|"“When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home."|
|— Ponyboy's book beginning in The Outsiders, page 1 & 180|
Ponyboy is a fourteen-year old greaser who lives with his two older brothers, Sodapop and Darry on the lower-class east side of Tulsa, Oklahoma. His parents were killed in an automobile accident just eight months before The Outsiders story takes place. Ponyboy, like Sodapop, is under Darry's legal custody and must stay out of trouble in order to remain with him.
Ponyboy is the youngest of the greaser gang. In the novel, Ponyboy has light-brown hair and greenish-gray eyes. He has a good build for his size and is a fast runner. At the beginning of the novel, Ponyboy's hair is long and squared in the back, but after his haircut in Windrixville, his hair is short and bleached blond. He is described as good-looking and resemblant of Sodapop by several characters, though he diagrees. In the film, Ponyboy's appearance is fairly similar to his novel appearance, with the exception of his hair, which is much darker than in the book.
Darry characterizes Ponyboy as lacking common sense. Ponyboy agrees with this assessment. He is smart at school, but sometimes he just doesn't think properly. These occasions get Ponyboy into trouble that he could avoid. This aspect of his character evolves throughout the story into maturity. He is fairly quiet, and only opens up to a few people. Cherry Valance describes Ponyboy as sweet and dreamy. He is more compassionate than some of the other greasers, piting the socs several times in the novel and questioning the purpose of fighting between the two social classes. He is also willing to help others, as shown when he runs into the burning church to save the schoolchildren, or when he picks up broken glass bottle pieces off the ground so that a car doesn't get a flat tire.
Ponyboy Curtis walks from the movie theatre one day. He is followed and jumped by a group of socs, who threaten to cut him up. Ponyboy struggles to escape the socs' clutches and gets cut in the process. He is then suddenly rescued by the rest of his gang, who chase the socs away. Darry asks Ponboy if he is alright, to which Ponyboy, through in reality shaken up, answers yes. Sodapop runs to check up on Ponyboy and makes sure he is okay. Then the rest of the greasers return and the seven chat for a bit. Ponyboy makes plans to go to the drive-in with Johnny and Dally the following night, and then the greasers part ways.
That night, Ponyboy lies in bed awake, recollecting his encounter with the socs. Sodapop tries to convince him that Darry indeed cares for Ponyboy very much, which Ponyboy does not believe. Sodapop then shares with Ponyboy his plan to marry Sandy, his girlfriend. Sodapop falls asleep and leaves Ponyboy awake to wonder.
The next day, Johnny and Ponyboy meet up with Dally at a lampost, and the three goof around for awhile before heading to the drive-in. The three sneak in and sit down behind two soc girls, whom Dally harrasses until Johnny tells him to back off. Dally storms out and Ponyboy and Johnny befriend the two soc girls, named Cherry and Marcia. Two-Bit joins shortly after and likewise gets along with the soc girls. Ponyboy and Cherry become comfortable with eachother and discuss the social class situation between the socs and greasers, a situation both find unfair.