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The Red Pony

The Red Pony

by John Steinbeck

Death Theme

Sure, no humans bite the dust in The Red Pony, but death's a-knocking nonetheless. From the death of the red pony to Jody's brutal killing of the buzzard to Billy's sacrifice of the mare, we've got animals croaking in spades. And just because they're animals doesn't mean their deaths don't pack a punch. Each encounter Jody has with the Grim Reaper changes him, ages him, and wizens him up to the fact that a bit part of life is loss. Bummer, dude.

Questions About Death

  1. How different might the story have been if the red pony had not died? Do you think that would have made for a better story?
  2. Jody intentionally kills a few different animals in the novel. Does this make him a bad kid? Why do you think he kills them?
  3. What do you think happens to Gitano after he rides off into the Mountains? Why do you think he decided not to stay at the Tiflin ranch after all? And why steal their oldest, sickest horse?
  4. Do you think Grandfather has returned to the Tiflin ranch to die? How do you know?

Chew on This

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

Jody's experience with the death of the red pony is so horrifying that he becomes a cruel, animal-killing kid afterward, just to cope with the grief.

Jody's reactions to death in The Red Pony are totally normal. Tons of kids go through the same things all the time.

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