What narrative techniques does the author of "The Summer of the Beautiful White Horse" use?

What narrative techniques does William Saroyan use in "The Summer of the Beautiful White Horse"?

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beateach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the short folk tale “The Summer of the Beautiful White Horse,” William Saroyan uses a number of narrative techniques to engage the reader.

Saroyan begins the story with Aram, the first-person narrator, having a flashback to when he is nine years old. He does not indicate what the narrator’s age is when he tells the story, but indicates the boy is looking back fondly at this time in his life. The flashback engages the reader by providing a bit of childlike suspense. Who and why would someone be coming to the boy’s window at four in the morning?

One day back there in the good old days when I was nine and the world was full of every imaginable kind of magnificence, and life was still a delightful and mysterious dream, my cousin Mourad, who was considered crazy by everybody who knew him except me, came to my house at four in the morning and woke me up by tapping on the window of my room.

As the narrative progresses, Saroyan has Aram provide backstory about the family, its history, and its current situation to develop the plot. In addition, the backstory provides insight into Mourad’s characteristics, and why he is considered to be a member of the “crazy” family lineage. This serves to differentiate the temperaments of the two main characters. The most important point the backstory provides is Aram and Mourad might be poor, although they do not come from a family of thieves. This makes Mourad’s possession of the horse all the more intriguing.

We had been famous for our honesty for something like eleven centuries, even when we had been the wealthiest family in what we liked to think was the world. 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.

The style of the story includes the narrative techniques of vivid imagery and dialogue. Both techniques lead to a better understanding of the major and minor characters. The dialogue plays an important role when John Byro visits the family home, and when he happens upon the boys as they are walking with the horse. The author describes the horse, and its different responses to the riders while developing the scene of the boys riding the animal in the fields near the vineyard. This creates visual imagery for the reader, and develops the characters' traits.

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