In The Outsiders, why does Darry treat Ponyboy the way he does?

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Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Ponyboy feels that Darry is too hard on him, often wishing that he had the easy relationship with his older brother like he shares with Sodapop.  Darry, however, feels that he must be stern with Ponyboy because ever since his parents' deaths he has had to be the authority figure, disciplinarian, and parent of the household.  Darry shoulders most of the responsibility of the Curtis family; he sees the amazing potential in his youngest brother's academic ability and wants him to succeed.  Darry and Sodapop both dropped out of high school in order to get jobs to support the family, and Darry is tough on Ponyboy because he does not want that kind of future for his kid brother.