The Red Pony Essay

1609 words - 6 pages

A pre-adolescent boy raised on a ranch during the early 1900s period experiences hope, attachment, disappointment, death, grief, and family discord, as well as the delight and irrelevance of the aged in John Steinbeck’s The Red Pony. The book is short and consists of disjointed chapters with no real connection to each other except for the same setting and mostly the same characters. Yet the book is engaging and provides a keen view of what life must have been like during the first part of the twentieth century in the rural western United States.Each chapter in The Red Pony captures the reader’s attention with a new and thoughtful situation in the boy’s youth. However, unlike most other books, none of the chapters refers to the other. Conflicts that seem to have been unresolved in the previous chapter not only remain unresolved, the later chapters proceed as if these previous conflicts never existed. The reader can be left wondering about this strange writing technique, until further investigation reveals that The Red Pony was not written as one cohesive book but rather as four separate short stories, “The Gift,” “The Great Mountains,” “The Promise,” and “The Leader of the People.”“The Gift” is a “simply told” story about a boy, Jody, whose father buys him a pony. Published in November 1933, the story is Steinbeck’s adaptation of his own story, beginning when he was 4 years old and had the opportunity to take care of a pony while Steinbeck was living on the Hamilton Ranch near King City with his Uncle Tom. Steinbeck remembered “the most tremendous morning in the world when my pony had a cold.” In the story, Jody learns that the family ranch hand is not infallible as the pony becomes sick and dies. “The Great Mountains, the book’s second chapter, is the story about an elderly Indian who “comes home” to the ranch to die. It was published as a separate short story in December 1933. Jody is enamored of the Indian for his knowledge of the mountain range about which Jody has dreamed of adventure. The birth of a colt is the focus of the third chapter, “The Promise,” published in a magazine in August 1937. In the story, Jody waits, sometimes patiently and sometimes not, for the colt’s birth. When the time comes, the colt is in the breach position, and the ranch hand is forced to crush the mare’s skull so that he can cut the colt from her body. In “The Leader of the People,” Jody’s maternal grandfather arrives for a visit and launches into a monologue of stories from his younger days, much to the annoyance of Jody’s father, who has heard the stories many times. The grandfather overhears his son-in-law complain about the tediousness involved in hearing the stories “over and over again.” The embarrassed grandfather retreats, but Jody follows and insists on making his grandfather some lemonade to enjoy...

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