The Summer of the Beautiful White Horse by William Saroyan is the story of two young boys of a reputed Armanian family called Garoghlanian. They were Aram and Mourad, cousins.

Mourad steals a white horse that belonged to farmer John Byro. Having convinced himself that this act of using someone’s horse was not stealing, he rides the horse for a long time and hides it in a deserted (unused) barn (store house). When he had enough of the horse ride, Mourad allows his cousin Aram to ride the horse. Though it was a dream come true for Aram, horse riding was not that easy for him. Each time the horse shook Aram off and Aram fell down.

While this fun-ride went on, the owner of the horse came to Aram’s parents and said how terribly he had lost his horse and requested them to help him get the horse for him. Aram heard this and informed Mourad of John Byro. Mourad ignored this and the horse ride progressed. One day, while taking the horse to its hiding place, the boys stopped shocked at the sight of the desperate farmer, John Byro, coming to them! The good farmer examined his lost horse and exclaimed that the horse looked closely like his own but he refused to believe that the boys had stolen his horse because a member of the Garoghlanian family could not steal. Hearing this, the two boys felt extremely guilty for their act of stealing. Consequently they return the horse.

Theme

The theme of the narrative is the inevitability of change that challenges traditions and long established beliefs. The Garoghlanian tribe was always known for its honesty and still the older generations of the impoverished tribe uphold their trademark honesty but the new ones are no more ready to pretend. In fact there were already elements in the family, the black sheep like Mourad and Aram, who questioned and thwarted their traditional virtues to embark the pleasures of the world.

Characters

Aram

  • A Garoghlanian family member. Cherishes so many wild dreams such as riding a horse.
  • Poverty stricken, Aram is willing to defy his family’s name and heredity.
  • His pseudo honesty is exposed when he agrees with Mourad on the principles of stealing.
  • He has no spark of pity for a desperate farmer. He refused to part with the horse even after John Byro had found the horse.

Mourad

  • The elder of the two cousins. A young boy of queer values and principles.
  • Although Aram calls him ‘the natural descendant of their uncle Khosrov, Mourad is poles apart from the impractical Khosrov.
  • There is no logic terming Mourad impractical although he could be a black-sheep.
  • He was so practical that Mourad had a practical way with dogs, birds, farmers and horses.
  • It was Mourad, not Aram, who had decided to return the horse to John Byro.

Uncle Khosrove

  • Aram’s and Mourad’s uncle, that is, possibly their mothers’ brother.
  • He was an easily irritable fat man. His mind was so sensitive that he could not bear hearing of upsetting news.
  • He was of the opinion that all problems, issues, worries, are worthless so they should be instantly ignored. He was in fact an escapist. Though he advised everyone to ignore crises, he was an easy victim of trifle frustrations.

John Byro

  • Either a simpleton or a manipulator, John Byro worked in Armenia away from his family in Assyria. Considering his as a simpleton, he was too innocent. Even when he saw his own lost horse standing in front of him, John didn’t believe it was his horse because he trusted the honesty of the family the thieves belonged. On the other hand, we can understand John Byro as a smart manipulator too. He lashed (attacked) at the conscience (guilt feeling) of the children which soon saw results. The children returned the horse soon after this.

Vocabulary

  • Vagrant – Wanderer; moving from one place to another in search of livelihood.
  • Capricious – Suddenly changing behavior.

Questions and Answers

  1. What do you know about Garoghlanian family?
    The Garoghlanian was or is an Armenian family that migrated to California. It had a very old history of existence and people in this family were prosperous and honest. At the time this story happens, the once great family was reduced to poverty yet the members remained unquestionably honest.
  2. How was Garoghlanian family peculiar?
    Garoghlanian family had the reputation for honesty maintained by its family members for hundreds of years.
  3. What was the comical poverty of the Garoghlanian family?
    The Garoghlanian family was extremely poverty stricken though they never resorted to unfair means to get money. They tried to keep their poverty from the other families in the neighborhood and remained under stiff temptation to resort to unfair means to overcome their poverty.
  4. Who were Aram and Mourad?
    Aram and Mourad were cousins in the Garoghlanian family. Mourad was elder and had enormous influence upon Aram. Aram was in a positive rebellion with Mourad. The younger loved almost all that the elder achieved and was a degree ahead in being a black sheep in the Garoghlanian family.
  5. What was the surprise that Mourad brought for Aram one morning?
    Early one morning, Mourad showed up at Aram’s home on a charming white horse. Aram could not believe his eyes and was instantly thrilled to see his brother riding on a beautiful white horse. Apart from the surprise brought by the horse’ beauty, he was amazed to see his brother riding like a prince on a horse.
  6. Why did Aram think that they had not stolen the horse? Do you support Aram’s explanation?
    Aram could not understand where Mourad had got the beautiful horse when they did not have enough money to afford one yet he liked to reason that the horse was not stolen. He believed, or forced himself to believe, that the horse was not stolen as far as they had no intention to sell it off. The logical ground of his belief was utterly weak because they had given considerable anguish to a poor, lonely farmer like John Byro.
  7. Do you think that Mourad was the natural descendent of Khosrove? Why? Or What were common between Khosrove and Mourad?
    No, uncle Khosrov and Mourad shared no common character traits. Though Mourad‘s father was a practical man who closely followed his family’s norms, Mourad turned out to be different. Uncle Khosrove was easily irritable, turned away from crises in life and was a fat, passive man but Mourad was none like that. He ran into troubles and loved to be in trouble. He was not at all irritable or absent minded but was in fact a master with birds and animals and even with the nature around him. He had a way with birds, dogs and horses and he was true to what he said.
  8. Why does Aram say that his cousin Mourad was the natural descendent of his uncle Khosrove?
    In spite of his colossal differences with Uncle Khosrove, Mourad was suspected to be his natural descendent in the family solely because he was a black sheep and exhibited his own pattern of unique personality. Mourad used to claim that he had a way with everything else in the world – way with birds, dogs, horses, way with his parents, his cousin, with a desperate farmer John Byro. Because of this unique ability that vaguely resembled his uncle’s “pay no attention to it” manner, Aram rightly referred Mourad to their uncle Khosrove.
  9. How did Aram’s suspicions of Mourad’s stealing the horse materialize?
    A horse, especially an elegant and beautiful one, was very expensive and no one in the impoverished Garoghlanian tribe was able to own one, let alone Mourad. When Aram questioned Mourad of the horse’ ownership, Mourad ignored him and asked him to leap out of his house if he wanted a ride. Besides, Mourad was a crazy boy and it was quite early dawn and the world was asleep when Mourad came calling.
  10. What was the surprise that Mourad brought for Aram one morning?
    Early one morning, Mourad showed up at Aram’s home on a charming white horse. Aram could not believe his eyes and was instantly thrilled to see his brother riding on a beautiful white horse. Apart from the surprise brought by the horse’ beauty, he was amazed to see his brother riding like a prince on a horse.
  11. Why was it difficult for Aram to believe that his cousin Mourad was seated on a horse?
    Both Aram and Mourad were members of the impoverished Garoghlanian family. It was not easy for a Garoghlanian to own a horse as beautiful as the one Mourad rode on. Besides, Aram had cherished a wild dream of owning and riding a horse.
  12. Why did Aram think that they had not stolen the horse? Do you support Aram’s explanation?
    Aram could not understand where Mourad had got the beautiful horse when they did not have enough money to afford one yet he liked to reason that the horse was not stolen. He believed, or forced himself to believe, that the horse was not stolen as far as they had no intention to sell it off. The logical ground of his belief was utterly weak because they had given considerable anguish to a poor, lonely farmer like John Byro. Capricious
  13. “I knew my cousin Mourad enjoyed being alive more than anybody else who had ever fallen into the world by mistake but this was more than even I could believe.”
    1. Do you agree with the statement that Mourad enjoyed being alive? Support your answer.
    2. What does ‘fallen into the world by mistake’ mean?
  14. “We were proud first, honest next and after that we believed in right and wrong.” Explain.
  15. What is the irony in the story?
    The story portrays a light irony. Against the author’s repeated claim that the family had been preserving its great ideal of honesty, the two boys, Aram and Mourad, have apparently proved that they were not only dishonest, but also budding criminals, unfeeling and villainous.
  16. The story presents the life of two boys who are caught between a glorious family name and their childhood dreams. Discuss.
    Hints – Begin with the present state of the Garoghlanian family when the story takes place – poverty on one side and a great name on the other – then proceed to the childish dreams of two boys – move ahead with their stealing the horse and justifying their act of stealing as not stealing – end with the reason of their returning the horse to its owner.
  17. Mourad has a way with almost everything. What does this mean? Support with examples.
    Hints – Healing the bird – dealing with John Byro – hiding and riding the horse –
  18. Do you agree with considering Mourad as the natural descendant of Khosrove? Support your answer with local reasoning.
    Hint – Answer is NO. Mourad was practical – Khosrove was a man who shut his eyes at reality – he didn’t want to face challenges – his “it is no harm – pay no attention to it…”
  19. WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT GAROGHLANIAN FAMILY?
    The Garoghlanian was or is an Armenian family that migrated to California. It had a very old history of existence and people in this family were prosperous and honest. At the time this story happens, the once great family was reduced to poverty yet the members remained unquestionably honest.
  20. HOW WAS GAROGHLANIAN FAMILY PECULIAR?
    Garoghlanian family had the reputation for honesty maintained by its family members for hundreds of years.
  21. WHAT WAS THE COMICAL EXISTENCE OF THE GAROGHLANIAN FAMILY?
    The Garoghlanian family was extremely poverty stricken though they never resorted to unfair means to get money. They tried to keep their poverty from the other families in the neighborhood and remained under stiff temptation to resort to unfair means to overcome their poverty.
  22. WHO WERE ARAM AND MOURAD?
    Aram and Mourad were cousins in the Garoghlanian family. Mourad was elder and had enormous influence upon Aram. Aram was in a positive rebellion with Mourad. The younger loved almost all that the elder achieved and was a degree ahead in being a black sheep in the Garoghlanian family.
  23. WHAT WAS THE SURPRISE THAT MOURAD BROUGHT FOR ARAM ONE MORNING?
    Early one morning, Mourad showed up at Aram’s home on a charming white horse. Aram could not believe his eyes and was instantly thrilled to see his brother riding on a beautiful white horse. Apart from the surprise brought by the horse’ beauty, he was amazed to see his brother riding like a prince on a horse.
  24. WHY DID ARAM THINK THAT THEY HAD NOT STOLEN THE HORSE?
    Aram could not understand where Mourad had got the beautiful horse when they did not have enough money to afford one yet he liked to reason that the horse was not stolen. He believed, or forced himself to believe, that the horse was not stolen as far as they had no intention to sell it off. The logical ground of his belief was utterly weak because they had given considerable anguish to a poor, lonely farmer like John Byro.
  25. DO YOU THINK THAT MOURAD WAS THE NATURAL DESCENDANT OF KHOSROVE? WHY? OR WHAT WERE COMMON BETWEEN KHOSROVE AND MOURAD?
    No, uncle Khosrov and Mourad shared no common character traits. Though Mourad‘s father was a practical man who closely followed his family’s norms, Mourad turned out to be different. Uncle Khosrove was easily irritable, turned away from crises in life and was a fat, passive man but Mourad was none like that. He ran into troubles and loved to be in trouble. He was not at all irritable or absent minded but was in fact a master with birds and animals and even with the nature around him. He had a way with birds, dogs and horses and he was true to what he said.
  26. Why does Aram say that his cousin Mourad was the natural descendent of his uncle Khosrove?
    In spite of his colossal differences with Uncle Khosrove, Mourad was suspected to be his natural descendent in the family solely because he was a black sheep and exhibited his own pattern of unique personality. Mourad used to claim that he had a way with everything else in the world – way with birds, dogs, horses, way with his parents, his cousin, with a desperate farmer John Byro. Because of this unique ability that vaguely resembled his uncle’s “pay no attention to it” manner, Aram rightly referred Mourad to their uncle Khosrove.
  27. How did Aram’s suspicions of Mourad’s stealing the horse materialize?
    A horse, especially an elegant and beautiful one, was very expensive and no one in the impoverished Garoghlanian tribe was able to own one, let alone Mourad. When Aram questioned Mourad of the horse’ ownership, Mourad ignored him and asked him to leap out of his house if he wanted a ride. Besides, Mourad was a crazy boy and it was quite early dawn and the world was asleep when Mourad came calling.
  28. Why was it difficult for Aram to believe that his cousin Mourad was seated on a horse?
    What was the surprise that Mourad brought for Aram one morning?
    Early one morning, Mourad showed up at Aram’s home on a charming white horse. Aram could not believe his eyes and was instantly thrilled to see his brother riding on a beautiful white horse. Apart from the surprise brought by the horse’ beauty, he was amazed to see his brother riding like a prince on a horse.
  29. Why did Aram think that they had not stolen the horse? Do you support Aram’s explanation?
    Aram could not understand where Mourad had got the beautiful horse when they did not have enough money to afford one yet he liked to reason that the horse was not stolen. He believed, or forced himself to believe, that the horse was not stolen as far as they had no intention to sell it off. The logical ground of his belief was utterly weak because they had given considerable anguish to a poor, lonely farmer like John Byro.
  30. What is the irony in the story?
    The story portrays a light irony. Against the author’s repeated claim that the family had been preserving its great ideal of honesty, the two boys, Aram and Mourad, have apparently proved that they were not only dishonest, but also budding criminals, unfeeling and villainous.
    The story presents the life of two boys who are caught between a glorious family name and their childhood dreams. Discuss.
    Hints – Begin with the present state of the Garoghlanian family when the story takes place – poverty on one side and a great name on the other – then proceed to the childish dreams of two boys – move ahead with their stealing the horse and justifying their act of stealing as not stealing – end with the reason of their returning the horse to its owner.

Next – Exam Pack Questions

Biju John is an educational writer, educator and the author of OM - The Otherwise Men. He gives live classes on Skype and Facebook. You can attend his 3 Day Classes (English & Business Studies) in Delhi, Bangalore, Qatar and Dubai. His Contact number is 91 9810740061.

One Comments

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    • Deepanshi

    • May 17, 2017

    Nice and helpful

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