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The Red Pony
Literary Analysis: The Red Pony The Red Pony, by John Steinbeck, consists of four separate but intertwined stories about a boy named Jody. These stories show how Jody began as a selfish, immature young child, and became a caring, responsible young man. Steinbeck used characters and events to teach Jody about life and death. He also used much imagery and foreshadowing to set the mood for the stories. In the first story, "The Gift," Jody Tiflin was a typical ten-year-old boy who liked to sleep as late as possible and rush through his early morning chores before going to school. When he came home from school, he did his chores slowly and inefficiently. Billy Buck, the ranch hand, convinced Carl Tiflin, Jody?s father, to buy a pony for Jody. Billy thought this would help Jody become more responsible. Carl & Billy went to the town of Salinas one day and surprised Jody with the pony the next morning. Jody named his new red pony Gabilan, after the mountains to the west about which he is so curious. Billy Buck taught Jody everything he knew about horses and Jody was responsible for taking care of Gabilan. He became more disciplined: He got up every morning by himself to feed Gabilan and he took more care when he was doing his other chores. Billy Buck was right. Getting the pony helped Jody to learn responsibility. Jody never left Gabilan outside when the weather was bad. One day Billy Buck convinced Jody to leave the pony out while he was at school. Billy promised that the weather was going to be fine and that it was not going to rain (pg 21). Unfortunately, it did rain and Jody came home to find his pony drenched. The pony developed a "cold" from being out in the rain, but Billy, a great horse doctor, took care of Gabilan. He showed Jody how to make the medicine for the pony, but the medicine didn?t help. Billy even cut a hole in Gabilan?s windpipe so that he could breathe (pg 31). Jody stayed with Gabilan at night. When he saw the dry, dead hair on Gabilan, he lost all hope for the pony?s recovery. During the night, Gabilan, got out of the barn and Jody found him dead the next morning. One buzzard was sitting on Gabilan?s head, black liquid dripping from its beak, and others were circling overhead (pg 35). Jody grabbed the buzzard that was on Gabilan and beat its head on the ground. He kept beating the bird until Billy and Carl found him, long after the bird was dead. Billy picked Jody up and carried him home. Jody was very angry and blamed Billy for the death of Gabilan. Billy had promised Jody that it would not rain the day he left Gabilan out and when Gabilan became ill, Billy promised Jody that the pony would get better. Both of these promises were broken. Billy felt guilty and understood why Jody blamed him. Jody had learned a hard lesson about death and loss. The imagery of death is used quite abundantly in this first chapter and will continue throughout the novel. Jody has seen the cycle of life and death here and has been taught the pain of loss. The circling buzzards, the black cypress tree where pigs were slaughtered, and the blood spot he saw one morning in his egg were all symbols of death. Steinbeck also used the weather and time to enhance the story. It began at daybreak, symbolizing Jody?s journey towards manhood. It was early summer, the time of growth for nature and for Jody. When Gabilan became ill, the weather turned rainy and windy. "The Great Mountains," the second story, opened up on a hot summer day. Jody, being a normal child, was rebellious and stubborn, going against his father?s will. Carl loved nature and did everything he could to protect it. Jody threw rocks at swallow?s nest and baited rattraps with stale cheese, waiting for his dogs to get their noses caught in the traps. He also went up on a hill and killed a bird with his slingshot and ripped it apart. He was ashamed of what he did and hid the disemboweled bird in the bushes. Gitano, an old paisano, came to the Tiflin?s ranch, asking
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