The Summer of the Beautiful White Horse Summary
by William Saroyan

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Overview

"The Summer of the Beautiful White Horse" is a short story by William Saroyan in which Aram's cousin Mourad steals a horse and attempts to teach Aram to ride it.

  • Mourad rides up to Aram's house on a white horse.

  • Mourad has stolen the horse from a farmer who lives ten miles from the settlement where Aram lives. The farmer suspects the boys of the theft.

  • Aram convinces Mourad to keep the horse for six months so that Aram can learn to ride. However, the horse throws Aram repeatedly, and the boys return it to the farmer.

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Summary

The short story begins by introducing the two main characters, nine-year-old Aram Garoghlanian and his thirteen-year-old cousin Mourad, who come from an Armenian family and live in the San Joaquin Valley in California. Mourad wakes Aram up one morning before dawn, tapping on his window. When Aram looks out, he sees Mourad riding a beautiful white horse. Mourad issues an invitation for a ride, but Aram is skeptical: no member of the Garoghlanian family is wealthy enough to afford such a horse. Aram realizes that Mourad must have stolen the horse but cannot believe it. Mourad remains coy about the horse’s origins, and Aram justifies the theft to himself, reasoning that perhaps it isn’t actually stealing unless they try to sell the horse. 

Unable to resist any longer, Aram hops on the horse behind Mourad. As they begin their ride, Aram reflects on his cousin’s unconventional nature: everyone says he inherited “the crazy streak” of the tribe from their uncle Khosrove. Though Mourad is not a direct descendent of Khosrove, the tribe believes that Khosrove is the “father of his spirit.” 

The two enjoy a long and satisfying ride until Mourad orders Aram off the horse, wanting to ride alone. Aram demands the same privilege, so after Mourad finishes his solo ride, Aram climbs back on. Unfortunately for Aram, the horse runs into a neighbor’s vineyard, where it begins to leap over vines. Aram is soon tossed from the horse.

Mourad comes running, and both boys frantically look for the horse. They eventually find it and hide it in the barn at an abandoned vineyard. At this point, Aram realizes that Mourad has been hiding and riding the horse for some time and only told him about it that morning. When Aram questions him about this, Mourad again refuses to give details, claiming he doesn’t want Aram to have to lie if they are caught. The boys return home. 

Later in the day, a farmer by the name of John Byro visits Aram’s house. Byro mentions that his horse was stolen a month ago and is still missing. Upon hearing this, Aram confronts Mourad. He wants Mourad to promise that the horse won’t be returned until he can learn how to ride; to this, Mourad complains that it will take a year for Aram to master riding a horse. The boys settle on returning the horse in six months and ride it every morning.

One day two weeks later, the boys are riding the horse back to the deserted vineyard and run into John Byro. Byro observes that the horse resembles the one he lost—even its teeth are the same. If not for the honest reputation of their family, Byro says, he would think the boys had stolen his horse. He remarks that “a suspicious man would believe his eyes instead of his heart” and goes on his way. 

Chastened by Byro’s faith in their family, the two boys say goodbye to the horse and return it to Byro’s barn early the next morning. That afternoon, Byro brings the horse to Aram’s house, claiming that it is “stronger than ever” and “better-tempered” than before.

Summary

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“The Summer of the Beautiful White Horse” is narrated by nine-year-old Aram Garoghlanian, a member of an Armenian community living among the lush fruit orchards and vineyards of California. One morning Aram is awakened before dawn by his older cousin Mourad, who everyone thinks is crazy. Aram is astonished to see that Mourad is sitting on a beautiful white horse. Aram has always wanted to ride a horse, but his family is too poor to afford...

(The entire section is 1,304 words.)