Monday, July 16, 2012

Steinbeck Death Match: "The Red Pony" vs "The Pearl"

 Two Steinbeck classics face off in this first ever Literary Death Match! In the first corner, we have The Red Pony, "The moving and beautiful story of a boy, a sorrel colt and the sun-drenched California earth. It is one of Steinbeck's most beloved works and will be treasured by generations". Well, we'll see about that. And in the other corner, we have The Pearl, "a timeless and unforgettable novel of men and women - and good and evil. It is a book to be read many times and cherished forever." Let's see how the two fair in some choice categories, shall we?
(image courtesy of LiteraryDeathMatch)

The Red Pony--
1. Billy Buck was a cool dude. He tried to help Jody not once but twice to get a pony. And he stood up to Jody's dad when the boy was upset. +5 points
2. Jody "was only a little boy, ten years old, with hair like dusty yellow grass and with shy polite grey eyes." +1
3. The Red Pony: "Well, I guess he can bite all right." +1
4. "He helped the gentle wind push [the clouds] down the sky; it seemed to him that they went faster for his help." +2
5. Jody taking the mare to the stallion. "Instantly Nellie's mood changed. She became coquettishly feminine. She nibbled his arched neck with her lips. She edged around and rubbed her shoulder against his shoulder." +4
6. The Junius Maltby story. I think I enjoyed it better than all the rest of the Jody stories. +4

The Pearl--
1. The baby's name is Coyotito. +1 point
2. The use of songs throughout. "His people had once been great makers of songs so that everything they saw or thought or did or heard became a song." +5
3. "The gray oysters with ruffles like skirts on the shells, the barnacle-crusted oysters with little bits of weed clinging to the skirts and small crabs climbing over them." +2
4. The Pearl of the World +1 (+3 at first, then -2 in the end)
5. The spring in the mountains. "nearly always it gushed out, cold and clean and lovely." +1

The Ick Factor:
The Red Pony--
1. Gabilan's "cold". Horse mucus ew. -3 points
2. Gabilan's tracheotomy. Seriously? -4
3. The buzzards. 'Nough said. -5
4. Jody killing the bird. -1
5. Nellie's colt's birth. -4

The Pearl--
1. The doctor's sanctimonious benefactor routine. -3
2. Kino's supposed friends trying to steal the pearl. -1
3. Kino's attack outside his home. -1
4. Kino killing the trackers. -3
5. Coyotito gets shot, the top of his head blown off. -4

All The Tears:
The Red Pony--
1. Gabilan dies. The Red Pony, the title character, dies within 35 pages! -5 points
2. Jody's pride at doing a good job with his first pony. +2
3. Nellie has her colt. "There's something wrong." Noooo!! -3
4. Billy Buck's sadness and guilt for the two ponies and Jody. -2
5. Carl (Jody's dad) making fun of the Grandfather for telling his stories all the time. -2
6. Junius Maltby's son going to school & becoming the popular child. +3
7. The school board giving clothes to Junius' son: "why I don't think he ever knew he was poor until a moment ago." +1 (really a +2 because it's a touching moment, but a -1 because poor boy.)

The Pearl--
1. Coyotito gets stung by a scorpion!! Is he going to die on page 7?? -4
2. Kino's vision for his family after the wealth of the pearl. +2
3. Those jerk pearl buyers trying to fleece Kino. -2
4. Kino beating his wife when she tries to throw the pearl away. "I am a man." -3
5. "Here is your pearl. Can you understand? You have killed a man. We must go away. They will come for us, can you understand?" -2
6. Kino's home is burned down. -1
7. "I have it [the pearl]. And I will keep it. I might have given it as a gift, but now it is my misfortune and my life and I will keep it. His eyes were hard and cruel and bitter." +1 (+2 for the writing, -1 for the meaning)
8. "the keening, moaning, rising hysterical cry from the little cave in the side of the stone mountain, the cry of death." -3

Death Count:
The Red Pony--
1. Gabilan -5 points
2. The old man & old horse presumably -2
3. Nellie -4
4. Junius Maltby's wife and 2 children -3
5. Junius & son's ideal life -2

The Pearl--
1. The scorpion +1
2. The stranger Kino kills. -1
3. Kino's boat, that has been passed down to him for generations. -1
4. Trackers -3
5. Coyotito -5

Overall Likeability: 
The Red Pony--I liked Jody and Billy. +3 Junius Maltby was a fun addition. +2 But the deaths and the grossness really did it in for me. -3 The short stories with no connection was hard to follow. -1

The Pearl--I enjoyed the story better for the most part. +4 Kino's dreams for his family were inspiring. +3 The baby died. -3 They didn't get their dream future anyway and basically lost everything they already had. -3

The Red Pony--Negative 21 points. Oh dear, that is not good. :(
The Pearl--Negative 22 points. Wow. I was not expecting that.

So that Death Match was interesting...both books came out in the neg. After the marvelousness of Cannery Row, I was pretty disappointed with these two. I'm still going to keep trying more Steinbeck though. I just bought Of Mice & Men, which I read in HS and enjoyed, so we'll see how that comes out now. And I still have The Winter of Our Discontent from the library, I'll probably read that next.

What did you think of the Death Match? Did you like the format? Do you agree with my choices and points?


  1. I love it! The idea of Literary Death Match is an awesome one, that I wish I had thought of first! Was there a special system thought out beforehand as far as doling out points? I like the way the points fell how they fell, then you could just tally them up and see if the good outweighed the bad or not. Great format! I've been avoiding Steinbeck, even though a dog-eared copy of The Red Pony sits on my boookshelf, calling my name as I type. Keep up the great posts, especially this one!

  2. Thank you so much! Feel free to use it, I don't think I'm the first to think of it! :) (Although it was independently thought up lol) As far as the points...I just went thru each book and came up with the plot points I wanted to talk about and rated them 1-5. It was actually pretty random lol.

    I started Winter of Our Discontent this morning and I think it's going to be a better one. Hopefully. :)

    And again, thank you for taking the time to read and comment! It really makes me happy that someone is enjoying these! <3

  3. You're welcome, we seem to complement each other's reading tastes when it comes to classics, even if we don't see eye-to-eye! I'm looking forward to the review of Discontent. If I'm gonna give Steinback a second chance, it better be with something highly recommended :)