The first third of the The Red Pony introduces the main characters as being Billy Buck, the main worker at a ranch who works has a close relationship with the Tiflin’s, Carl Tiflin, the owner of the ranch, and Jody Tiflin, the son of Carl. Jody is given a Red Pony and names it Gabilan. Billy makes a mistake which causes Gabilan to get sick. In this time, Jody develops a close relationship with the pony, but unfortunately it dies. By the time he realizes this, a buzzard (a type of bird) has gotten to Gabilan’s eye. Jody mercilessly kills the buzzard before Billy pulls him away from the scene.
Steinbeck does an excellent job of characterizing, especially when describing Jody and Billy. Billy is shown to be an optimist who possesses a slight fear of the Tiflin’s, despite the fact that they rely on him to operate the ranch. This is shown in several instances when Billy repeatedly assures Jody that his pony will be okay and recover, but fails multiple times in his promises. Jody’s true self is shown towards the end of the chapter when he chooses to kill the buzzard rather than bury Gabilan or something else along those lines. Although he is only a child, showing him in a fragile, emotional, and raw event allows the reader to know who he is on a deeper level. His violence and strong emotions overcome his compassion, creating an uncontrolled image of Jody.
A stylistic device that I noticed in the story was foreshadowing. This happens when Gabilan gets sick and Jody looks up into the sky and he, “…saw a hawk flying so high that it caught the sun on its breast and shone like a spark. Two blackbirds were driving him down the sky, glittering as they attacked their enemy” (28). Earlier in the story, Billy suggests that Jody should name his new pony Gabilan because, “‘…That means hawk…'” (10). These symbols are rather obvious, but they are effective in hinting towards the death of Gabilan because it is such a small observation from Jody, as if it does not matter to him until it actually occurs and he is in the moment. This characterizes him as a child further.