Darry is the oldest of the Curtis brothers, becoming the father figure to Ponyboy and Sodapop after their parents die in a car accident. Darry gives up the possibility of going to college and playing football so that he can take a job as a menial laborer and provide for their family. Despite his hard-working nature and ability to differentiate right from wrong, Darry also loves fighting, and is proud to use his strong body to defend the other greasers.
Ponyboy finds it difficult to understand Darry, who often seems too harsh and restrictive. When Darry slaps Ponyboy during an argument, Ponyboy runs outside to walk with Johnny, where they are jumped by Socs and Johnny kills Bob. Inadvertently, Darry’s authoritative tendencies incite the murder that derails every other character’s life. Over the course of the novel, however, Ponyboy comes to understand how much Darry has sacrificed for him, and how worried he is that Ponyboy and Sodapop will be removed from his guardianship. By novel’s end, Ponyboy realizes that Darry isn’t even a full-grown adult yet, and he can “feel scared or hurt and as lost as the rest of us.”