Themes

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Last Updated on September 30, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 481

The Conflict Between Feelings and Reason

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Throughout the short story, Aram and Mourad are caught between what they feel and what they know. When Aram first sees Mourad riding the white horse, he knows that Mourad must have stolen it, as his family is too poor to afford a horse. Yet he feels that this cannot be the case, for his family is always honest. As Aram greatly desires to ride the horse, he begins to make justifications for why they are not stealing, knowing that he cannot go against his family’s honest reputation. Aram and Mourad continue to make decisions based on feelings rather than reason, such as when Mourad decides that keeping the horse for six months isn’t stealing, whereas keeping it a year would be. 

When the boys meet Byro near the end of the story, Byro refuses to accuse them of theft and decides to “believe with his eyes instead of his heart.” He chooses faith over reason and lets the boys go. The fact that Mourad tells Byro that the horse’s name is “My Heart” is symbolic: the boys justify their keeping and riding the horse with their hearts and not with reason. In the end, Byro’s comments to the boys prevent their desires from clouding their reasoning any longer, and they return the horse the next day. 

The Importance of Character and Reputation

The Garoghlanians pride themselves on and are well known for their honesty. Though they live in extreme poverty, they do not steal, valuing honesty over wealth and their reputation over whatever they might gain through stealing. Aram and Mourad, for the most part, remain loyal to this reputation: while they do temporarily take a horse that doesn’t belong to them, they are unwilling to “steal” it outright, and make justifications for their actions. When their guilt from John Byro’s comments about their family’s honest reputation causes them to rethink their justifications, they immediately return the horse, not willing to be labeled as thieves or to harm their family’s legacy. 

In the end, the Garoghlanian family’s honesty saves Aram and Mourad. Byro observes that the horse they are riding looks exactly like his own, but he chooses to believe that it is not his horse based on the honest reputation of their family. Whether he knows the horse is his or not, Byro trusts the boys and does not go to their parents about the matter. Aram and Mourad’s honesty in returning the horse is rewarded; if Byro knew that they stole it, he doesn’t say so, and instead remarks that his horse is better-tempered and healthier than ever. In a way, Byro’s own gentleness of character pays off too: he is slow to accuse the boys and trusts their integrity, and his horse is returned the very next day.

Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 348

In this gentle story from the collection My Name Is Aram (1940), William Saroyan calls into question the nature and the value of conventional morality and even of reality itself. Faced with a situation in which the first impulse of most people would be to punish the thieves, the people of this slow-moving, rural Armenian community (which undoubtedly was modeled on the author’s hometown, Fresno, California) do more than recognize that boys will be boys. They also understand that the value and thereby the use of property belong to those with spirit and understanding, not only money. A horse, after all, is a living being, not a thing like the burning house that Uncle Khosrove so easily dismisses. John Byro knows who has taken his horse, and he hints not to the boys but to the boy’s relatives that he knows, but he does not force the issue by demanding his horse back. To insult the honor of the Garoghlanian family would cause much more trouble than the loss of a horse, disrupting the peace of the community.

Even when Byro catches the boys red-handed, he does not condemn them. When he mentions that he believes with his heart, not with his eyes, he is telling the boys that he knows that they are basically good boys who do not intend him or the horse injury. Ironically, all turns out for the best. The daily morning exercise has improved the health of the animal, and he is better than ever, so the boys have done John Byro a favor with their mischief. No harm to it, as Uncle Khosrove would say.

The importance of spirit in Saroyan’s writings is shown in the characters of Uncle Khosrove and Mourad. No one is upset because both are crazy, for craziness has its strong points. Mourad really does have a way with animals, perhaps because of his unusual approach to the world, and Uncle Khosrove really is able to calm every conflict, even those involving himself, so who is to say who is crazy or even what is crazy?

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