Summary and Analysis: "Spotted Horses" Part IV


This is the most hilarious section of the story, mainly because the humor is based on exaggeration and our responses to these outrageous situations. Faulkner uses exaggeration extensively to describe the impossible agility and magic-like feats of the wild horses, and he incorporates many similes in order to create the soaring, comical moments. For example, at first Mrs. Littlejohn is frightened for Eck Snopes' boy, Ad, who gets dangerously close to the wild horses. But she is told that Ad lives a "charmed life" — the life of the innocent — because the horses the night before "jumped clean over that boy's head and never touched him." Likewise, the downtrodden Mrs. Armstid also lives a charmed life: When Henry tries to catch his horse, the horses bolt and trample over him, breaking his leg; "like a creek flood," they tear up everything in their path, except Mrs. Armstid, who sits in her wagon like something "carved outen wood."

One of the most hilarious scenes records Eck's horse galloping up the front stairs of Mrs. Littlejohn's porch and into her house. Charging against the melodeon, which makes a sound "like a railroad engine," it then encounters Ratliff in his longjohn underwear. Ratliff swears that the horse looks like "a fourteen-foot pinwheel a-blaring its eyes at me." Convinced that this wild animal has never before seen a sewing machine agent in underclothes, he jumps out of a window. The horse clatters up the hall and runs into Mrs. Littlejohn, who has clean washing in one hand and her washboard in the other. She swats the horse on the head, and as it turns around, she swats it on the rump. The horse leaves, again missing Ad by soaring over the boy's head "without touching a hair." Apparently, the horse is discriminating enough not to hurt young children — Ad — or downtrodden women — Mrs. Armstid.

Ratliff's exaggerated description of the horse's unlikely course of flight adds to the already hilarious scene. The horse jumps over the porch's banisters and fences "like a hen-hawk" and flies over "eight or ten upside-down wagons." Going about "forty miles a hour," it comes to the bridge on which Vernon Tull and his family sit in their wagon. The wild horse climbs up the wagon tongue "like a squirrel," and the tame mules pulling the wagon turn themselves around and follow the horse, overturning the wagon.