In The Outsiders, why doesn't Ponyboy like referring to Sodapop as a drop out?

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Throughout the novel, Ponyboy expresses his admiration for his older brother Sodapop. Pony describes Sodapop as being happy-go-lucky, handsome, and understanding. Pony even mentions that he loves Sodapop more than anyone he's ever loved before. In Chapter 2, Pony is having a conversation with Cherry and she asks him if Sodapop works at the gasoline station. When Pony tells her that Soda works there, she smiles and calls him a "doll." Cherry then asks Ponyboy why she never sees Soda at school. Cherry's question forces Ponyboy to tell her that his brother is a dropout. Ponyboy mentions that he hates calling Sodapop a dropout. The term dropout makes Ponyboy think of a "dumb-looking hoodlum" which doesn't fit Sodapop's persona. Even though it bothers Ponyboy that Sodapop is a dropout, he still admires his brother for other reasons. Ponyboy does not view Sodapop as being an unintelligent loser, but sees Soda as a fun, attractive, compassionate person.

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In addition, Ponyboy is still stubborn in his beliefs.  He refuses to accept that Soda wasn't good at school, just as he refuses to accept that Darry had to make strong sacrifices for the brothers.  In one particular scene, Soda uncharacteristically yells at Ponyboy, explaining that school was beyond him.  Pony assumes that, since he likes school and he likes Soda, that Soda must like school.  Part of his coming of age in the story is realizing that not all things are so black and white.

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One of the central themes of this book is the dysfunction and destruction caused by social stratification and labels. Ponyboy resents the one-dimensional labels which people place on one another. Because he comes from a low-income household and his friends identify as "Greasers," he is especially sensitive to this injustice. To call Soda, his brother, a "drop-out" is to make his failure in high school his primary characteristic, which Ponyboy feels is unfair. "Greaser," "Soc," and "hoodlum" are also terms which unfairly typecast the people in the story. The havoc these terms and their perceived meanings wreak throughout the book serves to prove Ponyboy right. Ponyboy is right to "wince" at anyone calling Soda a "drop-out," because it is an unfair oversimplification of Soda's humanity. 

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In both chapter one and two of The Outsiders, we find that Pony hates the thoughts of Soda as a dropout. Soda has always been the one who protected and watched out for Pony, so when he drops out of school, Pony is left on his own. When Pony, Johnny, and Dally are at the drive-in, Cherry asks Pony what grade Soda is in. Pony hates it when he has to tell people that his brother is a drop-out.

I winced inside. I've told you that I can't stand it that Soda dropped out. "He's a dropout," I said roughly. "Dropout" made me think of some poor dumb-looking hoodlum wandering the streets breaking out street lights--it didn't fit my happy-go-lucky brother at all. It fitted Dally perfectly, but you could hardly say it about Soda.

Ponyboy Curtis is one of the most interesting characters. He is a member of the greasers, yet he is a quite sensitive young man. He is very smart. Pony is stuck in a situation that looks bleak, yet his future could be so bright. He has high expectations of his brother, and it really bothers him that Soda dropped out of school.

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In the first chapter of "The Outsiders," Ponyboy and Sodapop are going to sleep and Pony asks Soda, "'How come you dropped out?"  I have never gotten over that.  I could hardly stand it when he left school." (pg 17)

Ponyboy loves Sodapop more than anyone and Sodapop defends Ponyboy.  When Sodapop dropped out of school it left Ponyboy there alone.  He missed having Sodapop in school with him, and he felt like Sodapop shouldn't have to work instead of going to school

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