Anatomy of a Book: The Red Pony, by John Steinbeck

6556695-M‘That won’t hurt you,’ Billy explained. (p.6)

This is a children’s book set on a cattle ranch in the American Country. Central to the story is a child, Jody, who is offered a chance to own his own horse.

Jody put out his bruised hand again, and this time the red pony let his nose be rubbed. (p.14)

Of more importance are other elements. The role horses play in the piece is ultimately second to that of other motivations and developments.

Changing Status:

Billy is the stablehand and sole employee of the ranch. While Jody’s actions change with the shifting of his desires, it is Jody’s view/status of Billy that changes most:

Billy knew he had been infallible before that, and now he was capable of failure. (p.77)

High Stakes:

The shifting of Billy’s status is important, as is the crushing and gaining of Jody’s desires.

Page Turner:

‘How long will it be?’ Jody demanded breathlessly. (p.82)

The book is short, and the three major events take little time to pass. Jody is a frequent source of nervous tension as he worries about when things will happen and what the outcomes could be. For his concern comes a hook, with jeopardy from negative outcomes also a constant.

Believable Characters:

The writing is real with detail in acts, allowing each character to have their own personality. Jody is flawed and troubled as much as he is kind and caring. Interestingly, in describing characters actions, there is little left to the imagination. This “telling” of character thought and motivation is either sloppy or purposeful due to the younger age of the audience. Most writing teachers would decry this kind of writing, arguing that a shorter sentence would convey all that is needed and excess words, as in this example, are un-needed:

‘No,’ he said in a tone that told Jody he didn’t want to talk about it any more.’ (p.55)


One can learn about horses and their rearing, and about life in the old countryside of America.


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