Study Guide

War Horse Duty

By Michael Morpurgo

Duty

Chapter 5

"If [Joey's] to be a cavalry horse, sir, he'll have to learn to accept the disciplines." (5.10)

Joey, like a soldier, has to commit himself to a bit of basic training to be an effective part of the war. If he could, he would probably salute.

Chapter 8

Some of the horses ran into the wire before they could be stopped, and stuck there. [...] [One trooper] pulled out his rifle and shot his mount before falling dead himself on the wire. (8.4)

The men feel an obligation to take care of their horses, even if it means putting them out of their misery. This man's last act before dying is to put down his dying horse.

Chapter 9

Topthorn and I were hitched up side by side to an old hay cart and [...] driven up through the woods, back toward the thunder of the gunfire and the wounded that awaited us. (9.10)

Joey's duties change throughout the course of the book, but each time he takes them up without hesitation. Even if he could question them, we doubt he would. He's the perfect soldier—for better or worse.

Chapter 11

"They like to work. They need to work." (11.6)

Emilie's grandpapa believes that horses must always be working. While it may seem that he's being careless toward the horses, from what you know about Joey, wouldn't you agree?

Chapter 12

We were mere workhorses, and treated as such. (12.6)

Even though horses like to work, they don't like being treated as workhorses. There's a fine line between a working horse and a workhorse, and the main difference is respect. Sometimes the soldiers refer to themselves as workhorses, too, because of the dehumanizing working conditions they're suffering through.

Chapter 13

"The only reason you're here is because you were brought here." (13.7)

Joey may be a horse, but he was drafted as much as any human. In fact, wouldn't you say a horse is drafted to do everything he has to do? He has no choice or say in the matter, really.

Chapter 14

No man can move a horse that does not wish to be moved. (14.10)

We feel like we've heard this before: "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink." Horses are stubborn, just like the humans we use horse metaphors to describe.

Chapter 18

"I remember you saying that our job in the veterinary corps was to work night and day, twenty-six hours a day if need be to save and help every horse we could, that every horse was valuable in himself and valuable to the war effort." (18.14)

At the end of the book, the humans return the duty-favor to Joey. He gave them unwavering devotion during the war, and now they do the same for him, keeping watch over him twenty-four hours a day.

Chapter 19

"D'you mean to say that after all they've been through, after all we've done looking after them [...] that they're to end up like that?" (19.20)

Well, we take back what we said about men respecting their duty. Not all men do. Lucky for Joey and the gang, the soldiers are ready to stand up for them, carrying horses who once carried them.

Chapter 20

"For this horse I will pay one hundred English pounds if I must do. No one will have this horse except me. This is my Emilie's horse. It is hers by right." (20.12)

Emilie's grandpapa sees it as his duty to respect her dying wish, devoting his entire life to finding Joey and Topthorn. This guy ain't rich, but he will spend all the money he has to do what's right.