Half Broke Horses


Jeannette Walls

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The Red Airplane Symbol Analysis

The Red Airplane Symbol Icon

The red airplane that Lily sees upon her return journey from Red Lake is the ultimate symbol of modern technology, and represents the inevitability of the future. Throughout the book, Lily bravely sets off into the unknown, eager to see what the world has to offer and to be a part of something more than what life on the ranch would allow. She actively seeks and embraces the future, but the plane also reveals that the future is coming even for those who, like Dad, hate and fear it. Lily chooses not to tell Dad about the plane because she knows it will upset him. Nevertheless, no matter how much Dad rails against modernity, he cannot stop it from quite literally flying overhead. As Lily says, the future is not going anywhere, and the only way to deal with it is to “climb aboard.” Beyond being unstoppable, the plane also suggests just how much new technology is going to change the fabric of society. Lily notes that a journey that took four weeks on horseback would be a quick hop in a plane; modern technology will connect the world in ways like never before, opening people’s eyes to opportunities and ideas that they could never have imagined previously.

The Red Airplane Quotes in Half Broke Horses

The Half Broke Horses quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Red Airplane. 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
Chapter 3  Quotes

As I listened to Dad, I could feel myself pulling away from him. All my life I'd been hearing Dad reminiscing about the past and railing against the future. I decided not to tell him about the red airplane. It would only get him more worked up. What Dad didn't understand was that no matter how much he hated or feared the future, it was coming, and there was only one way to deal with it: by climbing aboard.

Related Characters: Lily Casey Smith (speaker), Dad / Adam Casey
Related Symbols: The Red Airplane
Page Number: 68
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 8 Quotes

Cars were supposed to mean freedom, but all these people stuck in traffic on one way streets—where you weren't even allowed to make a U-turn to get the hell out of the jam—might as well have been sitting in cages. … Nothing had ever made me feel as free as flying and I was only a few hours away from getting my pilot’s license so I decided to take up lessons again. The airport had a flying school, but when I showed up one day, the clerk passed me an entire sheaf of forms and started yammering about eye exams physicals, takeoff slots, elevation restrictions and no-fly zones. I realized that these city folks had boxed off and chopped up the sky the same way they had the ground.

Related Characters: Lily Casey Smith (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Red Airplane
Page Number: 224
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Red Airplane Symbol Timeline in Half Broke Horses

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Red Airplane appears in Half Broke Horses. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3 
During the ride back to the ranch, Lily sees a red airplane, her first ever. She excitedly gallops after it and, upon realizing that it stays up... (full context)
Women’s Strength in a Man’s World Theme Icon
Poverty and the American Dream Theme Icon
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
Fate vs. Self-Reliance  Theme Icon
Having seen the airplane and cars in Arizona, Lily has doubts about the future of the carriage horse business.... (full context)