Why is Dally Johnny's hero, but not Ponyboy's in The Outsiders?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

While Pony and Johnny are hiding out in an abandoned church in Windrixville to avoid the authorities, Pony ends up reading the novel Gone with the Wind to Johnny to pass the time. Johnny is fascinated by the gallant southern gentlemen, who courageously ride into battle expecting to die. After Johnny listens to Pony read one of the battle scenes aloud, he mentions that the southern gentlemen remind him of Dally. Johnny goes on to say that he views Dally as a gallant individual and tells Ponyboy about a time when he witnessed Dally take the blame for a crime that Two-Bit committed without batting an eye.

At this point in the novel, Pony has not fully developed his perspective on Dally and does not view him as heroic because he is "so real" that it scares him. Pony only views Dally as a reckless criminal, who has no regard for authority and is extremely callous. In contrast, Johnny recognizes Dally's gallant, honorable personality and respects the fact that he is extremely loyal. As Pony matures, he begins to view Dally differently and understands Johnny's hero worship for him. By the end of the story, Pony comes to respect Dally for his loyalty and selflessness.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Family is an important theme in the novel The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton.  Ponyboy has his brothers to nurture him and look out for him.  Johnny does not have a nurturing family to show him love.  This is the reason that Dally is Johnny's hero.  Johnny wants Dally's approval and love because he sees Dally as more than a friend.  Dally is, in a sense, his family.  Ponyboy does not need Dally to fulfill that need for him because he has his brothers.  Dallas has survived on his own and this is appealing to Johnny.  It helps Johnny relate to him.

Posted on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Explain why Dally is Johnny's hero but is not Ponyboy's hero. What does this say about all three boys?

In S.E. Hinton's novel, The Outsiders, Johnny Cade was the youngest member of the Greasers.  His best friend was Ponyboy Curtis, because he and Ponyboy were both the youngest members of the group.  However, Johnny idolized Dallas Winston.  Dally, as he was called, loved Johnny.  It is the only person he did love.  Johnny loved and idolized Dally because Dally "had his back."  Johnny was unloved and abused by his parents.  The only people in his life that though of him were the Greasers.  Whenever Johnny got beat up by the Socs it was Dally that stood up for him and it is Dally who looked out for him in the fights between the Socs and Greasers.  To Johnny, Dally was like the "Southern Gentlemen in Gone With The Wind."  Johnny felt Dally was gallant.  It was Dally that Johnny and Ponyboy went to when they got into trouble.  Johnny accidentally killed Bob of the Socs because he was trying to stop them from drowing Ponyboy in the fountain.  Dally helped them out of the jam and then saved them again at the church.

You asked why Ponyboy does not feel the same toward Dally as Johnny did.  Ponyboy had two older brothers, Johnny had no one but Dally.  Ponyboy was really close to Sodapop and he had his brother Darry to look after him.  He and Darry fought a lot, but Darry was responsible for raising Ponyboy.  Johnny could not look up to his parents so he attached his respect and love to the one person who was always giving him time, attention and love.  Ponyboy didn't need this.  He got it from his brothers.

".. there are two things that have meaning for him; jockeying on ponies (the "only thing Dally did honestly") and Johnny."

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Explain why Dally is Johnny's hero but is not Ponyboy's hero. What does this say about all three boys?

Dallas Winston, despite his relatively young age, is a larger-than-life character in The Outsiders. He is tough, has a long jail record, and uses his fists when necessary. Dally believes that being "hard" is the best way to get through life. This appeals to Johnny, who rarely stands up for himself--at home or on the streets. He somehow envisions Dally as one of the chivalrous Southern gentlemen who rides into death; or, in Dally's case, takes the rap and goes to jail in the place of Two-Bit. In the end, there is nothing gallant about Dally's death. Pony sees Dally more clearly: He is cold and full of hate, and Pony doesn't like Dally; he merely tolerates him because of Johnny. As Pony tells Johnny,

"Shoot, he ain't got any more manners than I do. And you saw how he treated those girls the other night. Soda's more like them Southern boys." 

Dally may be a hero in Johnny's eyes, but Pony looks up to his brother, Soda, and even Darry, when it comes to hero-worship. 

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Posted on