Junius Maltby is a short story by John Steinbeck, originally published in the same volume as The Red Pony. Although such arrangements are common, combining a well known work of an author with lesser-known short stories, it is usually done by the publisher for commercial reasons. However, Junius Maltby seems to be intentionally included as some sort of coda to the events of The Red Pony by Steinbeck.

Junius Maltby is the story of the titular character, a man who works as a clerk in San Francisco, but for health reasons, moves to the central valley, where he marries his landlady. During an epidemic, his wife and his step-children die, leaving him alone with his son and a hired man. Having no interest in farming, he spends all of his time idly chatting and spinning tales and theories, raising his son with little practical knowledge or social skills. At the end of the brief story, he realizes that he has been depriving his son, and he moves back to San Francisco, intent that both of them should rejoin society.

It is a thin story, a character sketch of a non-participant in society, who is eventually forced back into the fold. I do not quite understand where Steinbeck was going with this, it may be something that is of particular relevance to the time and place he wrote in.

What is interesting is that he should include it as a type of capstone to The Red Pony. The Red Pony is a raw, emotional story that uses the smallest details of growing up to touch the reader. On the other hand, Junius Maltby deals with material that is on its face much more dramatic, such as the death of family from disease, but reads as a comical story. I am assuming that Steinbeck had some reason for juxtaposing these, but I am at a loss to tell what it is.

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