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

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.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

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.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

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. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

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.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial