Jody Tiflin is the main character of the story, and because its main theme is his education, he is largely a passive figure observing events rather than directing them. In the first stories, Jody is described as a “little boy” who is slightly punier than his playmates. His life is regulated almost entirely by his stern father and doting mother, and he readily acquiesces in this, since he cannot imagine anything different. The pony Gabilan is his first real responsibility and a sign that he is leaving childhood, but the pony’s death embitters him. This loss of innocence is a fallen state in which he kills or annoys helpless animals, fears but no longer respects adult authority, and regards maturity as the ability to swear.
Yet Jody’s disappointments also cause him to speculate on the world outside his own meager experience. When he sees Gitano’s sword, he realizes that he must tell no one about it, because to do so would destroy the sword’s peculiar truth; thus, Jody makes an important moral decision. In his grandfather, Jody sees that one whom he has idolized has also been disappointed by life and learns the value of sympathy. In his last action, making a lemonade, he becomes a mature and active character, who sees life without glorifying illusions.
Jody’s grandfather and Gitano have a similar function in The Red Pony: as representations of human frailty and transcendence. Both are very old men, yet they maintain strength and dignity because they carry on a tradition: Gitano, with his...
(The entire section is 626 words.)