“You don’t ever think,” Darry broke in, “not at home or anywhere when it counts.”

Darry expresses his frustration with Ponyboy’s lack of street smarts. Darry knows Ponyboy needs common sense if he is going to survive and stay safe. While readers understand Darry’s tough-love approach, Ponyboy doesn’t, and he feels picked on and singled out by his older brother. Darry had to give up his dreams to support the family, so he needs to see Ponyboy stay on track, survive, and succeed.

“I reckon it never occurred to you that your brothers might be worrying their heads off and afraid to call the police because something like that could get you two thrown in a boy’s home so quick it’d make your head spin.”

Darry verbally confronts Ponyboy with the harsh realities of living without parents. Darry, livid with Ponyboy for going missing and not checking in to let Darry know he’s safe, reacts from extreme pressure of his roles as father, mother, and older brother. He has prioritized keeping his family together over building his own future. As the head of the family, Darry always has to think two steps ahead to protect his family, especially as a greaser.

Darry spun around to face me, genuine fear on his face. “What?”

Darry displays genuine terror when Ponyboy reveals he’s had another one of his nightmares. After their parents died, Ponyboy was plagued with terrifying dreams that left him screaming and his brothers shaken. Now, on the eve of a court date, Darry seems to fear Ponyboy’s nightmares have returned as a bad omen. Darry has a deep, abiding, and genuine love for his brothers. The idea of them getting separated is more than he can handle.

“Maybe you can be a little neater, huh, little buddy?”

Darry, using a term of endearment typically reserved for Sodapop, speaks gently and lovingly to Ponyboy after Ponyboy loses his friends. This display of caring is the moment of validation Ponyboy has been longing for and desperately needs. Each brother has suffered tremendous pain with the tragic loss of their parents and their difficult life circumstances. All of the trauma and violence and loss has softened Darry.

“You’re living in a vacuum, Pony, and you’re going to have to cut it out. Johnny and Dallas were our buddies, too, but you don’t just stop living because you lose someone.”

Darry dishes some tough love to Ponyboy who struggles with motivation after he loses his friends. Darry’s ethic—keep moving forward no matter what—is one reason why the greasers refer to him as “superman.” In times of extreme despair, Darry’s emotional resilience and wisdom carry the Curtis family through. Darry offers sage advice that will help the family, especially Ponyboy, heal and move on.