About the Writer:
William Saroyan(1908-1981) is an Armenian-American novelist, playwright, and short-story writer. He received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1940 and the Academy Award or Best Story in 1943 for his drama, The Human Comedy. Sarayon writes of the Armenian immigrant life in California and often mentions his native city, Fresno. The story to be discussed in context today is taken from his best-selling international collection of short stories, My Name is Aram. His other eminent works include The Time of Your Life, My Heart is in the Highlands.
“ one of the most underrated writers of the (20th) Century” – Stephen Fry on William Saroyan.
The Summer of the Beautiful White House: Summary
The story begins on a note of reminiscence, where the narrator recalls a certain incident from his childhood. Although the story is written about the Aram as a little boy of nine, the point of view provided is much mature than that, and is of a more aged and experienced Aram, who in his latter years is reminiscing about his glorious childhood. The notion of summer in western ideology is that of leisure and pleasant weather. Many fond memories are formed during the course of this short-lived relaxation. The narrator describes one such memory in this story.
As a child, one harnesses various desires within themselves, it is through the eventual manifestation of them that a peaceful adulthood is achieved. Such a desire enveloped within little Aram was his desire to ride a horse. The narrator claims that, in childhood we have the leisure to wonder about the magnanimity of our surroundings and perceive it from the various incidents that take place. As we grow older, such sensitivity is lost.
It was on an early morning that the primary incident happen, when his cousin Mourad had brought a exquisite white horse to show to him. Even as a child, we are not free from the subjugations of her situations. Although having the desire to ride for a long time, Aram knew it was not possible, for he was well-aware of his poverty-stricken condition. From here we get the reality of the conditions faced by Armenian immigrants and the influences they had on Aram. Aram dual heritage influences him highly. Although he is not quick to judge his cousin, he very well knows what others conceive of him. His uninhibited nature often goes around as his “craziness” which is said to hereditary. But, nevertheless, Mourad lived his life to the fullest and Aram somehow envied that. Aram is not judgemental of his cousin’s deed, but he knows that there was no way his cousin could have bought a horse, leaving the other obvious alternate of stealing it. Aram knew the implications of it. He belonged to the proud heritage of Garoghlanian family, who were known for their honesty and ethics. Aram knew at once, that Mourad has done, at grave consequences.
But as children, we tend to have a more open-minded outlook, so Aram develops his own reason and interpretation to justify this deed and convince himself to participate in this, for the horse was something that was beyond his wildest dreams. Here we see Mourad be a widely misunderstood character. On contrary to the popular notion of Aram’s family, Mourad turns out to be this sensible character who “ has a way” out of life. He does not deny his theft but refuses to share its detail in order to protect Aram’s innocence. Aram’s untainted view of life has made him develop his own ideas. He incurs that stealing a horse for money is not as grave or even as same as stealing it for riding. This is the justification that Aram provides to his conscience to subdue his guilt of participating in a crime. This is clearly out of the influence of society and his “proud” heritage, which urges him to be self-righteous.
Nevertheless, Aram goes out to experience the opportunity of his lifetime. The horse here can be referred as an allegorical symbol for all those desires that we contain within ourselves due to the constraints that are subjected to us and the sweet taste of concealed rebellion that comes with its willful fulfillment. The first ride is with Mourad is described as this Romantic stroll of two princes wandering through nature. Through this mutual adventure, Aram began to contemplate on the Mourad’s carefree nature. It was so thought that in every family, there exists a member who has such a passionate streak, and it is said that Mourad gets it from their Uncle Khosrove. Khosravi had a bad temperament and was indifferent to everything at par and was eternally irritated. To all situations alike, he had the same reaction, “ no harm, pay no attention to it.” Mourad is considered to be a the natural descendant of this man, although Mourad’s father, Zorab, was a practical man. In their tribe, traits were not necessarily inherited from parents. The tribe, from the beginning, had been impulsive.
Next what happens is considered by Aram one of the “ loveliest sights” had ever seen. After letting the horse run to its heart’s content along with Mourad, Mourad insisted that he now wants to ride on his own. The narrator vividly describes the languid majestic movement of the horse. The horse gets up on its hind legs and snorts and sprints into a gleeful run. After five minutes of run across a field, running to the irrigation ditch, Mourad came back with the horse. It was Aram’s turn to ride now. But what happened next was not what Aram had in his mind. Instead of running to the ditch, the horse went into the vineyard of Dikran Halabian, where it leaped over seven fines, eventually making Aram fall. The horse ran away, and it took Mourad half-hour to track him down. Seeing broad daylight, Aram was worried that people may find out about the stolen horse, but on seeing Mourad’s unflinching attitude, Aram inferred, that Mourad must have been taking this morning rides for long and he had only informed Aram today because he knew how Aram desired to ride. But Mourad advised Aram that if people found out, he was supposed to say they had stolen the horse that morning only.
Mourad took the horse back to its hiding place, in the deserted vineyard that once belonged to farmer named Fetvajian. The horse was ill-tempered but Mourad said he had an understanding with the horse. Next day, their Uncle Khosrove came for coffee and cigarettes, and he sat in their parlour talking to another visitor, John Byro. Byro was complaining how his horse was missing for more than a month. He did not miss the horse per say, but he complained of the inconveniences that were being caused due to its absence, like how his carriage is useless now and that he had paid sixty dollars for the horse which will now go to waste. Khosravi, on listening to this burst out in anger that Byro was pinning at something so trivial when they all had lost their homeland and that Khosrove had no regard for money like Byro did. Aram could make out of this conversation that it was Byro’s horse that Mourad had stolen. Aram’s mother apologised to Byro for Khosrove’s behaviour, she claims that Khosrove has a “ gentle heart” and that he was acting so harsh for he was homesick.
Aram then ran to Mourad to inform of this encounter. On reaching, he saw Mourad tending to an injured robin. Aram requested that they don’t return the horse until he had learned to ride. Mourad exclaimed that would take around a year, and keeping the horse for that long a time would amount to stealing, and a member of the Garoghlanian family could never steal. Mourad agreed to keeping the horse for six months at most and after that the horse must go out its “ true owner”. For the following two weeks almost, each morning Aram went out for riding but never succeeded, but Aram never lost hope.
One morning to Fetvaijan’s house, they met John Byro, who could have answered it was his horse, but Mourad had his “ own way” of convincing him. He said that it was his horse and was called “ my heart.” Given the honest family reputation that both of them belonged to, John Byro trusted them and left in confusion.
The next morning, Mourad went to return the horse to Byro’s barn. The dogs followed them but didn’t make a noise. Mourad again said he had his own way. Mourad pain-strickenly parted from the horse. Byro on finding the horse again, exclaimed that the horse had grown stronger and well-tempered. Khosrove, on listening to this again, became irritated as usual.
The Summer of the Beautiful Horse: Allegorical Meaning
In this short story, we observe the simplicity and innocence that one has in their childhood. The protagonist of the story is an observer of such commonplace yet extraordinary phenomenons. His Uncle Khosrove’s ever-irritated temper masks the agony that one feels when separated from their homeland. He too might have been uninhibited like Mourad, but now he stands for the indifference that a broken spirit feels in the face of adversity. Mourad n the other hand, is the embodiment of Romantic ideals. He is unified with nature and has his own way in all situations. These two characters represent the two extreme reactions of the human mind when face with adversity, indifference, and gumption. The horse here is a symbol of unfulfilled desires. Aram may or may not have learned to ride in the future, but his desire to learn on the horse which Mourad called “ My heart” remains unfulfilled. But he does not have a bitter memory of it, and shall always remember it as “ The Summer of the Beautiful White Horse.”