Jody is young and obedient, but he is also sensitive and thoughtful. The story describes his coming of age from a naive boy to a hardened young man.
When the story starts, we learn that Joy is “only a little boy” about ten years old. He is obedient, jumping up as soon as he hears the triangle.
[He has] hair like dusty yellow grass and with shy polite grey eyes, and with a mouth that worked when he thought. (Ch. 1, p. 2)
It never occurs to Jody to disobey the triangle. He says that no one he knows ever has. Jody gets up quickly, and dresses quickly. Both of his parents seem strict, and Jody is shy around them.
His father was a disciplinarian. Jody obeyed him in everything without questions of any kind. (Ch. 1, p. 4)
Jody goes to school, but neither he nor his parents seem very interested. Jody is more concerned with the farm. He wants to know everything that’s going on, but his parents don’t keep him informed and he doesn’t ask.
Jody is a hard worker. He does chores without question, and does not complain when he is corrected. He does not mind doing things he has to do “as long as they weren't routine things” (p. 7).
When Jody first meets the pony, he asks if it is his. Billy Buck replies that it is as long as he takes care of it and breaks it right. The pony bites Jody, and he is embarrassed. Jody shows his thoughtful side when he names the pony a grand name, “Gabilan Mountains” after the mountains around Salinas.
When the pony dies, Jody grows up fast. He gets angry, and kills a bird. He is curious about the old man, Gitano. Jody is allowed another pony, but when the mare gives birth Billy has to kill it. Jody is ordered away, but he stays and watches.
He tried to be glad because of the colt, but the bloody face, and the haunted, tired eyes of Billy Buck hung in the air ahead of him. (Ch. 3, p. 72)
As the story ends, Jody is trying to find some hope in his life. When Grandfather arrives, Jody likes hearing his stories of leading settlers west to California. Jody suggests he could be the leader of the people, but Grandfather tells him there is nowhere to go. As the story ends, Jody has come to terms with the reality that life will never be more than it is.