The main characters in S.E. Hinton's novel of the conflict between the wealthy Socs and their adversaries on the opposite end of the socioeconomic spectrum, the Greasers, are the Curtis brothers, Darrel, Sodapop and Ponyboy. These three brothers, orphaned following their parents' death in an automobile accident, are struggling to stay together, but are in perpetual conflict with each other. Darrel, or Darry, is the oldest and is forced to act the role of parent to Ponyboy, the youngest, a 14-year-old teenager whose intelligence and sensitivity provides the perspective through which Hinton's story is told. Early in the opening chapter of The Outsiders, Ponyboy, the narrator, describes the three Curtis brothers as follows:
"Darry's gone through a lot in his twenty years, grown up too fast. Sodapop'll never grow up at all. I don't know which way's the best. I'll find out one of these days."
In addition to the Curtis brothers, other main characters include Dallas Winston, described by Ponyboy as "the real character of the gang . . . I used to like to draw his picture when he was in a dangerous mood, for then I could get his personality down in a few lines." Dallas, or Dally, is among the more hardened of the Greasers, and proves integral to the novel's evolution. It is Dallas who is instrumental in helping Ponyboy and another major character, Johnny, escape to the church that will prove fateful later in the story. Johnny is Ponyboy's best friend, and a child hardened by the beating he endured at the hands of rival Socs while retaining his youthful innocence and sensitivity.
In addition to the above, other key characters are Cherry, a pretty Soc whose rapport with Ponyboy allows for a semblance of understanding and interaction across battle lines that helps each develop greater empathy for the other, Bob, Cherry's sometimes-boyfriend whose sadism, illustrated when he holds Ponyboy's head under water, prompting Johnny's killing of Bob, is more felt than seen, as Cherry discusses Bob's other, more compassionate side to Ponyboy following his death, and Two-Bit Mathews, another Greaser and "the oldest of the gang and the wisecracker of the bunch . . . famous for shoplifting and his black-handled switchblade." Two-Bit earned his moniker for his habit of always having to get "his two-bits worth" in any conversation.
There are obviously other characters in Hinton's novel, but these are the main ones around whom the story revolves.