How would you describe the Garoghlanian tribe in "The Summer of the Beautiful White Horse" by William Saroyan?

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tamarakh's profile pic

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In his short story "The Summer of the Beautiful White Horse," William Saroyan characterizes the Garoghlanian tribe as having a very unique perspective of the world, a perspective that serves to develop his theme concerning the perception of right and wrong.

The Garoghlanian tribe has a unique perception of the world because its members value their pride, their honesty, and their beliefs in right and wrong. At the same time, like Aram's cousin Mourad, they enjoy "being alive," despite their extreme poverty. Because they value life, they are in tune to their spirit world, and some, like Uncle Khosrove, are famous for pacifying situations, as he does when he calms every conflict by roaring, "It is no harm; pay no attention to it." They even place that which fulfills them spiritually, such as by making them happy within the bounds of right and wrong, above material possessions. It is their take on material possessions that make the perspective of the Garoghlanians the most unique.

We see them place little value in material possessions when Aram describes his Uncle Khosrove as being famous for one day roaring, "It is no harm; pay no attention to it," while being at the barbers when his son comes to announce that his house is burning down. One might interpret Khosrove's reaction as signifying he knew little could be done about it and that material possessions are valueless without the enjoyment of life, so one might as well keep calm and continue enjoying the life one has.

Similarly, Mourad expresses the desire to enjoy life when he steals the beautiful white horse to ride. Aram had always longed for a horse and knew Mourad shared the same longing, but their family was too poor to own one. More importantly, due to his own spiritual essence, Mourad had a "way with horses"; therefore, in finding a way to ride a beautiful white horse, at least for a little while, Mourad is fulfilling a spiritual need and, thus, enjoying life to the fullest.

Though they keep the horse longer than they intended to and though the horse's owner, John Byro, is aware that they've taken it, the boys do not do any harm for having taken it. In fact, when they return the horse, about a month and a half after having taken it, Byro comes by their house in his surrey and announces that the "horse is stronger than ever. Better-tempered, too." Byro's placid reaction to their having taken it and his appreciation that the horse is returned in even better condition than he was in previously shows that Byro understood their needs to fulfill a desire. It further shows that he too accepts the need to see right and wrong from a unique perspective, especially when it comes to material possessions.

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ms-charleston-yawp's profile pic

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I think what is throwing a lot of our educators is the reference to the Garoghlanian as a "tribe" instead of as eNotes refers to it as a "family."  Let's consider them the same here.  Further, because you refer to it as a "tribe," I will also refer to it that way.  Quite simply, the Garoghlanian tribe is known for its poverty and its honesty.

To insult the honor of the Garoghlanian family would cause much more trouble than the loss of a horse, disrupting the peace of the community.

First, let's discuss the importance of its poverty.  The Garoghlanian tribe is part of an Armenian community.  They live in the fruit vineyards of California, and they are 100% FICTIONAL.  But why is their poverty important?  It is important because it is Mourad's poverty that convinces many in the tribe that he stole the horse. 

Second, let's discuss the importance of honesty to the Garoghlanian tribe.  Because of this tribal trait, eNotes explains that "it is unthinkable that Mourad could have stolen the horse."  But the author cleverly gets around this by stating that Mourad may be just like his uncle:  crazy. 

The reality of the situation is that all suspicions of the tribe are (kind of) correct.  Mourad IS poor, so he must BORROW the horse until Aram learns how to ride it.  In the interim, we learn that Mourad sings wildly (and does other "crazy" things) just like his uncle.  Sure enough, Aram learns to ride and the two return the horse.  How long does it take Aram?  ... The answer is in the title!

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sullymonster's profile pic

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The Garoghlanian is a fictitious tribe of Armenian descent.  This short story is part of a book that centers around an American born boy, being raise by the tribe that has now immigrated to California.  Aram, the boy, must find a way to integrate the culture of the family - the tribe - with the culture of his life in California. 

In this story, as in all the stories, readers learn that the Garoghlanian tribe values honesty above all else.  Material wealth is not important to the tribe members - being true to yourself and to your family is what makes a man good.  The tribe believe deeply in spiritual life as well, that humans have a soul that can exist outside the body. 

This specific story shows that the tribe does not behave according to the laws of society, but to their own sense of morality.  Although the boys have technically stolen the horse, they are not reprimanded.  This also reinforces the tribe's disregard for material wealth.  The tribe recognizes that the boys are just trying to explore their territory, to learn and to grow.  The overall sense is "no harm, no foul." 

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