The Summer of the Beautiful White Horse

by William Saroyan

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Who was John Byro and why did he visit the narrator's house in "The Summer of the Beautiful White Horse"?

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In the story, John Byro is an Assyrian farmer. He is described as lonely. His loneliness is one reason why he visits the narrator's house. He is described as a visitor, rather than a stranger, and the narrator knows a little bit about him, including the fact that he learned Armenian to alleviate his loneliness, so the impression is that he is perhaps a friend or acquaintance of the narrator's family. He, therefore, perhaps visits the house in that capacity. Later in the story, John Byro calls the narrator and his cousin the "sons of my friends," confirming this impression.

Another reason why he visits the narrator's house is to perhaps spread the news that his horse has been stolen. He also maybe hopes to elicit sympathy from he narrator's household, as, without a horse, his surrey (carriage) is useless.

John Byro seems to be upset, claiming that he has "walked ten miles" to get to the house, and "slam[s] the screen door" when the narrator's uncle doesn't give him the sympathy he wants. The narrator's mother explains to the uncle that "he (John Byro) has a gentle heart" and that he is upset is because "he is homesick." This suggests that John Byro visits the narrator's house for the company and for sympathy because of his stolen horse.

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John Byro was a farmer who was friends with Uncle Khrosove.  He comes to visit the Uncle to talk about his white horse which has been stolen by the boys.  John Byro knows that the horse was stolen by the boys, so it seems that his visit is motivated to force the issue of the boys' coming clean.  His purpose in the story is to represent the sense of community and the ability to forgive, as the boys return the horse back towards the end of the story.  While Byro knows the boys took the horse, he doesn't go after them in a punitive manner, but rather uses the opportunity as a "teachable moment" about right and wrong behavior. Byro's purpose shows the mutual benefit of the experience with the horse.  The boys understand the lesson, and Byro benefits because the horse has become better conditioned and more willing to work with others, an overriding lesson for everyone in the story.

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