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The Red Pony (Steinbeck "Essentials") Paperback – April 26, 2001

3.3 out of 5 stars 265 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Book of four related stories by John Steinbeck, published in 1937 and expanded in 1945. The stories chronicle a young boy's maturation. In "The Gift," the best-known story, young Jody Tiflin is given a red pony by his rancher father. Under ranch hand Billy Buck's guidance, Jody learns to care for and train his pony, which he names Gabilan. Caught in an unexpected rain, Gabilan catches a cold and, despite Billy Buck's ministrations, dies. Jody watches the buzzards alight on the body of his beloved pony, and, distraught at his inability to control events, he kills one of them. The other stories in The Red Pony are "The Great Mountains," "The Promise," and "The Leader of the People," in which Jody develops empathy and also learns from his grandfather about "westering," the migration of people to new places and the urge for new experiences. -- The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.

About the Author

Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbeck is remembered as one of the greatest and best-loved American writers of the twentieth century. From September 2000 his complete works will be published by Penguin.
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Product Details

  • Series: Steinbeck "Essentials"
  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books, Limited (UK) (April 26, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140292950
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140292954
  • Product Dimensions: 4.4 x 0.2 x 7.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (265 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,909,247 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Lloyd Sakazaki on April 3, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
John Steinbeck's The Red Pony is a deceptively simple "young reader's" book that blossoms into full life meaning when examined as an artfully presented novella. The brief 100-page work reads like a four-paneled painting which, viewed from the proper perspective, should be appreciated for what it truly is--a remarkable rendition of realism in 20th century American literature.

What to expect from the book: Expect four loosely connected short stories or vignettes, not a tightly woven epic plot. Expect crisp, articulate prose, without the extravagant detail, depth of characterization and flowing drama afforded by a longer work. Expect to experience thought-provoking, coming-of-age events in a young Salinas ranch boy's life, not the entertaining action of a Hollywood thriller. Also, expect to have to dig a little to understand the author's message, not to be spoonfed the theme of this unique work.

Here's my view of the thematic "glue" holding the individual stories together:

1. Boy learns about death: In "The Gift," 10-year old Jody learns through the sudden sickness, suffering and gruesome, buzzard-pecked death of his beloved red pony, Gabilan, that even "happy" gifts can result in sadness and loss, despite the best efforts of well-intentioned adults.

2. Boy views consequences of the ways of man: In "The Great Mountains," Jody sees how compassion has its economic and cultural limitations, when father refuses to honor the old paisano, Gitano's, request to live out his remaining years on the ranch where he was born. Consequence: Gitano disappears into the lonesome mountains towards the west, riding father's decrepit horse and ominously carrying only a sharp-bladed rapier.

3.
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By A Customer on January 12, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Even though the book "The Red Pony", by John Stienbeck, was one of the saddest books I have ever read I would recommend it because the plot has many interesting turns and the theme is very emotional. "The Red Pony" was about a young boy, Jody, and his family who live on a ranch. The book consists of four short stories, each of which involves Jody learning a lesson of life. It is so tragic because in every story, something dies. In "The Gift" and "The Promise", two horses die, in "The Great Mountains" it is implied that Gitano committed suicide, and in "The Leader of the People" a part of Grandfather dies when he realizes that Westering has passed. When he realizes this, his whole motivation is gone, so a part of him is missing, or dead. My favorite story in "The Red Pony" was "The Promise", because I enjoyed the way Jody would imagine things about what he was doing on the way home from school, and about what the new colt would be like. Over all, I found this book very enjoyable, even though it was so melancholy.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I read some of these reviews and could not believe how unrealistic some of these people are. Why should every novel be a princess pretty tale? If that is what you need, keep pretending and don't ever read some of the most poignantly beautiful reflections of what it is like to be a 10 year old boy growing up on a farm!
This is a sensitive, time realistic story of what it would be like to live on a farm back in the days when you had to know practical therapy for your stock animals. These people respected their animals and knew that it was important to know emergency procedures, and knew how to do them to try and save their stock. Sometimes it worked, sometimes, it did not. It is this down side that focuses on Jody, the 10 year old son, that gets to own a pony who becomes ill with "strangles" a disease that shuts off his airway. The stockhand pulls no stops to save his life, and Jody chooses to stay by his beloved pony's side. The event is pivotal. As all events that revolve around life and death, this is the basis of which the story continues to move.
I do not find the story to be distasteful at all. I find it to be full of life and love. For those that can not get through the saddness of the pony dying, I feel sad that you missed some very relevant, affirming representations of the real meaning of life and love.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I read this book aloud to my children; ages 10 and 12. It was fascinating in its detail. The language and style are observant, forceful, unadorned. California ranch life in the depression is drawn as spare - a tenuous, unforgiving existence without frills.
The characters are pithy, pragmatic, responsible. They stand in contrast to the people of the late 90's like the book's black cypress differs from an artificial Christmas tree. The end of the book leaves you wondering; trying to sort out what Steinbeck wanted us to understand. I enjoyed it. Enough that at midnight, before the week begins on Monday, I am trying to answer those questions for myself.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
As a piece of literature, for an older reader, 30 years later I can admit it has merit.

The problem is that because it's a "classic", it tends to be on school reading lists. And because the title is "The Red Pony," naturally teachers (or parents, or students themselves) recommend it to readers interested in horses. This happens especially because there are few if any animal books on the standard "great books" lists.

For a student of 16 or 17, this might be fine.

I read it at the age of 9.

For a 9 year old, this story is too graphic, too traumatic, too nasty for its nuance or lessons to be appreciated. It left me angry and in tears, especially horrible as some cruel joke that the only way an animal-oriented book could be on the reading list was to have the pony die a terrible death and then for the boy to have to watch the pony's eyes plucked out and eaten by vultures. As my revenge I absolutely refused to touch another Steinbeck book for 20 years.

Don't let this happen to your kids. Introduce them to Steinbeck via one of his other works, and wait on this one until they are older.
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