In The Outsiders, when and how did Ponyboy’s parents die?

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The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton traces the difficulties faced by Ponyboy and his brothers after the tragic death of their parents which the reader learns makes life very challenging, especially as the eldest brother, Darry is only twenty years old himself. The story begins when Ponyboy comes out of a movie theater and talks about his brothers. The reader is alerted to the fact that Pony's brothers dominate his thoughts. In chapter 1, Ponyboy says that he loves his brother Soda "more than I've ever loved anyone, even Mom and Dad." He also mentions that Darry is strict and has "gone through a lot in his twenty years, grown up too fast."  

Ponyboy and his brothers are members of The Greasers, a gang from "the East Side" and Ponyboy begins to wish he had not gone to the movies alone as a rival gang, The Socs, "the West-side rich kids," threaten to "jump" him as he is walking home. Ponyboy, as the narrator, discusses with the reader how the Socs have no boundaries and "wreck houses" and do other destructive things just for the sake of it whereas the Greasers "have a gang fight once in a while...and wear our hair long" but are more like "hoods." Ponyboy is quick to tell the reader that he and Sodapop try to stay out of trouble or at least don't get caught because he is aware that "since Mom and Dad were killed in an auto wreck" the boys can only stay together if they "behave."

Ponyboy mentions his parents occasionally and in chapter 4 he talks about how he used to go to church, "even after Mom and Dad were gone;" that is until Sodapop and some other Greasers cause a disturbance, and since then, Ponyboy has never been back. After the fire in the church, Ponyboy is shocked that he sees Darry crying and Pony remarks that Darry hadn't cried for years, "not even when Mom and dad were killed" (chapter 6).  

Pony fondly remembers his mother in chapter 8 when he and Two-Bit are talking about Johnny's neglectful mother. Ponyboy's mom was "beautiful and golden... wise and firm..." and Ponyboy admits that Darry is very hard with him, even more so than Pony's own parents but, as Ponyboy points out, Darry has had no practice bringing up a child whereas his parents "raised two boys before me."

All of these references suggest that the parents have probably been dead for about two to three years. 

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Ponyboy Curtis and his brothers Sodapop and Darrel (nicknamed Darry) lost their parents approximately eight months before the start of the Novel The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. When this happens, Darry, who is the eldest of the three brothers, takes over as the family's protector and guardian. At the beginning of Ponyboy's narration, Darry is 20 years old. This means that if their parents had died a few years ago, he would have been a minor, underage, and therefore unable to keep his family together. Likely, three underage orphaned boys would be put into the foster care system. However, because Darry was over the age of majority at the time of the mother and father's deaths, he becomes the legal guardian of his 14 year old brother Ponyboy and his 16 year old brother Sodapop. 

The Curtis parents died in a car crash. When the book begins, the emotional wounds of their parents dying and them being orphaned are still fresh and hurting. They still feel very strongly about this traumatic event in their lives, which indicates that it wasn't very long ago. The parents' deaths are significant because it forces the Curtis boys to rely even more on each other and on their Greaser friends. It changes Darry the most. Before the car crash, he was popular in school and had a lot of potential. When their parents died, he had to give up his dream of going to college in order to take jobs to take care of his two younger brothers. 

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Ponyboy’s parents died in a car accident a few years before the events in the novel take place.  The novel never actually tells when the accident occurred but Ponyboy does have a memory of his parents, therefore it was probably not much more than five years before the events take place.  Throughout the novel, Ponyboy has a few dreams about his parents and thinks about how things and his life would be if his parents were still alive.  Since the accident took place, Ponyboy’s oldest brother, Darryl (Darry) has been taking care of him and SodaPop.

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In the first chapter of The Outsiders, Ponyboy shares that his parents were killed in a car accident. Since the death of their parents, Ponyboy and his two older brothers, Darry and Soda, are on their own. As long as they stay out of trouble, they are allowed to remain together. Ponyboy shares that his father, who was only forty at the time of his death, looked much younger. People often thought that his father and Darry were brothers because of their similar looks. Darry, the oldest brother, is in the position of being the authority figure to his two younger brothers. Ponyboy feels that Darry's treatment of him is harsh, and Ponyboy reflects that while Darry and his dad have similar looks, his father was never "rough" like Darry. Soda, the middle brother, has his father's eyes. However, Ponyboy describes Soda as "one of a kind."

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The death of Ponyboy’s parents just a few months before the book begins really impacts the lives of the Curtis brothers.   Their parents die in an automobile crash, and no specific details are given as to when or how it happened.  The tragic accident puts the Curtis brothers in a state of turmoil as they grieve over the deaths of their parents.  The oldest brother, Darry, must give up his life to become the sole guardian of Ponyboy and Sodapop.  It is a big burden for Darry, as he tries to keep his brothers in school and provide for them.   One night when Ponyboy breaks his curfew, Darry yells at him because Darry is trying desperately to save Ponyboy from the type of life he lives.  The brothers seem a little lost as they work their way through the tragedy.  Fortunately, they have their other friends (the Greasers) to rely on for support. 

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This question is never fully addressed in S. E. Hinton's novel, The Outsiders. Pony reveals that his parents were killed in a car wreck, but there are no other specific details. We know that Pony's father (apparently Darrel Curtis Sr., since Darry is his namesake) was 40 years old when he died and Darry bears a striking resemblance to his dad who, according to Pony, looked only 25. In the Francis Ford Coppola film, the director shows Pony reliving his parents' death in a dream sequence showing them struck by a train while in their car. However, the train is not mentioned as a cause of death in the novel. 

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Ponyboy's parents died in a car crash shortly before the story starts. (That's part of the exposition.) Since that time, Ponyboy, Soda pop, and Darry have been living on their own. Darry the oldest brother is trying to keep the family together.

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Pony's parents were killed in an automobile accident when his father was 40 years old.  See chapter 3 of the novel.

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