At twenty, Darry is the old man in The Outsiders. He's the oldest of the Curtis brothers and, even though he's over the hill by Greaser standards, is movie star gorgeous. And, like his brothers, he's super smart and athletic. (Plus, he does all the cooking and other housework.)
He's strong, principled, very serious, often grumpy, and can get violently angry. Pony tells us that before their parents died, Darry "had been real popular in high school; he was captain of the football team and he had been voted Boy of the Year" (1.81).
Because he's so physically fit, the gang calls him "Superman" and "Muscles" and Darry doesn't get upset about it (7.45). But, Pony tells us,
one time Steve made the mistake of referring to him as "all brawn and no brain" and Darry nearly shattered his jaw. […] Darry had never really gotten over not going to college. (7.45)
When the Curtis parents died, Darry took on the responsibility of raising his two teenage brothers. So, as Ponyboy constantly reminds us, Darry works all the time at two jobs, one of which is roofing. He doesn't have much of a life outside of work, the gym, and his responsibilities at home.
Darry And Pony
Ponyboy's feelings toward Darry are conflicted and complicated: they struggle to understand each other. Since we see the struggle through Pony's eyes, though, we can only guess about Darry's journey based on the details Pony provides.
We think he's so hard on Pony because a) he sees Pony's potential and is afraid that if he isn't hard on Pony, then Pony won't reach that potential; and b) he has no experience as a parent! Darry's stepped into this role without any preparation, and is probably really afraid to fail. His little brother's safety is all in his hands, and there's danger lurking around every corner. When Pony doesn't take care of himself or act responsibly, Darry feels frustrated and angry. He has pressure from all sides, and is always on the verge of exploding. According to Pony, Darry wasn't like this before their parents died.
Darry Softens Up
We aren't trying to excuse Darry for hitting Pony that one time. Pony says "Darry wheeled around and slapped me so hard it knocked him against the wall" (3.103). For Pony, who had never before been "hit" (3.103), the act is unforgiveable, even though he hears Darry's apology. For all he knows, the violence that plagues him on the street has now seeped into his own home.
For Darry, it's the beginning of a lot of guilt. If Pony hadn't run off that night, Pony and Johnny wouldn't have walked to the park and, well, this would be a very different book. Plus, Darry basically loses Pony for an entire week. He must have been beating himself up like crazy.
It's only when Pony realizes that Darry loves him (but has a hard time taking on the responsibilities of being head of the family) that Darry begins to really soften. Pony comes to see that Darry is little more than a kid himself, and one who has chosen to care for his brothers and give them a good life, rather than lead the relatively free and easy life of most twenty-year-olds.
Read an in-depth analysis of Ponyboy Curtis.
Sodapop Curtis - Ponyboy’s happy-go-lucky, handsome brother. Sodapop is the middle Curtis boy. Ponyboy envies Sodapop’s good looks and charm. Sodapop plans to marry Sandy, a greaser girl.
Two-Bit Mathews - The joker of Ponyboy’s group. Two-Bit, whose real name is Keith, is a wisecracking greaser who regularly shoplifts. He prizes his sleek black-handled switchblade. He instigates the hostilities between the Socs and the greasers by flirting with Marcia, the girlfriend of a Soc.
Steve Randle - Sodapop’s best friend since grade school. Steve is a seventeen-year-old greaser who works with Sodapop at the gas station. Steve knows everything about cars and specializes in stealing hubcaps. He is cocky and intelligent, tall and lean. He wears his thick hair in a complicated arrangement of swirls. He is also tough—he once held off four opponents in a fight with a broken soda bottle. He sees Ponyboy as Sodapop’s annoying kid brother and wishes Ponyboy would not tag along so often.
Dallas Winston - The toughest hood in Ponyboy’s group of greasers. Dallas, known as “Dally,” is a hardened teen who used to run with gangs in New York. He has an elfin face and icy blue eyes and, unlike his friends, does not put grease in his white-blond hair. Dally’s violent tendencies make him more dangerous than the other greasers, and he takes pride in his criminal record. Dally feels protective of Johnny Cade.
Read an in-depth analysis of Johnny Cade.
Sandy - Sodapop’s girlfriend. Sandy is pregnant with another man’s child and moves to Florida to live with her grandmother. Like the other greaser girls, Sandy appears in the text only when the boys mention her.
Read an in-depth analysis of Cherry Valance.
Marcia - Cherry’s friend and Randy’s girlfriend. Marcia is a pretty, dark-haired Soc who befriends Two-Bit at the drive-in. Marcia and Two-Bit share a sense of humor and a taste for nonsensical musings.
Randy Adderson - Marcia’s boyfriend and Bob’s best friend. Randy is a handsome Soc who eventually sees the futility of fighting. Along with Cherry, Randy humanizes the Socs by showing that some of them have redeeming qualities. Randy helps Ponyboy realize that Socs are as susceptible to pain as anyone else. Randy tries to make peace with Ponyboy after Ponyboy saves the children from the fire, and he refuses to fight in the Soc-greaser rumble.
Bob Sheldon - Cherry’s boyfriend. Bob is the dark-haired Soc who beats up Johnny before the novel begins. Bob has a set of three heavy rings, which he wears when he fights greasers. Bob’s indulgent parents have never disciplined him.
Paul Holden - The husky blond Soc who steps forward to challenge Darry when the rumble begins. Paul and Darry were friends and football teammates in high school.
Jerry Wood - The teacher who accompanies Ponyboy to the hospital after Ponyboy saves the children from the fire. Though an adult and a member of mainstream society, Jerry judges the greasers on their merits instead of automatically branding them juvenile delinquents.
Tim Shepard - The leader of another band of greasers and a friend of Dally. Tim and Dally respect each other, despite occasional conflicts. Ponyboy thinks of Tim as an alley cat, hungry and restless. Tim does not appear in the novel until the night of the rumble, when his gang sides with Ponyboy’s. Ponyboy sees Shepard’s gang as real street hoods and criminals, and realizes that his own gang is little more than a group of friends fighting to survive.
Curly Shepard - The fifteen-year-old brother of Tim Shepard. Curly is stubborn and rough. He cannot go to the rumble because he was put in a reformatory for six months after robbing a liquor store. Tim is proud of Curly’s criminal record.
Mr. Syme - Ponyboy’s English teacher. Mr. Syme expresses concern over Ponyboy’s falling grades. He offers to raise Ponyboy’s grade if he turns in a well-written autobiographical theme. This assignment inspires Ponyboy to write about the greasers and the Socs, and his autobiographical theme turns into the novel The Outsiders.