The Summer of the Beautiful White Horse

by William Saroyan

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What is the moral of  "The Summer of the Beautiful White Horse" by William Saroyan?

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In William Saroyan's "The Summer of the Beautiful White Horse," one could interpret the moral of the story as something to the effect of "no harm, no foul." Even though Aram and Mourad steal Johnny Byro's horse, no harm comes to either Johnny Byro or the animal. In fact, Johnny Byro finds that his horse is well-trained and in good condition upon its return, so by forgiving its disappearance, he, Aram, and Mourad have all gained something.

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The moral of William Saroyan's "The Summer of the Beautiful White Horse" is that compassion in the face of conflict yields both room for growth and fair compromise. John Byro knows that Mourad and Aram have stolen his missing white horse--a fact which is confirmed when he comes across the two boys as they are stabling the creature after their morning ride. Rather than acting out of vengeance and seeking punishment for the thieves, Byro asserts, "A suspicious man would believe his eyes instead of his heart."

In other words, there is something important about believing in the goodness of the human spirit and seeing the best in others. Byro seems to implicitly understand that the boys must have a good reason--even a spiritual reason--for taking his property away from him; surely one would not steal unless out of genuine need. This gentle approach to catching the boys "in the act" results in his horse being returned the very next morning. Much to his delight, he discovers that his horse has been trained quite well and has grown stronger and more even-tempered in the time that it was missing. Due to his generous and forgiving spirit, Byro has actually gained something positive out of being the victim of a crime. This is truly a "win-win" approach to life.

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Though the story definitely teaches that there is no excuse, not even poverty, for taking something that is not yours, the bigger moral of "The Summer of the Beautiful Horse" is that if one understands another's circumstances and motivations, wrongs can be righted without anger or retribution. 

Some boys take a horse that is not theirs to take. The owner catches them but rather than accuse and demand retribution, he shows understanding even as the boys do not at first admit to the wrong doing. However, later the boys do show understanding that this was wrong and make a sincere effort to return the horse to the owner. In returning it, the owner takes into consideration and understands the boys' circumstances and motivation. Without anger or demands for punishment, he is able to see the situation clearly and realizes that the horse has actually gained benefit from the situation. He is more behaved and manageable because of the boy's interactions with him. 

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The moral of the story might be that generosity can solve most disputes.  In the oddest of ways, the fact that John Byro does not exact revenge on the boys ends up working things out for everyone's benefit.  The boys return the horse, once they recognize that they did take something that does not belong to them.  This awareness was brought on by John Byro's generosity and compassion in speaking about the situation without a tone of accusation nor a demand of vengeance.  At the same time, the boys' training of the horse made it more receptive to people and benefits Byro in the long run.  In this light, one can see that taking a compassionate and generous approach to certain conflicts can bring its own resolution where everyone wins.

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What is the theme of William Saroyan's "The Summer of the Beautiful White Horse"?

One of the major themes of “The Summer of the Beautiful White Horse” by William Saroyan is honor. The young boy, Aram, explains the underlying philosophies of his large extended family. Although they were poor, they had pride and morals. When his cousin, Mourad, appears at his window in the early morning light, Aram has to justify the horse his cousin has in tow.

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.

Mourad, who is considered to be “crazy” by his clan, has an uncanny way with animals. He relates to them with caring and understanding. As a result, when he takes the horse, it is well exercised and thrives. In his mind, he is not stealing the horse, he is caring for it.

John Byro, the horse’s rightful owner, has a suspicion about the boys having the horse and pays a visit to Aram’s home. He was a lonely man who befriended the family. He understands their virtuous, honorable existence, but also knows the boys have his horse. He hints to the adults but does not accuse the boys of stealing. When Byro and the boys run into each other, the boys have the horse. Byro knowingly examines the horse but does not accuse the boys of stealing it. He allows the boys to return the horse without asking any questions.

Early the following morning we took the horse to John Byro's vineyard and put it in the barn. The dogs followed us around without making a sound.

The dogs, I whispered to my cousin Mourad. I thought they would bark.

They would at somebody else, he said. I have a way with dogs.

Again, Byro visits Aram’s house, this time with his horse pulling his surrey. His actions allow the boys to maintain their honor. John Byro appreciates the horse being a healthy specimen when he is returned. 

I do not know what to think, he said. The horse is stronger than ever. Better-tempered, too. I thank God.

The boys learned a lesson in respect and John Byro is able to maintain his friendship with the family. 

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What is the theme of William Saroyan's "The Summer of the Beautiful White Horse"?

One of the themes of Saryoan's short story is the idea of redemption through actions.  There is little doubt that Aram and Mourad did wrong by taking the horse.  However, one of the most compelling elements of the story is that John Byro, the horse's owner, does not seek vengeance or extreme retribution for the actions.  He understands that the boys understand that they should be accountable for their actions.  In fact, the boys' taking of the horse results in the horse being better trained and also in greater conditioning.  The redemptive powers of forgiveness, understanding, and community are themes that are enhanced through the short story.

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What is the climax of William Saroyan’s story “The Summer of the Beautiful White Horse”?

The story reaches its climactic moment when one morning while riding “the beautiful white horse,” Mourad and Aram accidentally run into John Byro. Byro is none other than the owner of the horse.

Byro instantly recognizes the horse to be his. The speciality of this scene is that each of the three persons - Byro, Mourad and Aram - present there knows that the horse belongs to Byro, yet no one admits so.

It’s clear to Byro that these boys had brought his horse. Still, instead of claiming his horse outright and accusing the boys of stealing it, he handles the situation with appreciable subtlety. He knows that Mourad and Aram belong to the Garoghlanian tribe, which is famous for their unwavering adherence to the virtue of honesty. He is sure that the boys couldn’t have stolen his horse for monetary gain, and that they would return his horse. So, he leaves only saying,

“Tooth for tooth, he said. I would swear it is my horse if I didn’t know your parents. The fame of your family for honesty is well known to me. Yet the horse is the twin of my horse. A suspicious man would believe his eyes instead of his heart. Good day, my young friends.”

Mourad, too, exhibits unexpected cool and confidence during the encounter. Not even the slightest trace of fear or shock can be seen in his face or manner. Neither does he try to slip away nor give excuses. Instead, he reacts in a most confident and unperturbed manner, as if the horse really belonged to him.  

How could he display such ease of manner when confronting the person whose horse he had brought without permission? It’s only because Mourad hadn’t had the intention to keep the horse forever or sell it for money. He was only passionate about horses, and after a couple of months, he was going to return it to Byro. That’s why neither Mourad nor Aram ever felt guilty about stealing the horse.

Earlier, we had heard Aram say, 

“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.”

So, we see that the author William Saroyan constructs the climactic scene with great subtlety. Byro is absolutely certain that no member of Garoghlanian tribe could take to stealing or dishonest practices. So, he leaves without taking offense. Mourad and Aram, on the other hand, feel no scruples about stumbling upon Byro because they were going to return it to him.

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