John Steinbeck's The Red Pony was originally written as four separate short stories, with each story showing different stages of Jody Tiflin's rite of passage into manhood.
In each story (or chapter), Steinbeck carefully and skillfully brings together specific circumstances that the young Jody must face.
The first section of The Red Pony is called "The Gift," and the first time that Jody is introduced to the reader, he is referred to as "the boy Jody." Immediately following this, Steinbeck writes: "He was only a little boy, ten years old." There is no doubt in the reader's mind, at this point, that Jody is young.
Steinbeck makes sure that Jody is perceived as nowhere near being a man, not even a young man. When he hears his mother ring the triangle, a sign to get out of bed and down to the kitchen for breakfast, there is absolutely no hesitation.
The events that are about to unfold will teach him those very lessons, and they will mark the first steps toward adulthood.
Slowly but surely, Steinbeck hints at a sense of revolt stirring inside of Jody, another of the initial signs that a child is beginning to move away from his parents, moving toward independence.
"It didn't occur to him to disobey the harsh note." Jody washes his face and turns away from his mother "shyly." When he sits down at the table, he scrapes away "a spot of blood from one of the egg yolks." With these words, Steinbeck presents the innocence of Jody.
Not only is Jody obedient and shy but he is unaware of mating; he is presexual.
So despite Jody's conscious innocence, something is stirring inside of him, something that senses the changes that are about to take place that will push him into that world of men.
In the meantime, however, Jody is patient and so in awe of his father that, even though he wants to go along, he does not even ask permission to accompany them.