Essays and Criticism
John Steinbeck's The Red Pony was originally written as four separate short stories, with each story showing different stages of Jody Tiflin's rite of passage into manhood. In each story (or chapter), Steinbeck carefully and skillfully brings together specific circumstances that the young Jody must face. Through the use of explicit examples, as well as subtle metaphors, Steinbeck emphasizes certain character traits of Jody and shows how his personality matures from the first section to the last. By looking closely at Steinbeck's methods of demonstrating the changes in Jody, a greater appreciation of the author's writing skill is unveiled and a deeper appreciation of the story is gained.
The first section of The Red Pony is called "The Gift," and the first time that Jody is introduced to the reader, he is referred to as "the boy Jody." Immediately following this, Steinbeck writes: "He was only a little boy, ten years old." There is no doubt in the reader's mind, at this point, that Jody is young. Steinbeck makes sure that Jody is perceived as nowhere near being a man, not even a young man. Jody is also very obedient, Steinbeck relates. When he hears his mother ring the triangle, a sign to get out of bed and down to the kitchen for breakfast, there is absolutely no hesitation. "It didn't occur to him to disobey the harsh note."
Jody washes his face and turns away from his mother "shyly." When he sits down at the table, he scrapes away "a spot of blood from one of the egg yolks." With these words, Steinbeck presents the innocence of Jody. Not only is Jody obedient and shy but he is unaware of mating; he is presexual. Billy Buck, the ranch hand, must inform Jody that the spot of blood is the sign of fertilization that the rooster has left behind. It's interesting to note that Steinbeck does not have Jody's mother or his stern father report this fact to Jody. Later on, the reader will discover that Billy is the one person most responsible for Jody's rite of passage. Steinbeck, at this initial stage, is foreshadowing these circumstances.
Next, Steinbeck has the young boy wishing to go along with his father and Billy as they prepare to take a herd of cattle to town to be butchered. This is a grown-up chore, and Jody longs to be included. So despite Jody's conscious innocence, something is stirring inside of him, something that senses the changes that are about to take place that will push him into that...
(The entire section is 2331 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of The Red Pony Critical Essays. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!