Who is Black Demon in John Steinbeck's book The Red Pony?  Is he real, or is Jody just imagining him?

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vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In John Steinbeck’s book The Red Pony, “Black Demon” is the name Jody gives to a horse that has yet to be born. Nellie, a mature horse, is pregnant and is carrying the pony, but when it comes time for the pony to be born, complications ensue. Because the pony is badly positioned inside of Nellie and cannot be delivered in the normal way, the pony must be cut out of Nellie’s womb. Nellie dies in the process, causing great grief to Jody.

Before the pony is finally born, Jody imagines what the horse will be like. He gives the unborn horse the name of “Black Demon,” and he imagines all the exploits that he (Jody) will be able to perform on this animal – an animal which he assumes will be a magnificent beast. At one point, for instance, he imagines the animal’s growth from small pony to impressive horse:

Jody saw a black,long-legged colt, butting against Nellie’s flanks, demanding milk. And then he saw himself breaking a large colt to halter. All in a few moments the colt grew to be a magnificent animal . . .

Jody “sees” these things only in his imagination, and it is only in his imagination that his impressive deeds on Black Demon take place. Ironically, the name Jody has given the horse before its birth (“Black Demon”) foreshadows the metaphorical darkness that will later occur when the pony, by being born, contributes to the death of its own mother.