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The main difference between Ponyboy and his older brother Darry is that Darry feels as though he must be responsible and provide for his younger brothers. To this end, he does not accept the football scholarship to go to college and takes a strenuous roofing job instead so he can be home for Sodapop and Ponyboy. Ponyboy, however, does not understand why Darry is so hard on him to succeed; he worries that his older brother only sees him as a burden:
"Darry thought I was just another mouth to feed and somebody to holler at? Darry love me? [...] Darry doesn't love anyone or anything, except maybe Soda" (18).
Ponyboy's misconception of Darry's true feelings drives a rift between them. Because of his limited perception, Ponyboy cannot appreciate how hard Darry works and the difficulty of trying to raise two younger brothers; similarly, Darry fails to see how his strict 'parenting' of Ponyboy has given his little brother the wrong impression of his true feelings. Ultimately, Ponyboy and Darry both put their differences aside and come to realize how much they mean to each other by the end of the novel.
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