Every now and then, I long for Steinbeck’s California and to experience the simple lives of his characters. Of course, I hear them now scoffing at my indictment of simplicity but they do seem to lack our modern urban distractions. Their troubles do not lie barried beneath them. They rithe irritably exposed – beckoning the character’s quality to cope and adapt to them.
The Red Pony depicts a compelling twist on the theme of maturity in the American psyche; an arguably neglected twist as we move deeper into modern times. Steinbeck uses horses to signify stages of life and quality of spirit which their owner’s innocently project onto them. They build a mental stigma of their horses’ personalities which simultaneously symbolizes their own character as people.
Each chapter in this short novella dictates an episode in the growth of young Jody. I remember thinking that Quentin Tarentino should make this film because each episode stands automous from the previous one. Steinbeck introduces each character in each chapter as if the reader has never met them before. But perhaps they haven’t. Each episode presents a new character under the same name, changed by experiences which redefine them into new episodes. However, the final chapter breaks the pattern and introduces Steinbeck’s climactic idea regarding the journey to maturity. Jody’s journey to maturity raises thrills in its pursuit, not from its acheivement. Jody must appreciate the episodes of his personal buildings-roman as they unfold before he reaches the ocean, the end of his maturation, and realizes that the best parts already happened and that he has no further to go.
The reader will undoubtedly feel irritated by the way Steinbeck concludes this novella, but, upon reflection, may feel the peaceful Salinas calm experienced by his characters who struggle and grow with their exposed troubles.