In William Saroyan's short story The Summer of the Beautiful White Horse, why did the Aram think that the way Mourad got the horse was not stealing?

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kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In William Saroyan’s short story The Summer of the Beautiful White Horse, Aram Garoghlanian, the young protagonist, views quizzically his cousin Mourad’s actions with regard to the mysterious horse. For the duration of Saroyan’s story, the question of the horse’s status remains a constant theme. The ambiguity regarding Mourad’s possession of the horse is a product of the Armenian-American community of which both boys are a part code of conduct. As Aram states early in the story, regarding the suspicious nature of his cousin’s acquisition within the context of that code of conduct:

“Most important of all . . . we were famous for our honesty. We had been famous for our honesty for something like eleven centuries, even when we had been the wealthiest family in what we liked to think was the world. We were proud first, honest next, and after that we believed in right and wrong. None of us would take advantage of anybody in the world, let alone steal.”

It is this code that enables the boys to rationalize Mourad’s possession of a horse he obviously could not have purchased. Aram emphasizes the dire financial straits in which this immigrant community exists, but still can’t reconcile what he sees – the beautiful white horse – with what he has been taught about his community’s integrity:

“I knew my cousin Mourad couldn't have bought the horse, and if he couldn't have bought it he must have stolen it, and I refused to believe he had stolen it.”

As importantly, Aram believes that Mourad’s facility with and love for horses justifies the latter’s taking of the horse:

“For all I knew, maybe it wasn't stealing at all. If you were crazy about horses the way my cousin Mourad and I were, it wasn't stealing. It wouldn't become stealing until we offered to sell the horse, which of course I knew we would never do.”

It does become obvious, however, that both boys understand the moral ambiguity in which they have immersed themselves. When Mourad suggests that they’ll either return the horse or “hide him until tomorrow morning,” it is clear that they understand the implications of their actions.  Still, though, they parse sentiments, with Mourad attempting to shield his younger relative from responsibility for their actions:

“How long ago did you steal this horse? I said. . . Who said anything about stealing a horse? he said. Anyhow, I said, how long ago did you begin riding every morning? Not until this morning, he said. Are you telling the truth? I said. Of course not, he said, but if we are found out, that's what you're to say. I don't want both of us to be liars.”

Mourad’s love for and kinship with animals is revealed as a part of his nature that allows him to justify ‘borrowing’ the horse. Aram observes his cousin helping an injured bird while talking to it and, when they do return the horse to the farmer’s barn, notices how the dogs ostensibly guarding the farm remain silent, prompting Mourad to note “I have a way with dogs.”

Aram does not state that Mourad did not steal the horse. In a sort of twisted logic, he rationalizes the horse’s presence as being a product of his cousin’s natural facility for taking care of animals (the farmer will later comment on the improved temperament of the horse after it is returned) combined with his community’s reputation for honesty. Mourad, Aram notes early-on, is one of the crazy members of the clan, and, as such, should not be judged on the same level as one would judge others.

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