THE RED PONY BY JOHN STEINBECK 6
TheRed Pony by John Steinbeck
TheRed Pony by John Steinbeck
Theimportance of animals cannot be gainsaid as far as the health ofhuman beings is concerned. This is not only with regard to the factthat they are used as food. Indeed, the largest impact that animalshave on human beings revolve around the relationships that theyshare. Numerous literary works have been written in an effort toexplore these relationships and the lessons that come with them. Thisis the case for “The Red Pony” a novel by John Steinbeck. Thisepisodic novella incorporates the tales of a boy called Jody Tiflinwho has gone to his father’s ranch in California. The main reasonfor choosing this novel is the fact that it explores the reader’semotions regarding the different states in which the pony given toJody is. Indeed, the reader gets to explore the varied emotions thatthe horse elicits in instances where she is in good health or even incases where she falls ill.
Inchapter one titled “The Gift”, Jody is given a red pony colt byhis dad Carl Tiflin. Jody is overjoyed and agrees to every othercondition that his father places regarding the gift. In this case, heis required to take care of the pony in all manners possible byfeeding it and cleaning its stall among other things. Afterundergoing weeks of training and perfectly orienting himself with thehorse (which he has named Gabilan), Jody was promised that he wouldbe riding the horse by Thanksgiving. On this day, however, the ponyis caught in an immense downpour despite the fact that Jody had beenassured that it was not going to rain. This makes him catch a coldafter he was left out to corral (Steinbecket al, 1993).Eventually, the rank hand called Billy Buck diagnoses the horse assuffering from strangles. In essence, he places a steaming wet bagover the horse’s muzzle and entrusts Jody with watching the horse.However, Jody dozes off and forgets that the barn door is open. Inessence, pony wanders out thereby developing breathing problemsforcing Billy to cut its windpipe so as to breath. Later on, Jodyfalls asleep again only for the horse to wander out again. Jodyfollows the trail and finds buzzards feasting on the horse. Hebecomes so enraged that he beats the birds even long after thebuzzards die.
Asmuch as Jody was infallible just like any human being, it is evidentthat the relationship between him and the horse was extremelypositive and symbiotic. Jody had to take every action to ensure thewellbeing of the horse, while the horse, on the other hand, broughthim immense happiness and a sense of responsibility (Smith,2007).
Inthe second chapter titled “The Great Mountains”, Jody is boredand wishes he could explore the Great Mountains. An old Mexicancalled Gitano appears and requests Carl Tiflin to allow him to stayin the farm until his death. However, the later turns down thisrequest and only allows him to stay the night. Jody, however,secretly visits the old man and finds him polishing his sharp sword.Upon being asked whether he has ever been to the mountains, Gitanostates that he can remember little about them despite having visitedthem. By morning, Gitano is already gone with his horse named Easter(Steinbecket al, 1993).Indeed, Jody cannot even find the sharp sword. Neighbors tell himthat they saw Gitano riding the horse to the Great Mountains holdingthe sword. Carl wonders why Gitano went to the mountains and evengoes ahead to joke that the old man had saved him the effort ofburying the horse.
Therelationship between Carl and the old horse was immensely negative.It is evident that Carl is disdainful of the animal, which is why hecompares the old man Gitano to it. He is, in fact, happy when the oldman rides the animal away into the hills (Eagleton,2008).However, the fact that the animal is capable of travelling to themountains in spite of its age underlines the fact that animals onlyrequire to be loved as that old man did for the old horse (Smith,2007).
Inthe third chapter titled “The Promise” Carl opines that Jody mustlearn some responsibility in which case he arranges for him to take ahorse named Nellie to be serviced in the neighboring farm. Jody workshard the entire summer in an effort to repay the five dollar creditthat Carl paid so that the horse can be serviced. Later on, it isdetermined that the horse is pregnant (Steinbecket al, 1993).While Jody is happy about this progress, he gets worried about thehorse’s fate after Billy informs him that mares are considerablymore delicate compared to cattle, in which case the foal has to betorn apart and removed in order to save the life of the mare. Thefear is compounded by the memories of Gabilan. However, Billy assureshim that he will not fail him again. At midnight, Jody startles fromterrible dreams regarding what might go wrong and hopes that thedream would not come true. He goes to check on Nellie and sees nomotion. Later on, however, Billy wakes everyone and states that thehorse is about to give birth. Nevertheless, the birth process isgoing horribly wrong as the colt cannot be turned. In essence, heorders that Jody faces away from the horse, after which a horriblesound can be heard in the barn as Nellie dies while the colt’s lifeis saved.
Asmuch as Nellie ends up dying, it is evident that the relationshipbetween Jody and the horse brings out the need for decision-makingeven in instances where it may be difficult to do so. Vigilance iskey to ensuring the sustainability of animals or any other being(Booker,1994).As much as Jody loves Nellie, a decision has to be made regardingwhich animal to save. The loss of Nellie may have been unfortunatebut the fact that effort is made to save her or the colt makes therelationship extremely positive (Turco,1999).
Inthe fourth and last chapter titled “The Leader of the People”,Jody’s maternal grandfather has sent a letter informing the Tiflinsthat he would be visiting. However, Carl is upset about the visit andcomplains that his father-in-law likes repeating stories pertaininghis exploration of the Great Plains while leading a wagon train. Uponvisiting, the grandfather gives his usual stories and is not treatedimpolitely by anyone. However, he is late getting to the breakfasttable the following morning, in which case Carl starts openlycomplaining about him. Unfortunately, the grandfather catches himred-handed as he continues with his complaints. This forces Carl toapologize profusely (Steinbecket al, 1993).Upon having breakfaster, Jody and his grandfather sit in the porchwhere the later start expressing his true feelings regardingcrossing the plains. Indeed, he wonders the worth of crossing theplains and states that the crucial thing was leading the group acrossthe plains rather than crossing the plains. When Jody states that hewould want to lead the people, his grandfather admonishes him andstates that the exploration days were long gone.
Inconclusion, “The Red Pony” primarily revolves around therelationship that exists between human beings and animals. Indeed, itis evident that animals come extremely effective in teachingindividuals to be responsible. Animals are also crucial in bringingout the true feelings of individuals towards the less fortunate ortowards individuals in the lower echelons. This is particularly seenin instances where the main character Jody is being required to takecare of his horses. It is well acknowledged that, in spite of hisinfallibilities, he cares deeply about animals and takes immenseresponsibility for them when required to do so. However, the samecannot be said about his father who has nothing but disdain foranimals (and human beings) that are not in a perfect form (Booker,1994).This is seen in the fact that he does not hesitate to decline therequest made by Gitano to allow him to stay in the farm until hedies. It is noteworthy that he goes ahead to compare the old man tohis old horse and is, in fact, excited when the old man disappearswith it as he opines that he has been saved the effort of burying thehorse. The fact that he is disdainful of the man and compares himwith the old horse shows his inability to relate to individuals belowhis class.
Booker,M. K. (1994). Thedystopian impulse in modern literature: Fiction as social criticism.Westport, Conn. u.a: Greenwood Press.
Eagleton,T. (2008). Literarytheory: An introduction with a new preface.Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Moretti,F. (2005). Graphs,maps, trees: Abstract models for literary history.London: Verso.
Smith,A. (2007). Gothicliterature.Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Steinbeck,J., & 3M Company. (1993). TheRed Pony.S.l.: Penguin Group US.
Turco,L. (1999). Thebook of literary terms: The genres of fiction, drama, nonfiction,literary criticism, and scholarship.Hanover, NH: University Press of New England.