Last Updated on April 4, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 208
Beaten by his father and ignored by his mother, Johnny stays around town only because he is the gang’s pet, “everyone's kid brother.” Johnny reminds Pony of a “little dark puppy that has been kicked too many times and is lost in a crowd of strangers.” He was jumped once...
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Beaten by his father and ignored by his mother, Johnny stays around town only because he is the gang’s pet, “everyone's kid brother.” Johnny reminds Pony of a “little dark puppy that has been kicked too many times and is lost in a crowd of strangers.” He was jumped once by the Socs and beaten very badly. Since then he has carried a blade and has become even more suspicious and jumpy. Johnny and Pony are friends by default. They are the youngest in the gang and also the most sensitive. They are quiet around the older boys and reflective between themselves.
Johnny echoes Pony's frustration at their predicament in life, scared of being beaten or killed and not able to change anything about it. Johnny was considered unintelligent by his teachers, and yet he realizes things that completely pass by Pony. While Pony reads from Gone with the Wind about Southern gentlemen riding into certain death, Johnny sees Dally. And when Pony recites Robert Frost, Johnny understands the meaning of the poem. They have to stay gold, stay young, and stay true to themselves. It is this message that Johnny sends to Pony in his final letter and the one Pony is left to struggle with.
Last Updated on April 4, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 260
Darrel, called Darry, has been taking care of the family ever since Mr. and Mrs. Curtis died in a car wreck, eight months before the start of the novel. A judge allows the brothers to stay together under twenty-year-old Darry’s supervision—so long as they stay out of trouble. Rather than go to college on a football scholarship, Darry has to go to work in order to keep the three together and Pony in school. He has had to give up a lot and has become an adult too fast. “Darry’s hard and firm and rarely grins at all.” A big and powerful young man, Darry has “eyes that are like two pieces of pale blue-green ice. . . . He doesn’t understand anything that is not plain hard fact. But he uses his head.” Darry takes his custodianship very seriously by keeping a tight hold on Pony.
Ponyboy often has conflicts with his oldest brother, not realizing how similar the two are. Darry is different from the other greasers; as Two-Bit says, “the only thing that keeps Darry from being a Soc is us.” He is the leader of the gang by mutual consent and respect. He wears his hair short like a Soc and is clean-shaven. While Darry likes fighting for the athletic challenge of it, Pony realizes that Darry is too smart to stay around the greasers forever. “That’s why he’s better than the rest of us, [Pony] thought. He’s going somewhere.” Pony finally comes to understand that his brother really does love him.
Last Updated on April 4, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 437
The story is Ponyboy Curtis’s narrative about his experience seeing three young men die. Pony is a good student, a track star, and a greaser. It is this latter distinction, rather than his orphan status, which brings him trouble. In addition, he is a solitary, sensitive boy who likes movies, watching sunsets, and reading. His consumption of these poetic pursuits often foils his common sense. Thus, his desire to see movies without the distracting fidgets of friends or brothers leads to his lonely walk home from the cinema and his run-in with a group of Socs. Luckily for him, his brothers and the gang hear his cries for help, and he doesn’t receive anything like the beating that spooked Johnny.
A great deal of the tension in Pony comes from his attempts to figure out his oldest brother, Darry. He complains to Two-Bit, Johnny, and Cherry that his brother doesn’t like him. He believes that Darry resents him because he had to turn down a football scholarship to college in order to support him. Everyone tries to tell him otherwise, but Pony doesn’t believe in Darry’s love for him until he is injured in the fire. Even so, he only comes to understand his brother after their fighting drives Sodapop, the middle brother, to tears.
The beauty of Ponyboy’s character is that though he emerges strong and confident at the end of the book, it is not the result of becoming a tough hood but of remaining true to himself. The positive tone is not so much because the Socs are beaten (this time), or that the boys will remain together, or that Ponyboy recovers from his injuries. Instead, the resolution is excruciatingly personal. When he scares off a bunch of Socs with a broken bottle, he considers his act no big deal: “anyone else could have done the same thing.” This scares Two-Bit, because none of the gang wants Pony to become just another greaser. However, Two-Bit relaxes when he sees Pony stoop down and clean up the glass shards so that no one will get hurt. Ponyboy has, as Johnny would say, stayed gold. The real denouement of Pony’s character growth is the resolution of tension between him and Darry. It tries to come once, when Darry hugs him at the hospital, but does not arrive until they chase down Soda. The three have a heart-to-heart talk, and when Darry says “Sure, little buddy,” thus calling Pony by the name reserved for Soda, Pony knows everything will be okay. “I reckon we all just wanted to stay together.”
Last Updated on April 4, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 258
“The real character of the gang,” Dally was arrested his first time at the age of ten. He spent three years on the “wild side” of New York and likes to blow off steam in gang fights. He is the most dangerous member of the bunch—not even Darry wants to tangle with him—but he is still a part of their greaser “family.” The local police have a large file on him, and he has just gotten out of jail at the opening of the novel. While “the fight for self-preservation had hardened him beyond caring,” there are two things that have meaning for him: jockeying on ponies (the “only thing Dally did honestly”) and Johnny.
In Tulsa, lacking a rival gang, Dally hates the Socs. Fighting them is frustrating, however, because he knows that beating them doesn’t take away any of their social advantages. During fights he takes particular care to look out for Johnny, and so he helps the boys after the murder, even though doing so could return him to prison. Johnny returns Dally’s care with a devoted admiration. Consequently, Johnny views him as a heroic gentleman of courage, like those in Gone with the Wind. When Johnny is dead, the rest of the gang realizes he was Dally’s breaking point. Having lost the one thing he really cared about, Dally sets himself up for death. After robbing a store, he threatens the pursuing cops with an empty gun. He dies in front of his friends in a hail of bullets.
Last Updated on April 4, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 917
Randy is Bob’s best friend and takes his death very hard. Before the rumble, he has a talk with Ponyboy about all that has happened. He has decided that violence is wrong because “it doesn’t do any good.” He stays out of the rumble and later comes to visit Pony when he’s sick. His words lead Pony to realize that “the other guy was human too.”
Ponyboy’s older brother is sixteen going on seventeen and a high school dropout. He is the caregiver and peacemaker of the Curtis brothers. Soda is “movie-star kind of handsome, the kind that people stop on the street to watch go by.” Bubbly like his name, Soda is “always happy-go-lucky and grinning” and the type of person who doesn’t drink alcohol because “he gets drunk on just plain living.” He listens to everyone, “understands everybody,” and is Pony’s confidante. Soda enjoys teasing Darry and is the only one who would dare do so. He also gives Darry back rubs after he has tried to carry too much roofing material at work. However, being caught between Darry and Pony is draining. He also has to suffer in silence when his girlfriend, Sandy, is shipped to Florida.
In the big confrontation between Socs and greasers after Bob Sheldon’s death, Darry is put forth as the rumble starter. Paul steps up to answer for the Socs. While in high school, the two were friends and teammates on the football team. Now Paul shows hatred, contempt, and pity for his old friend.
She is a friend of Cherry’s who seems like a good match for Two-Bit when they meet at the drive-in. However, social reality will keep them from getting together.
Keith, called Two-Bit, is the funny guy of the gang who always has to make his “two bits” worth of smart remarks. His specialty is shoplifting, which he does for the challenge of it. He likes “fights, blondes, and for some unfathomable reason, school.”
Dally’s rodeo partner is the source of the cash Johnny and Pony use to hide out after the killing of Bob Sheldon.
Soda’s best friend and another greaser, Steve works part-time at the gas station where Soda works full-time. His specialty is cars. Between Soda’s looks and Steve’s mechanical aptitude, their station is the most popular in town. Ponyboy only likes Steve because of Soda; Steve treats Pony like a tagalong when Soda brings him on their escapades.
Sandy is Soda’s girlfriend, who later in the novel leaves for Florida. It is implied that she is pregnant, and Soda has offered to marry her. But she returns his letters unopened, and Soda discovers someone else is most likely the father.
Bob is the rich, handsome, and arrogant Soc who is responsible for the serious damage done to Johnny one night. Bob is also Cherry’s boyfriend; although she doesn’t want to see him when he has been drinking, she says otherwise he is sweet and friendly. He has a set of rings he wears to make his hitting all the more damaging. Johnny kills Bob to save Pony.
Curly is Tim’s younger brother, “an average downtown hood, tough and not very bright.” He and Pony have a mutual respect for each other after they once burned each other on a dare. Like Darry does for Pony, Curly’s older brother Tim keeps an eye out for his sibling. While Pony and Curly are in similar positions—they are being brought up and protected by powerful older brothers—Curly is always in and out of the reformatory.
Tim is the leader of another gang of greasers who ally themselves with Darry’s gang. He “looked like the model JD you see in films and magazines” and is “one of those who enjoy being a hood.” Tim demands the discipline and code one normally imagines a gang to have. That is, his gang is not a loose group of childhood friends like Darry’s. He has broken a few of Dally’s ribs in one of the regular fights they have just for fun. Nevertheless, he and Dally are good friends. When the rumble is scheduled, it is Tim who brings in his troops and another gang to bring the greaser total to twenty.
Mr. Syme is Ponyboy’s English teacher, whose assignment leads to the narrative of the novel. He is concerned about Pony’s slumping grades, and “you can tell he’s interested in you as a person, too.”
Sherri, called Cherry, is a pretty, redheaded Soc whom Pony and Johnny meet at the drive-in. Although she responds negatively to Dally’s crude come-ons, she tells Pony that she could easily fall in love with him. Cherry hates fighting and serves as a go-between for the two groups. She doesn’t succeed in stopping the fighting, but she does help increase understanding. She delivers two important revelations to Pony. The first is that Socs are not without their own problems, and the other is that rich people are capable of watching sunsets, just as Pony does.
One of the few adults in the novel, Jerry Wood is a teacher at the scene of the fire. He stays by Pony in the ambulance and the hospital and listens to his tale.