A Horseman in the Sky

The Horseman Symbol Analysis

The Horseman Symbol Icon

The horseman, though he exists as a threat to the safety of Carter Druse’s fellow soldiers, is used in the story as an existential target to represent the moral cost of doing one’s duty. The horseman, revealed in the last moment to be Druse’s father, never acts aside from a small turn of the head. Even so, he causes Druse great moral anguish and consternation. The decision of whether or not to kill the horseman is ultimately the decision between doing one’s duty to a cause versus the moral imperative to protect one’s family. When Druse makes his decision, he notably shoots the horse rather than the rider. The horseman is removed from his view and dies from the fall. In the same way, Druse has allowed his moral obligation to his family to be removed from his vision for the sake of duty.

The Horseman Quotes in A Horseman in the Sky

The A Horseman in the Sky quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Horseman. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Duty, Morality, and Justice Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Dover Thrift Editions edition of A Horseman in the Sky published in 1994.
Part 2 Quotes

“Well, go, sir, and whatever may occur do what you conceive to be your duty.”

Related Characters: Druse’s Father (speaker), Carter Druse
Related Symbols: The Horseman
Page Number: 28
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation long mobile

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The duty of the soldier was plain: the man must be shot dead from ambush—without warning, without a moment’s spiritual preparation, with never so much as an unspoken prayer, he must be sent to his account.

Related Characters: Carter Druse , Druse’s Father
Related Symbols: The Horseman
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

Druse withdrew his eyes from the valley and fixed them again upon the group of man and horse in the sky, and again it was through the sights of his rifle. But this time his aim was at the horse … Duty had conquered; the spirit said to the body: “Peace, be still.” He fired.

Related Characters: Carter Druse , Druse’s Father
Related Symbols: The Horseman
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Part 3 Quotes

Filled with amazement and terror by this apparition of a horseman in the sky—half believing himself the chosen scribe of some new Apocalypse, the officer was overcome by the intensity of emotions; his legs failed him and he fell.

Related Characters: The Wandering Officer
Related Symbols: The Horseman
Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Part 4 Quotes

“Did you fire?” the sergeant whispered.
“Yes.”
“At what?”
“A horse. It was standing on yonder rock—pretty far out. You see it is no longer there. It went over the cliff.”
The man’s face was white, but he showed no other sign of emotion. Having answered, he turned his eyes away and said no more. The sergeant did not understand.
“See here, Druse,” he said after a moment’s silence, it’s no use making a mystery. I order you to report. Was there anybody on the horse?”
“Yes.”
“Well?”
“My father.”
The sergeant rose to his feet and walked away. “Good God!” he said.

Related Characters: Carter Druse (speaker), The Sergeant (speaker), Druse’s Father
Related Symbols: The Horseman
Page Number: 32
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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The Horseman Symbol Timeline in A Horseman in the Sky

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Horseman appears in A Horseman in the Sky. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 2
Sons vs. Fathers Theme Icon
...valley. Druse’s first reaction is admiration for the great aesthetic quality of it all. The horseman is framed against the open sky, making him appear massive in size. The afternoon sun... (full context)
Duty, Morality, and Justice Theme Icon
...Druse back to the reality of the situation. Druse knows that he must kill the horseman to keep the regiments hidden from their enemies. He readies his rifle, still lying hidden... (full context)
Duty, Morality, and Justice Theme Icon
Sons vs. Fathers Theme Icon
The Horrors of the Civil War Theme Icon
The horseman turns his head so that Druse can see his face, though the horseman cannot see... (full context)
Duty, Morality, and Justice Theme Icon
Sons vs. Fathers Theme Icon
The Horrors of the Civil War Theme Icon
Druse regains his composure, sure that he must kill the horseman. He knows that he cannot possibly capture the scout, and though he briefly entertains the... (full context)
Part 3
The Horrors of the Civil War Theme Icon
...trees and the cliff, and sees the horse and rider falling from the cliff. The horseman is still astride his mount, sitting upright, and the horse’s legs are flailing in such... (full context)
The Horrors of the Civil War Theme Icon
...wandering officer is both amazed and terrified. He firmly believes that it is a flying horseman and does not realize it is an enemy soldier falling to his death. In his... (full context)
The Horrors of the Civil War Theme Icon
The wandering officer is so convinced that it was truly a flying horseman that he sets off in search of the man as if he had glided diagonally... (full context)