"Flight" is John Steinbeck's short story about a Mexican-American teenager who commits murder on his first trip to town and is pursued through the redwood country above Monterey, California.
Pepé Torres is nineteen years old living on a small farm with his mother and two siblings. His father has died ten years before and the boy's mother has "ruled" the farm ever since. Even though his mother very much loves him ("thought him fine and brave") the boy is described as lazy and the mother comments that a coyote looked at her one day, causing the boy to become indolent. In Native American mythology the coyote, or trickster, is often associated with negative behaviors such as laziness, recklessness, arrogance and lack of wisdom.
Pepé's internal conflict involves wanting to be a man, yet he lacks the good sense and wisdom of a man. When he proclaims, "I am a man," his mother dismisses it and instead calls him a "peanut" and a "little chicken." Like the coyote of folklore, Pepé is careless on his first trip into Monterey and drinks too much wine and kills a man with his knife, which the mother had earlier called a "toy." As the boy takes "flight" into the mountains, Steinbeck continually calls him a "man," yet the reader knows better as the boy makes mistake after mistake while running from the law. Eventually, one by one, he loses his knife, his hat, his horse, his rifle and his life.
The external conflict is signified in the title of the story. Pepé is on the run from pursuers, which we never see except in shadowy outline. Pepé is no match for the men who hunt him. He leaves an easy trail for them to follow, as he takes a well marked trail and leaves his hat next to tree as he flees higher into the mountains. The men never even have to get close as they use long range rifles to first shoot his horse and then him. In the end, he is dead under a snow bank.