What do we learn about Dally in The Outsiders when he talks to Johnny about jail and goes into the church to save him?

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Kristen Lentz | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Dally's plea to Johnny not to turn himself in reveals how much he actually cares for the other boy:

"Johnny, I ain't mad at you.  I just don't want you to get hurt.  You don't know what a few months in jail can do to you" (89).

Despite Dally's tough exterior and hardened persona, he shows that he genuinely cares for Johnny like a younger brother; this moment transforms his characterization in the novel by revealing that Dally does have a sensitive, caring side.  Moreover, Dally acts selflessly to save Johnny from the church fire, putting himself at risk to help someone else, which is a direct contrast to his earlier self-centered attitude.  Chapter Six really showcases Dally as a character who does care deeply for his fellow gang members, that he does, in fact, have a heart.