Third Book response – The War Horse

The War horse

Written by Michael Morpurgo

“When noble creatures such as these are forced to become beasts of burden, the world has gone mad.” This is a strong quote from the novel War Horse which relates to how horses, which are innocent creatures, are subject to man’s stupidity and violence. The novel is about a young colt named Joey who lives with his mother. He is then bought by a young man called Albert who instantly falls in love with the horse. Albert teaches him to plow the fields, but Albert’s father is not pleased by the horse. Joey is sold to the army by Albert’s father which breaks his heart. Albert joins the army in search of Joey throughout the war. The book is an emotional rollercoaster with many highs and lows as the two brave characters, man and horse experience the tragic war.

The relationship between Joey and Albert helped me to understand the love they had for one another. Joey and Albert had a very strong bond from the start of the text. Albert was very kind to Joey making sure he was always warm enough and well fed under his ownership. He was also very gentle when teaching Joey to learn how to plow fields when Albert’s father was telling him to whip the horse to make him work. This helped me to understand the respect Albert had for Joey as he was very generous when making sure that Joey was ok. Joey showed his love for Albert by always trusting him. Joey is blindfolded by Albert and told to walk, he trusts Albert’s voice enough to follow him along the fields with the plow on his back. This shows the strong bond that they have for one another and the trust that has developed.

Albert has so much love for Joey the horse that he tries to join the war when he is under age to go with the horse. He is denied access but won’t give up so easily. He waits until he is the right age and then joins the Army so that he can try to find Joey who could be anywhere in the world.  “Wherever you are, I will find you and I will bring you home” this is a quote which proved how desperate Albert was to find Joey. This showed me that Albert was so moved by the special horse that he was willing to put his safety and life on the line to be with Joey. I could relate to the strong bond between human and animal as I have a dog whom I love dearly. The dog follows me wherever I go and is always trying to please me. In turn I am very loyal to my dog and talk him for walks, feed him and make sure I give him a lot of love because we are very close and have a strong relationship with one another.

 Another area of the text which shows the strong bond between man and pet is when Albert finds Joey. Once Albert recognises Joey he is overwhelmed with emotion for the horse who is in a bad condition. He does everything he can to keep Joey alive and stays up with him at night till he recovers. Albert and the men from the army put all their money together to buy Joey at an auction which is against Army rules. This is another part which helps us to understand the love that Albert has for Joey as he is willing to get himself in trouble with the Army manager to keep Joey. The two characters are inseparable when they are reunited. There relationship is very strong and will not be broken through war or any other things that life throws at them.  The idea that is developed here is that Soldiers in war quite often feel the need to have an animal to help get them through the war as a horse will always be reliable, trustworthy and forgiving no matter what humans do. 

I enjoyed the way the Author portrayed Joey as a human character with human qualities. Michael Morpurgo gives Joey the horse human qualities in the novel and even has him telling the story throughout his journey in war. He talks about his experiences as a horse and his own emotions and feelings. This helped me as the reader to develop a good understanding of how the events that occured affected Joey and what he thought about the humans around him. “But try as I might, I never got to eat any of her pastries, and do you know, she never even offered me one.” This quote showed me that Joey was very human like wanting to steal and eat delicious pastries. He had the same desire to eat treats put out they same way any man would. Joey’s story mimics that of many human soldiers from the time. Joey experiences his friends both humans and horses die around him in war. He has the same feelings of despair that any human would have seeing a friend die. “I had lost my best and dearest friend.” Joey loses one of his best friends, a horse named Topthorn who dies in the struggle of war. He has deep feelings of sorrow and despair, the same feelings of sadness that any human has when losing a best friend. Joey knows that he may see his dearest human friend Albert again but we know death brings the chance of reunion between the two horses to zero.

This made me feel very upset for Joey as Topthorn was a horse which was helping him to be able to cope through the war giving him company and hope. His death however deeply effects Joey as he feels alone in the world losing him which makes the horrible war even darker for dear Joey. Throughout the book Joey experiences many human emotions when Joey finally finds Albert he is overjoyed and expresses this by saying “his heart leapt with joy”. Finding Albert gives him hope. I think as a reader, the way Joey expressed his feeling as if he was a human helped me to feel better connected to him a as character. I felt that I could relate to each one of his emotions in a situation because they were explained in a way a human would experience. When Joey lost Topthorn I felt a connection with his feeling, as when I lost a pet I felt a deep sadness because I missed their company. Joey’s human instincts lead him to be a understandable character which was relatable for the reader and their own emotions.  

This book made me question the use of animals in the war. We see throughout the story that horses are used for many different things such as pulling carts with the wounded and dead,  being part of the cavalry and transportation of men and military equipment. I thought that it was sad in many cases because the horses were being overworked when they were pulling the carts to the point of exhaustion and then death. I believe that it is men’s fault they are going to war and the horses should not have been used for their own selfish purposes as many of them were dying. The horses have done nothing wrong so they have no reason to die as a result of man’s foolishness and need to battle.

The horses were also being used on the front line to run at the enemy which ended up in so many deaths as they got shot and cut by swords. “Blind terror drove me on, with my flying stirrups whipping me into a frenzy. With no rider to carry I reached the kneeling riflemen first and they scattered as I came upon them.” When Joey was put on the front line his rider was killed which frightened him as he had no control. This is unfair to all horses as they are willing to put their lives on the line to do what man says but its the fault of humans that they are dying for nothing. I think this also helped me as a reader to develop a sense of respect for the horses as they are willing to do what men says even if it is foolish. This shows horses as very noble creatures as they are loyal to the men even though they don’t know what they are dying for. Eight million horses died during world war one which shows the significant impact that the war had on these amazing beasts.

In the War Horse novel Joey gets captured at one point and is used for his enemy country. He doesn’t understand the difference between the two battling sides and therefore continues on fighting for man’s causes. I thought that this showed his loyalty to the human race as all he wanted to do was please. No matter what was asked of him and how tired and beaten down he was, he continuously worked his hardest for all men. The novel made me question why we should use animals in war because it is for our own selfish benefit. The animals are not treated well and die for us but we just replace them with another forgetting the ones who put their heart and soul into helping us win a battle. They are all subject to man’s stupidity which is sad because they have done nothing wrong to die is such extreme conditions from exhaustion, starvation and shooting. “I wandered now through the mists until my good legs could drag me no farther.” Joey pushed himself to the point of breaking when pulling the carts as he knew the men counted on him to be able to get the wounded back for medical support.  This showed me the determination that an animal has to please his commander.

I didn’t like the character of Albert’s father because he was a drunken old man who sells Joey to the army for his own selfish benefit. Albert’s father tried to whip Joey, shoot him and sell him for a very low price to the army. He is the one who bought Joey in the first place but thinks they are stupid creatures. He says to Albert that he believes they are,  “Obstinate and stupid.” In the beginning of the text, as the reader, it was easy to develop the opinion that Albert’s father saw horses as pieces of equipment that should do as he says. Many time he goes into the stable drunk and tries to work Joey which frightens the horse causing him to lash out at the drunken man. These actions only cause Albert’s father to dislike Joey even more finally leading to him selling joey to the army for some extra money. In the story he says the reason he sells joey to the army is because he needs money for food and rent but I believed that he was most likely to use the money for more alcohol to feed his addiction.

Albert’s father had a serious alcohol addiction coming home most nights drunk and angry. I felt sad for Albert, Joey and his wife to have to deal with him in his drunken state as he would say horrible remarks and trying to hurt Joey, multiple times. This made me feel a lot of disrespect for Alberts fathers character as he was very untrustworthy and striking out at everyone due to his alcohol addiction. I think it was easy to relate to the way Albert felt around his father when he was drunk because I have experienced being around drunk rowdy people which made me very uncomfortable. When people are intoxicated they become unpredictable which can be very frightening. I thought that Albert’s father should have tried to develop a better relationship with his son and the horse and would have been a more respected character.  

I thought that The War Horse was a very well written tale which I thoroughly enjoyed. I thought that the writer did an amazing job of portraying the view of Joey, a horse. It was an interesting story which teenagers can learn about the hardships of war for both man and beast. It helped me to develop the opinion that horses were what gave soldiers hope during the war as they developed strong connections and relationships with one another. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn about the loyalty and nobility of animals in war.

2 thoughts on “Third Book response – The War Horse”

  1. Hi Kim. This is a good response 🙂 Well done for centering your discussion around key aspects in the novel: love and relationships, the humanised perspective of Joey and the father’s antagonistic nature.
    I do think that you could edit some of the unnecessary plot details (repetitive) details in the response. Then, you could include additional supportive evidence and quotations to secure your points. Lastly, relate your judgements about what you learn to the author’s purpose. As an example, you state: “The love they have for one another is what keeps them going during the war.” What was the author possibly suggesting about human nature or our experience as human beings through details like these?

  2. Kim, I have read through this response with the changes that you have made. The supportive quotations you have added, do strengthen your points and you have edited out some repetitive details – well done. Before this piece is due with the other 5 responses in Term 3, you could edit out additional repetitive details in this particular response: watch the repetitive details when you begin an additional paragraph on the same point.
    * Please speak with me or send me a comment through your blog if you have any questions.

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