Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 449
Steinbeck began The Red Pony fairly early in his career; his letters indicate he was working on a pony story in 1933, and the first two sections of the story sequence, "The Gift" and "The Great Mountains," were published in the North American Review in November and December of that year. The third section, "The Promise," did not appear in Harpers until 1937, and these three parts were published in a slim volume in 1937. "The Leader of the People," the final section, was not added until the publication of his story collection The Long Valley in 1938, But manuscript and textual evidence suggests that the later sections were written some time before their publication, not very long after the first two stories. The four sections are connected by common characters, settings, and themes, forming a clearly unified story sequence, which was published separately as The Red Pony in 1945. A modestly successful movie version, for which Steinbeck wrote the screenplay, followed in 1949.
The Red Pony is among Steinbeck's finest works. This story sequence traces Jody's initiation into adult life with both realism and sensitivity, a balance that Steinbeck did not always achieve. The vision of characters caught up in the harsh world of nature is balanced by their deep human concerns and commitments.
1. The name Jody gives his red pony, like many of the names in the book, proves important. Why does Jody choose Gabilan, a Spanish name?
2. The Red Pony was bought at the bankruptcy sale of a traveling carnival. Why is this important?
3. When The Red Pony dies, who does Jody blame? What is the significance of his childish anger?
4. The second story also concerns death, but this time focuses on the death of an old man. What does Gitano's dignified death demonstrate to Jody?
5. In the third story, why is it important that the birth of Jody's colt causes the death of the faithful mare?
6. Steinbeck assembled the stories that make up The Red Pony over several years. How does the succession of stories broaden and deepen the meaning of the entire book?
7. The natural setting is very important in the sequence. What are the complex relationships between nature and human nature in the work?
8. Jody is the central character of The Red Pony, but his relationship with other characters forms his personality. Trace the pattern of character relationships in the book and show how they operate in Jody's maturation.
9. Show how the final section of The Red Pony opens the story sequence up to a more universal interpretation as a fable of America's lost youth and innocence, the loss of the American Dream on the frontier.
10. What effect does Jody's grandfather have on the formation of his developing character?