The Red Pony
by John Steinbeck
Take a story's temperature by studying its tone. Is it hopeful? Cynical? Snarky? Playful?
Jody's a youngster, so he's got all kinds of things to look forward to. It's no wonder, then, that he's full of imaginative moments that look toward the future, like this one:
Jody saw a black long-legged colt, butting against Nellie's flanks, demanding milk. And then he saw himself breaking a large colt to halter. All in a few moments the colt grew to be a magnificent animal, deep of chest, with a neck as high and arched as a sea-horse's neck, with a tail that tongued and rippled like black flame. This horse was terrible to everyone but Jody.
Of course, this is all in Jody's head. We never know if the colt actually grows up to be this awesome creature that helps out the sheriff and saves the president. But Jody sure hopes it might be so.
Jody may have a lot to look forward to, but that doesn't mean he doesn't get mopey every now and then:
He covered his eyes with his crossed arms and lay there a long time, and he was full of a nameless sorrow. (2.173)
Sure, Jody's a young kid. But he has plenty of adult emotions, and the tone of The Red Pony doesn't shy away from those moments.