What's the conflict in John Steinbeck's The Red Pony?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The primary conflict in the four stages of The Red Pony concerns Jody's relationships with the adults around him as he grows closer and closer to adulthood. In "The Gift," Jody discovers that his closest friend and advisor, Billy Buck, is also a fallible adult who, in Jody's mind, causes his precious pony Gabilan to die. In "The Great Mountains," Jody sides with the old man, Gitano, against his father, who chides the visitor that "old things ought to be put out of their misery." In "The Promise," Jody gets a second chance at raising a pony, but again Billy Buck is unable to deliver the young colt without devastating results. Jody tries to make amends for his father's ridicule of the "Leader of the People," but discovers that in addition to his stories of the past, Grandfather's life is also coming to an end.

All of these events contribute to Jody's coming of age and his transition from a boy into an adult. He comes to understand the aspects of procreation, birth, old age and death from the animals and visitors who make their way onto the Tiflin ranch,and he learns that the trust he puts in adults cannot always be fulfilled 

mkcapen1 | Student

John Steinbeck's book "The Red Pony' is about a boy whose father gives him a red pony.  The boy nurtures the pony and looks forward to the day that he can ride it.  One day it rains and the boy asks the ranch hand, Billy, to get the horse out of the rain.  He looks up to Billy and thinks that he can do anything. Billy does not bring the pony in and the pony becomes sick.  After trying to save him the pony dies.

The first conflict is that the boy learns that adults don't always know everything.

After the pony is gone a new person comes to the ranch.  He is an old man named Gitano.  Gitano is of no use to Billy's father or the ranch hand.  They resent his presence.  in addition there is conflict between Billy and the man's culture.  The man sees an old horse in the field.  He is told that all the horse is good for is to eat and rest.  Gitano is gone the next day and so is the old horse.

Jody's father sends the boy to mate one of his horses and promises him the pony.  However, the pony is turned wrong.  In order to save it the mare has to be killed.  The boy takes on the responsibility to care for the pony.

Last the boy’s old grandfather comes to visit.  He tells stories over and over again.  No one likes to hear them but Jody.  Jody looks after his grandfather with respect demonstrating he has matured.

The conflict in the story is the child boy has to come to terms with death as he matures.

Several conflicts include:

Life versus death.

Youth verses Old age.

Responsibility versus irresponsibility.