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What happens in "The Rain Horse" (obvious meaning)

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Roman Jefferies eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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"The Rain Horse" is a story about a young man who has come back to a place in the country that he has not visited for 12 years. Before making this journey he expected this to be a pleasant visit or to feel something for this place, but when he arrives he is disappointed. The land is barren, cold, rainy, and "this land no longer recognized him" (Hughes). The man is irritated by the rainy weather and the rain and mud that are ruining his clothes. He does not want to run into anyone from his old life and thinks that he would like to get away as soon as possible.

As he has this thought, he suddenly sees a large black horse that runs through the hills and disappears over one of the ridges in the landscape. The man runs through the storm to find some shelter in the woods, but when he has found a shelter he sees the horse behind him in the forest. The man is bothered by the reappearance of the horse and thinks that it is acting unnaturally because it is just staring at him. He decides to ignore it, but once he turns his back the horse charges at him.

The man runs from the horse and briefly escapes, but then he is found and chased by the horse again. The man arms himself with some stones. He throws the stones at the horse, which then runs from him. The horse reappears again and stands still while the man attempts to hit him with more stones, but this time every stone misses its mark. After the man has exhausted himself, the horse charges at him once more. The man hits the horse hard with two stones, and the horse runs away from him. Once the horse is at a distance, the man tells the horse, "'You stay there!’ he shouted. ‘Keep your distance and you’ll not get hurt’" (Hughes). This time the horse listens to him. The horse stays where it is and watches the man as he continues his journey towards the old farm.

The man arrives at the farm that he left 12 years ago and finds that everything is just as he left it. He sits in the barn feeling confused and ashamed with his chest hurting and feeling "as if some important part had been cut out of his brain" (Hughes).

Whether the horse was real or imagined is never explained, but the whole ordeal has been difficult and frustrating for the man.

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kiwi eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The story is a chronological account of a man distracted from a nostalgic visit to the countryside by a demoniacal horse - which may be real, or a manifestation of the storm. 

The young man dreamily returns to his childhood surroundings  – a quest which he quickly regrets as the weather and the landscape are unwelcoming:

He had come too far

The young man is dressed in a suit. He has not thought out his journey. He becomes aware of the impending rain:

...and now there was a raw, flapping wetness in the air that would be downpour again at any minute.

The rain storm bursts forth and the man looks for shelter. His attention is caught by a fearful black horse. The man retreats to a wooded area convinced that the horse is demonic, or vengeful, and is targetting him.

The horse lunges at the young man as he emerges from the wood.

Like lightning his legs bounded him upright and about face. The horse was almost on top of him, its head stretching forwards, ears flattened and lips lifted back from the long yellow teeth.

 The young man fights back with stones to drive ithe wild horse away. He distracts the horse and escapes through the farm gate.

The young man considers his strange experience from the solitude of a farm building.

The ordeal with the horse had already sunk from reality. It hung under the surface of his mind, an obscure confusion of fright and shame,

 

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