Why is Darry upset with Ponyboy in The Outsiders? What does Darry think of him?

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Throughout the novel we learn that Darry is frustrated with Ponyboy on many occasions. However, it is important to note that this novel is told from Ponyboy's point of view, so it is his perceptions that we learn our information from.

From the start of the novel when Ponyboy describes Darry, he does so in a negative light. He portrays Darry of someone who had a lot going for him but had to give it all up to take care of his younger brothers when their parents are killed. Through Pony's eyes we see an older brother who is hard and resentful. Pony makes comments about nothing ever being good enough for Darry and that Pony is not reaching his true potential and wasting his talent. Additionally, there are several times throughout the novel that Darry makes comments to Ponyboy about Pony's lack of common sense. This is another area of frustration. 

All of this comes to a climax when Ponyboy comes home well past his curfew because he fell asleep in a park with Johnny. Darry is very upset and he and Ponyboy get into an argument. As a result, Darry hits Ponyboy causing Ponyboy to run away which leads to the main conflict in the story signaling the start of the action.

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Darry becomes upset with Ponyboy on different occasions because he perceives the potential that his youngest brother has and is frustrated when Ponyboy does not utilize his gifts. In Chapter 3 when Ponyboy is out until nearly 2:00 a.m., like any parent Darry becomes worried and anxious. Unfortunately, he yells at Ponyboy out of this concern for him and his Ponyboy misinterprets this anger and runs off. When Johnny and Ponyboy encounter the Socs again at the park an unfortunate incident happens: Johnny kills Bob in self-defence. Under the advice of Dally, they head to a church in the country where they can hide.

Later, in Chapter 6, after Ponyboy and Johnny rescue some children from the church which has caught fire, Johnny is injured seriously, but Ponyboy has minor injuries. Seeing this, Darry responds with emotion,his "eyes pleading," but Ponyboy thinks,

Darry hollered at me all the time... he didn't give a hang about me.... Suddenly I realized, horrified, that Darry was crying. He didn't make a sound, but tears were running down his cheeks. I hadn't seen him cry in years, not even when Mom and Dad had been killed.

 "Oh Pony, I thought we'd lost you… like we did mom and dad…" 

Now, Ponyboy understands why Darry has acted angrily when he came home so late: he feared losing another member of his family. After Johnny dies, Ponyboy get in a rumble and is badly injured. Later, when he returns home from the hospital, he becomes depressed and his grades start to drop. Because he is worried about Ponyboy and knows his potential, Darry argues with him about his grades. But Ponyboy knows that Darry cares for him; as they talk about the hearing, he tells Randy,

If the judge decides Darry isn't a good guardian or something, I'm liable to get stuck in a home somewhere....Darry is a good guardian; he makes me study and knows where I am and who I'm with all the time. I mean, we don't get along so great sometimes, but he keeps me out of trouble, or did. My father didn't yell at me as much as he does."

Finally, when Soda cannot stand the fighting any more, he runs out of the house. When his brothers catch up to him, he tells Darry that he cannot stand their fighting.

"Darry yells too much and tries too hard and takes everything too serious, and Ponyboy, you don't think enough..."

Soda elaborates, saying that Darry could have put Ponyboy in a home somehwere, but instead he tried to be a parent. Turning to his other brother, he says,

"And Darry, you ought to try to understand him more, and quit bugging him about every little mistake he makes. He feels things differently than you do."

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