What does Ponyboy realize about his relationship with Sodapop in "The Outsiders"?

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Throughout the novel, Ponyboy gets along well with Sodapop but continually argues with his oldest brother Darry. Darry and Ponyboy fail to see eye-to-eye on nearly every issue, and Pony believes that Darry does not truly love him. Towards the end of the novel, Sodapop receives his love letter to Sandy returned and unopened. Soda then sprints out of the house, after Darry and Pony get into another argument. Darry briefly explains to Pony that Sandy moved to Florida with her grandmother, which breaks Sodapop's heart. When Darry and Pony end up catching up to Soda, he explains to them how their constant arguing is causing him excess stress and straining his relationship with both of them.

After Soda explains how he is tired of being the mediator, Pony realizes that he never considered the fact that he was making Soda's life difficult. Pony also realizes that he hasn't been paying attention to what is happening in Soda's life and understands that he needs to be more considerate of Soda's feelings. Pony had always just assumed that Soda was happy, and Pony learns a valuable lesson in exercising perspective by viewing situations from Soda's point of view at the end of the novel.

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Ponyboy doesn't get along with his oldest brother Darrell.  He and Darry argue about rules and priorities.  Darry wants Ponyboy to think more concretely, to plan all his days, to get good grades but to be athletic and active.  Ponyboy likes to daydream and think about philosophical matters, and reads and goes to movies more than Darry would like.

Through all this arguing, Sodapop is the shoulder that Ponyboy cries on.  He likes Sodapop because Soda listens to his ideas, shows interest in what he reads, etc..  Soda is sympathetic about Darry and helps to calm Darry down, often taking Ponyboy's side.  Soda is light-hearted and cheerful, and Pony enjoys his spirit.

However, what Ponyboy comes to realize is that while Soda is always there for him, he hasn't been there for Soda.  He doesn't ask Soda about his life, about Sandy, about how he is feeling.  He doesn't think about how the fighting between him and Darry might be hard for Soda, and that he is putting Soda in the middle:

I don't know, man. It's just like sometimes I have to get out. It's like I'm the middle man in a tug-of-war or something between you guys. I don't know, I can't take sides.

Ponyboy's realization about Sodapop shows that he is maturing.  He is starting to think about the situations and the feelings of people around him, to accept that "things are rough all over" and to be considerate of other people's challenges.

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