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War Horse

War Horse

by Michael Morpurgo

Abandonment and Death Theme

Try to name a story about an animal that isn't about abandonment. Any story. We'll hum the Jeopardy! theme about twenty times while you think...

Nope, it isn't going to happen. From Bambi to Hachi to those tear-jerking commercials with Sarah McLachlan, animals are getting abandoned left and right.

Let us do you a favor by telling you that War Horse isn't any different. Baby Joey the horse is ushered into a world filled with abandonment, reminding us that nothing is permanent. Before you sit down to read War Horse, give your favorite pet a hug, and grab your tissues. You're going to need them.

Questions About Abandonment and Death

  1. Joey goes through the experience of abandonment multiple times throughout the novel, starting with his mother, then as he's taken away from Albert, and again when he's captured by various groups. How does he react to each incident?
  2. Does Joey experience any long-lasting consequences as a result of continuous abandonment?
  3. The characters that abandon Joey don't do it by choice. Often, the war takes Joey away from them. How does this abandonment affect the humans in Joey's life?

Chew on This

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

Joey's life is defined by abandonment. It begins with it, when he is taken away from his mother; it comes this close to ending with it when the military puts him up for auction. It's the constant deux ex machina that drives the plot.

If he had the choice, Joey wouldn't abandon anyone. A loyal horse to the end, Joey stands by Topthorn in death, and we get the feeling that he'll never leave Albert's side again.

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