Ponyboy Curtis, the youngest member of the greasers, narrates the novel. Ponyboy theorizes on the motivations and personalities of his friends and describes events in a slangy, youthful voice. Though only fourteen years old, he understands the way his social group functions and the role each group member plays. He sees that Two-Bit is the wisecracker, Darry the natural leader, and Dally the dangerous hood.
Ponyboy dislikes the Socs, whom we see through his subjective viewpoint. The distorting effects of hatred and group rivalry make his narration less than objective. Ponyboy is young enough to have changeable conceptions of people, however, and over the course of the novel he realizes that Socs have problems just as greasers do. He also comes to see that Socs are even similar to the greasers in some ways.
Ponyboy has a literary bent, which Hinton uses to show that poverty does not necessarily mean boorishness or lack of culture, and that gang members are not always delinquents. Ponyboy identifies with Pip, the impoverished protagonist of Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations, cites the Robert Frost poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay,” and introduces Johnny to the southern gentlemen of Margaret Mitchell’s Southern epic, Gone with the Wind. With such an awareness of literary protagonists, Ponyboy sees himself as he is, as both character and narrator. He takes on the narrator’s work of recounting events and the character’s work of growing and changing as a result of those events. The novel is not just a story of gang rivalry; it is an account of Ponyboy’s development.