Half Broke Horses

by

Jeannette Walls

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Half Broke Horses Symbol Analysis

Half Broke Horses Symbol Icon

The “half broke horses” of the novel’s title represent people who can never be quite tamed by society. Half broken horses are those that are not entirely wild, but also not entirely submissive to riders yet. Lily uses the term to describe Rosemary and Rex as they drive away at the end of the novel, understanding that they will never be able to live within the confines of society’s rules. As a teacher, it is Lily’s job to prepare her students for the world, in effect “breaking” them. But Rosemary is the one child she asserts she could never teach. Lily herself is half broken to an extent, regularly disregarding rules she doesn’t agree with—whether they be traffic laws or the insistence that she not teach sheltered Mormon girls that there is more to life than having babies. Lily’s half broken nature results in her frequent firing, and it is why she feels happiest when living free from bureaucracy and arbitrary regulations.

Half Broke Horses Quotes in Half Broke Horses

The Half Broke Horses quotes below all refer to the symbol of Half Broke Horses. 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:
Women’s Strength in a Man’s World Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Scribner edition of Half Broke Horses published in 2010.
Chapter 2  Quotes

The problem with half-broke horses like these was that no one took the time to train them. Cowboys who could ride anything caught them and ran them on fear, spurring and quirting them too hard, taking pride in staying on no matter how desperately they bucked and fishtailed. Not properly broken, they were always scared and hated humans. A lot of times the cowboys released them once the roundup was over, but by then they'd lost some of the instincts that kept them alive out in the desert. They were, however, intelligent and had pluck, and if you broke them right, they made good horses.

Related Characters: Lily Casey Smith (speaker)
Related Symbols: Half Broke Horses
Page Number: 49
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

But the Jesuits were used to dealing with untamed ranch boys, and they regarded Little Jim as one more rambunctious rapscallion. Rosemary's teachers, however, saw her as a misfit. Most of the girls at the academy were demure, frail things, but Rosemary played with her pocketknife, yodeled in the choir, peed in the yard, and caught scorpions in a jar she kept under her bed. She loved to leap down the school's main staircase and once took it in two bounds only to come crashing into the Mother Superior. She was behaving more or less the way she did on the ranch, but what seemed normal in one situation can seem outright peculiar in another, and the nuns saw Rosemary as a wild child.

Related Characters: Lily Casey Smith (speaker), Rosemary, Little Jim
Related Symbols: Half Broke Horses
Page Number: 192
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 9 Quotes

As Rosemary climbed into the car, Rex patted her behind like he owned it, then got in beside her. They were both still laughing as Rex gunned the motor the way he always did.

Jim put his arm around me and we watched them take off up the street, heading out into open country like a couple of half-broke horses.

Related Characters: Lily Casey Smith (speaker), Jim Smith, Rosemary, Rex Walls
Related Symbols: Half Broke Horses
Page Number: 265
Explanation and Analysis:
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Half Broke Horses Symbol Timeline in Half Broke Horses

The timeline below shows where the symbol Half Broke Horses appears in Half Broke Horses. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2 
Women’s Strength in a Man’s World Theme Icon
Connection to Nature Theme Icon
Fate vs. Self-Reliance  Theme Icon
Old Man Pucket’s horses are “half-broke,” meaning no one had properly trained them and they will be very difficult to ride... (full context)
Chapter 4
Women’s Strength in a Man’s World Theme Icon
Connection to Nature Theme Icon
...along, pretending to know little about riding. Lily senses that the mustang is “just another half-broke horse.” To the shock of the deputies, she is easily able to get him under... (full context)
Chapter 5
Poverty and the American Dream Theme Icon
Connection to Nature Theme Icon
Fate vs. Self-Reliance  Theme Icon
...to the ranch. Lily tries to keep Rosemary away from them. Rosemary is like a “half-broke” horse herself, Lily thinks, in that she is happiest running free outside. She proves unafraid... (full context)
Chapter 7
Poverty and the American Dream Theme Icon
Connection to Nature Theme Icon
Fate vs. Self-Reliance  Theme Icon
...Rosemary wants to keep it, but Lily says the last thing they need is another “half-broke horse,” and tells Rosemary to smack her on the rump to send the mare away. (full context)
Chapter 9
Poverty and the American Dream Theme Icon
Connection to Nature Theme Icon
Fate vs. Self-Reliance  Theme Icon
...Afterwards she and Rex drive away, looking to Lily and Jim like “a couple of half-broke horses.” (full context)