondered how I could ever have thought him hard and unfeeling. I listened to his heart pounding through his T-shirt and I knew everything was going to be okay now. I had taken the long way around, but I was finally home. To stay.
Finally, Pony faces an inner conflict as he tries to reach a more mature understanding of the world around him. He feels rejected by society, alienated after his parents' deaths, and grief-stricken after losing his best friend. Pony navigates these inner conflicts with halting progress and eventually realizes that he has a role in building healthy relationships, both in his own family and with others in his society who come from backgrounds different than his own. Pony grows to understand that "things are rough all over," just as Cherry told him.