Why does Dally care for Johnny in The Outsiders?

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Johnny is very close to each member of the Greasers, who all feel drawn to him. After Johnny’s death, Dally sets himself up and is shot dead by police officers. Although all the Greasers have encountered tough breaks, Dally and Johnny share similar backgrounds. They both have parents that don’t...

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care about them. However, it is their differences that ultimately bring Johnny and Dally closer together.

While Dally is vicious and riotous because of his background, Johnny is quite calm and reasonable despite similar conditions. Johnny holds on to the belief that there is some good left in the world, while Dally has lost all hope and sees nothing good. Thus, it is Johnny’s optimism and outlook that draws Dally to him. Dally considers Johnny’s ability to remain good an example of real strength because it is a feat he can’t achieve. Thus, for Dally, Johnny is a symbol of all the good that is left.

There's still lots of good in the world. Tell Dally. I don't think he knows.

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This is a question that is never answered in The Outsiders, and one can only wonder why Dallas Winston--who is filled with hate and has few real friends--feels so strongly about Johnny Cade. Johnny is the "gang's pet," and he is Dally's pet, too. Johnny is the smallest and the weakest of the greasers, and this must be one of the reasons that Dally takes after Johnny so much. Dally probably sees a lot of himself in Johnny. Both of them have parents who don't care about them: Dally lived on the streets of New York City, and claims that

"... my old man don't give a hang whether I'm dead in jail or dead in a car wreck or drunk in the gutter."

Johnny experiences a similar family life, enduring the arguments between his parents and the beatings handed out by his father. He has taken a terrible beating by the Socs--just as Dally had by rival gangs in New York--and Dally somehow sympathizes with Johnny even when he cares little for anyone else. Dally's love for Johnny is so strong that he feel it is no longer worth living with Johnny dead, and he decides to die on the street by a policeman's bullet rather than go on without his best friend.

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What is the importance of Dally's relationship to Johnny in The Outsiders?

Johnny's relationship with Dallas is mutually beneficial.  To Johnny, Dallas is someone to emulate, someone to strive to be.  Johnny's home life is terrible, and while he has good friends in the gang, they treat him like a puppy or a little brother. He gets little respect.  He sees Dallas and his pull on society and those around him, and Johnny realizes that if he is more like Dallas, if he is hard and angry and scary, then he will get the respect he thinks he deserves.  Johnny looks up to Dallas as the paragon of respect, the most powerful person he knows. 

On the other hand, Dallas sees in Johnny someone he can save.  Dallas absolutely doesn't want to see Johnny end up like him and will do anything in his power to make sure Johnny has a better chance at life than Dallas did.  The sole reason Dallas hides Johnny and Ponyboy after Bob's death is to keep Johnny out of jail.  Dallas realizes that the beginning of his difficult life was when he was in jail and he will do everything in his power to keep Johnny from going down the same road.  On page 89, Dallas says:

I ain't mad at you.  I just don't want you to get hurt. You don't know what a few months in jail can do to you... You get hard in jail.  I don't want that to happen to you.  Like it happened to me...

This type of feeling is uncharacteristic for Dallas, who Ponyboy says "never gave a Yankee dime about anyone but himself," but it shows that Johnny is the only person Dallas cares about in the world, and their friendship is based around Dallas's need and desire to keep Johnny from ending up like him.

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In The Outsiders, why does Dally feel protective of Johnny Cade?

All the "Greasers" in The Outsiders by S.E.Hinton feel protective of Johnny Cade; especially Dally who Ponyboy, the narrator, describes as "the real character of the gang" (ch 1). Dally (Dallas Winston) is "tougher than the rest...and wild" with "a hatred of the whole world" but with a soft spot for Johnny. Although Ponyboy is the youngest, Johnny "the gang's pet," is the smallest and Ponyboy describes him as "a little dark puppy." Johnny has suffered neglect and abuse from his own parents and when he is attacked by the "Socs," the Greasers' rival gang, Dally, who has "seen people killed on New York's West side" looks "sick" (ch 2). 

Dally calls Johnny "Johnnycake" and always looks out for him. At a movie screening, Dally is shocked when Johnny tells him to leave Cherry and Marcia alone because "you didn't tell Dally Winston what to do" but he sulks off without saying anything because, as Ponyboy says, Johnny is "Dally's pet too" (ch 2). Johnny is the only person who Dally would allow to berate him like that. Johnny does make sure to defend Dally who he calls "a cool old guy." Although Ponyboy does not really like Dally, he has a "respect" for him and Johnny likes him because he is "real," to the point of almost "hero-worship" (ch 4). It is Dally who will help Johnny and Ponyboy when they are in trouble. 

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