Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

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?