Pride in Greenleaf and Spotted Horses
Length: 799 words (2.3 double-spaced pages)
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Pride is a feeling that most people in the world have always shared. Pride can be a great thing to have, but when a person has too much pride, the situation becomes very different. Pride can cause a person to do things he would not do under normal circumstances, and it can cause a person unhappiness. Mrs. May in "Greenleaf" and Henry Armstid in "Spotted Horses" both have a sad type of pride that leads to untimely death and demise. In Henry's case, his pride is the direct cause of his injuries done by the horses, and Mrs. May's is somewhat more indirect.
In "Greenleaf," Mrs. May thought that she was a blessing to the world. She thought that everything good that happened was her doing and that everything she did was good. At one point in the story she says, "I work and slave, I struggle and sweat to keep this place for them and as soon as I'm dead, they'll marry trash and bring it in here and ruin everything. They will marry trash and ruin everything I've done." Although she hates the dairy farm and her two sons do not live up to her standards, she still has a sense of pride about them causing her to be so preoccupied with what she has done for them. The bull, a prominent symbol for what Mrs. May cannot control, meanders throughout the story and clashes and conflicts with her pride. The two are intertwined: she constantly visualizes and hears the bull in the day and sleep. In one of her dreams she talks of being "aware that what ever it was had been eating as long as she had the place and had eaten everything from the beginning of her fence line up to the house and now was eating the house and calmly with the same steady rhythm would continue through the house, eating her and the boys, and then on, eating everything but the Greenleafs." The bull symbolizes what she cannot do in life, what she cannot control, and what she has not done, and it is what makes her take the last step before her death by bringing out her pride and causing her to try and take control over the unknown, over itself. She is then gored to death by the bull, and this proves the point that she should not have concerned her whole life with her pride and what she had done and what she could not ultimately control.
A parallel case of pride is that of Henry Armstid, a poor man who is driven by his pride to purchase a worthless pony from a swindler and them pays the price when his pride becomes out of control. As a poor man, Henry has very little to be proud of, so when he is pressured to buy a pony from the mysterious Texan, he does so to put himself on the pedestal that the Texan is on and to become part of something important and better by showing the other townsfolk that he can purchase the wild animal. When Henry spends all the money that his wife earns on the worthless spotted horse, he then has to get the horse, a fairly impossible feat. He inevitably cannot trap the dangerous animal and thus brings his wife into a dangerous situation. She lets the horse get away each time they catch it, on accident of course, probably to repay her husband for letting his pride convince him into buying the horse. He then tries to beat her, another act of unleashed and vicious pride.
The spotted horses are a similar symbol to the bull. They symbolize what Armstid can never gain in life, and the story shows what happens when he tries. When he does try to capture the horse, he first succeeds in beating his wife and getting on the bad side of the powerful and intimidating Texan and then getting trampled by all of the wild horses. He makes a grab for what he cannot attain in life, and then it punches him back and sets him in his place.
For the two characters, different in many ways yet so similar in others, fate is sealed by their unchecked pride. Their pride comes in waves of excess, and so as it is uncontrolled, they are both destroyed. Mrs. May is killed because it is the only way that she can be shown that she cannot control everything and that it does not matter if she controls everything. It is not clear what Henry Armstid learns if he learns anything at all, but he should have learned that the pride of one person is not worth the cost that others have to pay.