What are some themes in Seabiscuit?How are they used in the book?

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ktmagalia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are many universal themes displayed in Seabiscuit. The horse mirrored the average American man of the time: desperate, overlooked, impoverished, but a good fight lurked within--it just took patience and an opportunity.

People of that time identified with Seabiscuit, an unlikely hero that was a victim of situations beyond his control.

There is search for better life as people looked for inspiration in someone or something in a desperate struggle for a better life and the American Dream: hard work and desire = opportunity and prosperity.

Seabiscuit was the embodiment of persistence and pluck, the criteria often cited as fundamental to achieving the American dream; thus, he served as a role model of sorts.

More specifically, Seabiscuit exemplifies the sacrifice of athletes, specifically the jockey's sacrifice of weight control and what they are willing to do "for the love of the sport."

Given the fact that the main characters, in addition to the horse itself, struggle with internal and external conflicts, one could certiainly include the overcoming of pain as a major thematic message in this powerful true story.

Howard suffers through the death of his son and... guilt he feels at supplying the means of that death... Smith surrenders his isolation...to deal with the press and the fans. Seabiscuit and Pollard both overcome mistreatment and extensive physical injuries to triumph in the end.

Seabiscuit was a horse that only one believed in. And Red Pollard was the jockey that only one believed in. Together they believed in each other, and through sacrifice, struggle, and belief, they made their own American Dream together.

teachertaylor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hillenbrand's Seabiscuit is definitely a story about the "underdog" overcoming the odds.  In the book, Hillenbrand charts the stories of major players in Seabiscuit's story, namely Charles Howard, Red Pollard, and Seabiscuit.  Howard takes many risks during the course of his career:  he manages to borrow enough money to open a bicycle repair shop and then makes a change to automobile repair.  He becomes wealthy from this venture and later begins chasing his luck in horse racing.  Meanwhile, his son's untimely death and separation from his wife do not serve as ultimate roadblocks for Howard; he eventually remarries and continues to pursue his dreams.

Similarly, Red Pollard is the unlikely jockey--too heavy and tall compared to most others in the field.  However, he has a reputation of dealing with difficult horses and Howard gives him a chance with Seabiscuit.

Finally, Seabiscuit was certainly never deemed a race horse because of his small build and ill disposition.  He continually placed in low ranks during races.  In the end, his trainers manage to find the horse's competitive drive and the horse stuns audiences around the country.

So, Seabiscuit is a tale of the classic vision of the American Dream, overcoming obstacles to rise above the crowd.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would say that the theme of perseverance as an integral part of the human condition in Hillebrand's work.  I think that each of the characters in the book have to endure and persevere through circumstances that would test the mettle of any person.  The pain of bad luck, the loss of family, the hurt of separation, and the experience of personal alienation from others are all experienced by Red, Smith, Howard, and Seabiscuit, himself.  In another manner, this theme of perseverance is something that would apply to America during the Great Depression.  Part of what makes Hillebrand's portrait so appealing is that the theme of endurance and eventual success something that is a part of the national and personal narratives of the time period and the characters in the work.

wendler3 | Student


jok1111 | Student

perserverence is the key. If you justwait and keep trying youll eventually be successful.

Read the study guide:
Seabiscuit: An American Legend

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