What does the horse represent in The Summer of the Beautiful White Horse story?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The horse represents several things to the boys in Saroyan's story.  The first would be a sense of indescribable beauty.  The boys are mesmerized by the presence of the horse and do recognize it for its universal sense of beauty.  This is something that allows them to understand that while it was wrong to steal the horse, it might be comprehensible that they did so.  The boys' life is one of struggle, both emotional and material.  The horse represents a brief moment of escape from this setting, a moment of transcending their condition of what is into one of what can or could be.  At the same time, the horse represents a moment of redemption for the boys.  Their return of the horse, and its acknowledgment by John Byro of the good deed done, helps them to experience a moment of humanity and dignity.  Byro understands that the boys did wrong, but when they returned the horse back to them, it was a moment where the true nature of the boys and their sense of dignity was acknowledged and reciprocated through Byro's actions.

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