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The Red Pony

The Red Pony

by John Steinbeck

Coming of Age Theme

The Red Pony shares with us a few episodes from a young boy's life. Now you might think that this means we're reading a cut and dried coming of age story, but it's not quite so simple. Jody bounces back and forth between childlike innocence and adult feelings of loss and sadness, so it's hard to keep track of his progress toward manhood. Does he learn the true meaning of responsibility? Does he learn from his mistakes? Does he learn anything? It's tough to call, and that may be precisely the point. Growing up isn't easy, clear, or even growing up in the first place. In Steinbeck's world, maybe growing up just means growing older.

Questions About Coming of Age

  1. Who is the better father figure to Jody? Carl or Billy? What makes you say so?
  2. What does Mrs. Tiflin do (if anything) in the way of helping Jody to grow up into a responsible and mature young man?
  3. Does the gift of the pony teach Jody any important lessons about what it means to be a responsible adult? If so, what are they?
  4. When the novel ends, do you believe that Jody has fully matured emotionally? Or does he still have a long way to go? Why?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Jody is the most mature character in the novel. Everyone else should learn a lesson or two about growing up from him.

Life on a farm gives Jody a much faster growth rate than any other boy living in suburbia or in a city. If Jody grew up in a different setting, he'd most likely take a little longer to grow up.

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