The White Horses of Vienna Analysis

Kay Boyle

Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The narrative is divided into three distinct parts. The first section recounts the fact of the doctor’s injury and his hiring of a student-doctor. In the second section, which deals with the two stories told by the physicians (first about the white horses, then about the grasshopper and the clown), the omniscient narration shifts temporarily to the limited view in the thoughts of the wife, then the student-doctor. The shift from limited to omniscient continues throughout the remainder of the narrative. The major part of the interior monologue, however, is concerned with the thoughts of Dr. Heine. The senior physician’s thoughts are never revealed except through dialogue. The third section is the shortest and is concerned only with the events of July 24 and the final significant thoughts of Dr. Heine.

The most important symbolic aspect of the narrative is the setting, and without its specific chronological frame the events would be largely meaningless. Even seemingly minor facts significantly affect the characterization. The fact, for example, that the older doctor was a prisoner of the Russians (“in Siberia”) during World War I influences his political ideas and suggests motivation for his Nazi sympathies.

Boyle skillfully uses a totally uninflected (almost documentary) style in the initial sections of the tale, only gradually exposing the thoughts of the wife and the young Jewish doctor; she finally abandons the earlier narrative mode in the third and final section as the emotional development of the author’s idea reaches its climax.

It may be pertinent to Boyle’s purpose that only Dr. Heine, the student-doctor, is given a specific personal identity. The other characters in the story, both major and minor, are identified only as “the doctor,” “his wife,” “the Burgermeister,” “the Apotheker” (druggist), and so forth. This device tends to focus the reader’s attention and sympathies more exclusively on the young doctor’s view of events, which is clearly the intention of the author.

The White Horses of Vienna Historical Context

Austria in the 1920s
Knowledge of the political and economic situation in Austria in the 1920s and 1930s is essential to...

(The entire section is 799 words.)

The White Horses of Vienna Literary Style

The doctor’s marionette show functions as a satirical allusion for the political difficulties between Germany and...

(The entire section is 708 words.)

The White Horses of Vienna Compare and Contrast

1930s: Austria’s government is ruled by a series of dictators: first Engelbert Dollfuss, then Kurt von Schuschnigg, and after the...

(The entire section is 328 words.)

The White Horses of Vienna Topics for Further Study

• Conduct research to find out more about Austria in the 1930s. Why did so many Austrians support Nazism? What kinds of people tended to be...

(The entire section is 140 words.)

The White Horses of Vienna What Do I Read Next?

• Hugh Ford’s Four Lives in Paris chronicles the lives of four American expatriates who lived in Paris in the 1920s: Boyle, the...

(The entire section is 169 words.)

The White Horses of Vienna Bibliography and Further Reading


Bell, Elizabeth S. Kay Boyle: A Study of the Short Fiction, Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1992.


(The entire section is 297 words.)

The White Horses of Vienna Bibliography

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Austenfeld, Thomas Carl. American Women Writers and the Nazis: Ethics and Politics in Boyle, Porter, Stafford, and Hellman. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2001.

Bell, Elizabeth S. Kay Boyle: A Study of the Short Fiction. New York: Twayne, 1992.

Carpenter, Richard C. “Kay Boyle.” English Journal 42 (November, 1953): 425-430.

Carpenter, Richard C. “Kay Boyle: The Figure in the Carpet.” Critique: Studies in Modern Fiction 7 (Winter, 1964/1965): 65-78.

Chambers, M. Clark. Kay Boyle: A Bibliography. New Castle,...

(The entire section is 219 words.)