Q. Write the Summary of Strong Horse Tea by Alice Walker.
Strong Horse Tea Summary
“Strong Horse Tea” is a poignant short story by Alice Walker in her collection, “In Love and Trouble: Stories of Black Women.”
The story provides a heartbreaking glimpse into the life of Rannie, an impoverished African American mother living in the harsh conditions of the rural American South during the early 20th century.
Struggling with the critical illness of her son, Snooks, Rannie represents the plight of countless women marginalized by racial and economic divides.
Rannie’s Hope Amidst Dire Circumstances
Rannie’s world is steeped in poverty, yet she clings to a singular, desperate hope – to secure professional medical attention for her gravely ill son, Snooks. The two live in a run-down house.
Their circumstances were grim, and options were scarce. However, despite this, Rannie’s hope never falters. She is a mother, and her love for her child fuels her relentless pursuit of a better life for them.
The Intervention of Sarah, the Neighbor
Sarah, a neighbor and a symbolic representation of the African American community’s resilience, enters their life. She offers to help through her knowledge of traditional practices and remedies.
However, Rannie, with her heart set on obtaining help from a trained medical doctor, initially resists Sarah’s interventions. This tension between modern and traditional forms of healing becomes a significant thread in the narrative.
Reluctant Acceptance of Sarah’s Treatment
As the story progresses, Rannie’s efforts to secure professional medical help continue to be fruitless. She finally succumbs to Sarah’s proposition. Sarah suggests using “strong horse tea” – not an actual tea, but the mare’s urine, believed to possess healing properties.
Rannie, in desperation to save her son, consents to Sarah’s plan. The desperate mother braves the elements, venturing into the storm to collect the horse’s urine in her shoe. It symbolizes her hope and desperation.
Collecting The Strong Horse Tea
Rannie’s determination reaches a dramatic climax while attempting to collect the strong horse tea. The harrowing journey, marked by heavy rain and thunder, reflects the storm brewing within her – the desperation, fear, and hope that dance a chaotic tango in her heart.
Having no container, she uses her shoe to collect the urine. However, she realizes her shoe has a hole as she collects the precious liquid. She is unwilling to lose even a single drop and places her mouth over the hole.
It emphasizes the desperation of her situation and the lengths she is willing to go to save her child.
A Heartbreaking Outcome
Despite the exhausting ordeal and Sarah’s efforts to heal Snooks with the strong horse tea, the young boy dies as Rannie didn’t bring the liquid in time. The tragic conclusion painfully illustrates the failure of society’s structures to provide necessary aid to its marginalized members.
Racial and Economic Disparities
“Strong Horse Tea”, at its core, is a heart-wrenching narrative that underscores the racial and economic disparities that plague society. Alice Walker masterfully weaves the tale of Rannie’s struggles and her ultimate failure to save her child due to societal neglect and lack of access to essential healthcare services.
Rannie’s story is a testimony to the relentless human spirit that continues to hope and struggle despite overwhelming adversity.
Strong Horse Tea Themes
- Maternal Love and Sacrifice
- Socio-economic Disparities and Injustice
- Resilience and Determination
1- Maternal Love and Sacrifice
A profound theme in “Strong Horse Tea” is the manifestation of a mother’s love, as embodied by Rannie. Despite her challenging circumstances and the lack of available resources, Rannie’s love for her son, Snooks, never falters. This love and concern drive her actions throughout the story and demonstrate the lengths a mother will go to protect her child.
Rannie’s ceaseless pursuit of medical help, her stubborn hope in the face of adversity, and her eventual acceptance of Sarah’s unconventional remedy are all fueled by her deep affection and concern for Snooks.
When the realization hits that the doctor may never come, Rannie musters the strength to consider other solutions, no matter how distasteful they may seem.
Perhaps the most poignant depiction of Rannie’s maternal love is when she ventures out in a storm to collect the “strong horse tea” in her shoe. This scene shows her willingness to endure discomfort and even humiliation for her child’s health.
Putting her mouth to the hole in her shoe to prevent the precious liquid from escaping underlines her desperation and the extent of her sacrifice.
Moreover, despite Sarah’s presence, Rannie’s anticipation for a real doctor indicates her desire to provide the best for her son. Her initial reluctance to use the folk remedy proposed by Sarah demonstrates her hope and belief in the effectiveness of modern medicine, which she perceives to be superior.
The tragic outcome of the story accentuates the theme of maternal sacrifice. Even though Rannie’s efforts are ultimately in vain, her struggle symbolizes the plight of countless mothers who, faced with systemic neglect and societal indifference, fight fiercely for their children’s survival.
2- Socio-economic Disparities and Injustice
“Strong Horse Tea” lays bare the harsh socio-economic disparities and systemic injustice prevalent in the society depicted. The story revolves around Rannie, an impoverished African American woman who grapples with her son’s illness without support from society’s formal institutions, specifically healthcare.
Rannie’s economic status constantly hinders her quest to secure medical help for her sick child. Despite her desperate situation, her appeals go unheard and unanswered. She writes numerous letters, but her pleas are met with indifference and silence.
It highlights the societal neglect and discrimination faced by individuals from lower socio-economic backgrounds, particularly those within marginalized communities.
Furthermore, the fact that the doctor never arrives for Snooks, despite his critical condition, underscores the racial discrimination deeply embedded within society. The white-dominated healthcare system is portrayed as callous and uncaring toward the plight of those on society’s fringes.
This lack of response from the white mailman, who has to bring a doctor, serves as a metaphor for the systemic racism that prevents the marginalized from accessing essential services.
Moreover, Rannie’s acceptance of Sarah’s folk remedy and her desperate attempt to collect the ‘strong horse tea’ amid a storm are poignant reminders of the lengths marginalized individuals must go to when left with no other options. These instances critique the societal structures that perpetuate inequality and injustice.
Alice Walker’s “Strong Horse Tea” depicts the devastating consequences of socio-economic disparities and systemic injustice. Through Rannie’s story, the narrative sheds light on the societal neglect and discrimination endured by marginalized communities, illuminating the urgent need for social change and equity.
3- Resilience and Determination
Throughout “Strong Horse Tea,” the character of Rannie exemplifies the themes of resilience and determination as she faces the dire circumstances of her son Snooks’ illness.
Despite the healthcare disparities and the neglect she experiences, she remains resolute in her attempts to help her child.
From the outset, Rannie demonstrates incredible strength and persistence. The repeated rejection and lack of response to her pleas do not deter her from trying to secure medical help for Snooks.
This dogged determination is a testament to Rannie’s character and reflects the resiliency often exhibited by marginalized individuals in the face of adversity.
Rannie’s resilience becomes more evident when she considers Sarah’s alternative remedy for Snooks, the ‘strong horse tea.’ She initially approaches this with reluctance.
However, despite her skepticism, Rannie is willing to explore all possible solutions. This determination underscores her intense desire to save her child’s life.
Despite the bad weather and challenging situation, going out into the storm to get the mare’s urine shows her strong will and determination.
Furthermore, Rannie’s eventual return home, despite the tragic loss of her child, represents the ongoing struggle for survival faced by marginalized individuals. Her resilience is embodied in her determination to endure, survive, and keep moving forward in the face of devastating loss.
Strong Horse Tea Characters
Rannie is the protagonist of “Strong Horse Tea.” An African American woman residing in the rural South, she is characterized by her intense love for her sick son, Snooks, and her desperation to secure medical aid. Rannie embodies resilience, persistence, and the raw human spirit in the face of adversity.
Her character symbolizes the struggles of marginalized communities and their resilience amidst systemic neglect and discrimination.
Rannie’s willingness to accept an unconventional remedy is a clear display of the profound love inherent to motherhood. Moreover, her determination to go out in a storm to save her child’s life showcases the sacrifices a mother is willing to make.
Snooks, though a character with limited presence, is a driving force for the narrative. As Rannie’s ailing son, his sickness and eventual death starkly reveal the systemic disparities and injustices in the healthcare system.
Snooks symbolizes the countless lives affected by such disparities, reflecting the broader implications of racial and socio-economic inequality.
Sarah is the embodiment of traditional wisdom and community support in the story. Despite being untrained in formal medicine, she steps in when formal healthcare fails Rannie and Snooks.
Her insistence on using the ‘strong horse tea,’ a folk remedy, indicates her reliance on traditional practices and communal knowledge.
Sarah’s character signifies the importance of community and mutual aid in overcoming adversities, particularly within marginalized societies.
The mailman in “Strong Horse Tea” is a significant minor character. However, he does not have much presence in the story. His role is to convey the doctor’s responses to Rannie, yet he consistently brings only disappointing news – if any at all.
The white mailman embodies the disconnect between the marginalized community where Rannie resides and the larger institutions, such as healthcare, that neglect them.
His lack of empathy towards Rannie’s situation further reflects society’s apathy towards the struggles of those on the fringes. The mailman’s character highlights societal indifference towards marginalized individuals and their desperate pleas for help.