Beaten by his father and ignored by his mother, he 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 dumb 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.
Darrel 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 he 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 his brother really does love him.
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...
(The entire section is 2,043 words.)