Cormac McCarthy: All the Pretty Horses, No Country for Old Men, The Road Trilogy, All the Pretty Horses is the tale of John Grady Cole, who at sixteen finds. All the Pretty soundofheaven.info - Free download as PDF File .pdf), Text File .txt) or read online for free. The national bestseller and the first volume in Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy, All the Pretty Horses is the tale of John Grady Cole, who at sixteen.
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Border Trilogy 01 - All The Pretty Horses. Home · Border Trilogy 01 - All The Pretty McCarthy, Cormac - Border Trilogy 1 - All the Pretty Horses. Read more. CliffsNotes onALL THE PRETTY HORSESMcCARTHY'S ALL THE PRETTY HORSES NOTES including • Life and Background of the A. editor at Random House. •First novel published in The Orchard Keeper. • ATPH published in •Border trilogy – All the Pretty Horses, The Crossing.
He senses that his father has died during his absence, and for the first and only time in this novel John Grady begins to cry. It is then that he cries. As white Americans began to explore westward, these two attitudes remained at the forefront of the American imagination. One evening, while riding Don Hector's new stallion bareback across the ranch, John Grady once again meets Alejandra, whom he has not seen since the night of the dance. He goes to see Alfonsa, Alejandra's manipulative grandaunt. Her personal sorrows, instead of making her more sensitive, have made her cynical and manipulative.
He may write in the tradition of Zane Grey and Louis L'Amour, but he is certainly also an heir to America's towering literary geniuses, such as William Faulkner--from whom McCarthy learned his long, flowing sentences--and Ernest Hemingway, whose attitudes of heroic stoicism and quiet romanticism pervade McCarthy's prose. McCarthy's great epic Border Trilogy --whose first novel, All the Pretty Horses, has become McCarthy's most famous--tells the story of cowboys in the middle of the twentieth century, men who pursue a romantic Western idea that has vanished and turned from history into myth.
McCarthy writes about the dark and unseen side of the Western idea: The irony of All the Pretty Horses is that it exposes characters desperately trying to inhabit the cowboy myth--to subscribe to the cowboy code of stoicism, understated nobility and great physical skill--in the realities of exploration in a savage and uncivilized land.
What emerges is a picture of what the West might really have been, together with a picture of the human spirit under awesome moral pressure.
With his death, John Grady's mother will sell their Texas ranch and move away. There is nothing left in Texas for John Grady, who loves the ranch and idealizes the cowboy's way of life. Only sixteen years old, John Grady runs away from home with his friend Rawlins.
On horseback, they head toward the Mexican border, leading the idyllic, storybook life of migrant cowboys. They are joined by a younger boy, the sensitive and stubborn Jimmy Blevins.
Together, the three cross over the Rio Grande into Mexico. Soon after they enter Mexico, the companions ride into a lightning storm. Blevins, who is terrified of lightening, strips off his clothes, abandons his horse, and hides in a ditch. The next day finds him nearly naked, his horse and gun stolen. In the village of Encantada, the companions see Blevins' lost horse, but it has been claimed by someone else.
In the aftermath of their attempt to steal the horse back, Rawlins and Cole become separated from Blevins. They escape from the posse pursuing them, however, and continue to travel south, where they find work as cowboys on the vast ranch owned by Don Hector. John Grady quickly proves himself a remarkable cowboy with an intuitive understanding of horses. Don Hector, impressed, puts him in charge of breeding the ranch's horses.
But John Grady's good fortune is imperiled by his infatuation with Don Hector's beautiful daughter, Alejandra. Although John Grady is warned off by Alfonsa, Alejandra's cynical and manipulative great-aunt, he nevertheless falls in love with the girl, and they begin an illicit affair.
When Don Hector finds out about it, he turns John Grady and Rawlins over to the thuggish, corrupt police captain of Encantada. Blevins, it seems, returned to Encantada to reclaim his gun and killed at least one of the townspeople. Now he is being held in jail, and John Grady and Rawlins are accused of being his co- conspirators. Rawlins is tortured until he gives a false confession. Blevins is executed, but John Grady and Rawlins are merely imprisoned in the town of Saltillo.
In the prison the Americans are marked as victims, and forced to fight constantly to survive. When they refuse to ally themselves with the wealthy, influential prisoner Perez, he sends assassins after them both. Both men survive the attacks--with John Grady killing his assailant-but they are badly wounded, and end up in the hospital's infirmary. Only partially recovered, they are suddenly released by the prison commander, who has been bribed by Alfonsa at Alejandra's request. He goes back to the ranch, where Alfonsa meets with him, delivering a long discourse about human powerlessness and about the foolishness of romantic dreams.
Nevertheless, he meets with Alejandra and they spend a short day together, but in the end she decides that she cannot abandon her family for him. John Grady, shattered, refuses to leave Mexico without his horses. He goes back to Encantada and, taking the captain as a hostage, reclaims the American horses. He is pursued on the way back and wounded severely, but manages to evade the pursuit and cross back into Texas. The novel ends with John Grady riding west, into the setting sun.
We know almost nothing about Cole's physical appearance, only that by the end of the novel he is badly scarred across the face and chest.
Laconic and pensive, he seems prematurely aged. He lives his life according to a strict, almost ritualistic code, valuing honor, intelligence, responsibility, justice, loyalty, and skill.
Above all other things, he loves horses, with which he is preternaturally gifted, and the cowboy life, the solitude and dignity of the West. The novel follows Cole's journey as he flees the Texas ranch on which he grew up and travels with his companions Rawlins and Blevins south into Mexico; on a psychological level, it depicts what happens to Cole's romantic vision of the West.
We know little about Rawlins physically, just that at age seventeen he is tall and thin, with long arms. Rawlins is louder, more impatient and less introspective than Cole; he is also the less intelligent and less skilled member of the partnership. While he is faithful to Cole, he does not subscribe to Cole's code of absolute loyalty and strictly moral action, and he lacks the iron will that drives Cole to tirelessly pursue his romantic dreams.
Rawlins and Cole stick together until their ordeal in the Mexican jail: His real name, which is not Blevins, is never revealed. He is hypersensitive to mockery and insult, anything impinging on his dignity. This sensitivity led him to run away from his abusive stepfather, and it also leads to his death: She is quite beautiful: There is always an attitude of sorrow about her, of tragedy waiting to happen.
Alejandra and Cole fall in love and start an illicit affair. The discovery of the affair results in Don Hector turning Cole in to the Mexican police. When Cole returns from jail he spends one more passionate, tragic day with Alejandra: She has been manipulated by her cynical great-aunt, Alfonsa.
Don Hector, a member of the Mexican aristocracy, is intelligent and cultured, seeming both practical and kind. He is impressed by Cole, and promotes him to the position of breeder. But when he discovers that Cole has been having an illicit affair with his daughter Alejandra, Don Hector is unforgiving, turning the Americans over to the lawless Mexican police. It is for fear of losing Don Hector's love--as well as for fear of her scheming great-aunt Alfonsa's manipulative power- -that Alejandra abandons Cole.
Alfonsa - Alfonsa is Alejandra's grandaunt. She lives at the ranch of her nephew, Don Hector. An intelligent and intuitive student of human nature, Alfonsa had an aristocratic upbringing and a cosmopolitan, European education. In her youth she was what she calls a "freethinker," allied with the forces that would bring about the Mexican civil war on behalf of the oppressed and poverty-stricken working class. She fell in love with one of the revolutionary leaders, but was prevented from marrying him by her disapproving family.
Her personal sorrows, instead of making her more sensitive, have made her cynical and manipulative. It is she who pays the bribe to get Cole and Rawlins out of jail, but at the price of making Alejandra swear never to.
He is the brother of the ranch's foreman, Armondo. More than any of the other Mexicans, he becomes Cole's friend, working with Cole to breed the horses and giving him counsel and help in Cole's pursuit of Alejandra both before and after Cole's imprisonment.
The Captain - The captain--whose name, Raul, is almost never used-- is the sadistic, corrupt lawman in the town of Encantada. The captain is the man who wrongly accuses Cole and Rawlins of being outlaws, and tortures Rawlins to confess to crimes he did not commit. Later, after accepting a bribe from the charro, a relative of the man Blevins killed, the captain murders Blevins.
When Cole returns after being released from prison, he takes the captain as his hostage. The captain exemplifies the corruption and cruelty rampant in this lawless part of Mexico.
At the beginning of the novel, Cole's father is dying, possibly of lung cancer although we never find out for certain. The father was a prisoner of war during World War II, and came back from it a changed man; afterward, he and John Grady's mother--a flighty, promiscuous women who ran off to become an actress--were never reunited.
He is a lonely, silent man. John Grady Cole's mother - John Grady Cole's nameless mother appears only in the opening pages of the novel, and only briefly. John Grady's mother has divorced John Grady's father; their marriage was never strong, and for a while during his infancy and early childhood, John Grady's mother left him to be raised by Louisa.
At the time the narrative begins, John Grady's mother is only thirty-six years old, and wants to start another life away from the solitude of the ranch, which has become lonely and unprofitable.
She and her son are virtual strangers. Perez - The wealthy and powerful prisoner who tries to force John Grady and Rawlins to ally themselves with him or pay him bribes to arrange for their freedom. When the Americans refuse, he has Rawlins stabbed, and--presumably, although we are never told for certain--pays an assassin to try to kill John Grady. The charro - A citizen of Encantada. Like the captain, the charro is only referred to by his title, not by his name, Luis.
He pays the captain a bribe to execute Blevins, who killed a relative of his. When John Grady Cole returns to Encantada, he forces the charro to show him where he has hidden the American horses. Armondo - The foreman on Don Hector's ranch. Maria - The kind, quiet cook at Don Hector's ranch. Though she never says so explicitly, she seems deeply sympathetic toward John Grady Cole. She raised Cole when his mother ran away and went to California.
Chapter I - Part 1 Note: All the Pretty Horses is divided into four long chapters. For ease of organization, this SparkNote will divide both the first and last of these sections into two thematically coherent parts.
Note that the novel itself does not subdivide these two chapters in this manner. John Grady is a sixteen-year-old who has lived his whole life on his grandfather's ranch outside of San Angelo, Texas. With his grandfather's death, John Grady's mother will sell the unprofitable ranch: This first section of the novel, leading up to John Grady's departure for Mexico, consists of a group of connected scenes--conversations with friends and parents--that lead to John Grady's conclusion that there is nothing left for him in San Angelo.
John Grady's parents are estranged. His mother, who at thirty-six is still young and longs for a life of excitement and romance away from the isolation of the ranch, is trying to build an acting career; she no longer speaks to his father, a professional gambler who was deeply scarred psychologically by his experiences as a prisoner of war during World War II. Although it is not made explicit, it also seems that John Grady's father is dying of lung cancer.
After his grandfather's funeral, John Grady meets with his father at a cafe in San Angelo. The two are silent and awkward, not knowing what to say to each other; the father feels that he has failed his son. John Grady sits at dinner with his mother, and asks her--in what seems to be an oft-repeated conversation--to let him run the ranch.
She denies the request, repeating her intention to sell it. In response, John Grady goes to visit Franklin, the family's lawyer, who tells him that there is nothing he can do to prevent the sale; he learns from Franklin, too, that his parents have become officially divorced.
After some passage of time, we see John Grady taking a trip from San Angelo to San Antonio to see the play in which his mother is acting. He is out of place in the relatively cosmopolitan city, and his trip only confirms that he and his mother are separated by a vast distance. John Grady sees his father for the last time in the spring of ; they go riding together in the countryside around San Angelo.
It is another episode in the string of John Grady's difficult and choked goodbyes. We see him outside in the dark with his friend Rawlins, and learn that they are planning to run away from Texas. We see him in downtown San Angelo, talking with Mary Catherine Barnett, a girl whom he used to date but who broke up with him. Finally, we see him.
The two friends slip quietly away, and ride out onto the prairie, away from home and toward their adventure. Commentary All the Pretty Horses both begins and ends with a funeral: This is appropriate, since All the Pretty Horses is a novel about endings--about the closing of America's great historical and mythic chapter of cowboys on horseback.
The Grady ranch was established by John Grady Cole's great-grandfather in , and tended by his grandfather until Its lifespan, then, parallels the lifespan of the American cowboy.
The death of the grandfather expresses a larger phenomenon: The ranch is no longer profitable, and will be sold by John Grady's mother, a woman who aspires to a cosmopolitan life away from the solitude and hardships of the ranch. John Grady realizes this when he rides out the night of the funeral and stands in the sunset: This is a novel filled with sunsets, and the sunset described as "coppering" John Grady's face at the novel's beginning is mirrored by the sunset at the novel's end, following the funeral of Abuela, the last surviving connection to the old way of life at the ranch.
We are told then, too, of the sun "coppering his face. John Grady Cole is a relic from an earlier time, perhaps even a relic from a mythic time that never truly existed in history. He refuses to accept the passing of the cowboy age symbolized in the novel's many sunsets. The novel's action is driven by this refusal: John Grady leaves home in search of something he cannot exactly express, but which clarifies itself as an inchoate and passionate love of land, of cattle and horses, of independence and honor.
He associates these things with the past of the West, a past which he pursues implacably. His search may well prove unsuccessful: But it could be argued equally easily--and perhaps more compellingly--that John Grady does indeed rediscover the mythic West: The great American novelist William Faulkner once said that the past is not, in fact, past: We see echoes of this maxim and of many other Faulknerian stylistic and philosophical tropes throughout this novel.
From the very beginning, McCarthy raises the question of the relationship between the past and the present.
When John Grady rides out in the evening after his grandfather's funeral, he rides out along an old Comanche road. The ghosts of the Comanche, on the move across the plains, are audible in the sound of the wind.
These men are warriors, bound by pledges of blood, and their spirit continues to inhabit the West of this novel.
Here there is a sense that the violent past of the West has bled into the soil, and beats down in the perpetual red sunlight; it is an inheritance,.
They encounter no trouble. Indeed, they live the life they've imagined belongs to cowboys: As they ride they maintain an occasional banter, adopting the laconic humor and wisdom they associate with cowboys. A few days into their journey, the companions discover that somebody is following them.
He turns out to be a thirteen-year-old boy who calls himself Jimmy Blevins and rides a magnificent and valuable horse. Rawlins is disdainful of Blevins, and, after jokingly threatening to kill the boy and steal his horse, the two companions leave Blevins and continue on their way. But on the banks of the Rio Grande, as they are preparing to cross over into Mexico, he catches them again, and this time, despite Rawlins' repeated objections, Blevins manages to convince them to let him travel with them.
On the other side of the river, in Mexico, Rawlins again begins poking fun at Blevins, whom he derides as an inexperienced boy. Blevins goes some distance towards proving his competence when he succeeds in a remarkable feat of marksmanship, shooting a hole through Rawlins' wallet.
In Mexico, they continue to travel unmolested: The travelers are taken in for the night by a friendly family, but Blevins storms out embarrassed when he falls off his bench at the dinner-table: Blevins refuses even to come back into the house to sleep.
The two older boys meet him again the next morning, on the road. Over lunch, Rawlins and Blevins discuss horsemanship, and Rawlins claims that John Grady Cole is the finest rider ever.
With typical modesty, John Grady deflects the claim. Later, in another conversation, Rawlins and John Grady learn more about Blevins' past: On their ride south, the companions pass many groups of Mexicans.
They are unsuccessful in an attempt to buy water, and end up with alcohol. By the time a storm blows up, they are badly drunk. Blevins is superstitious about storms--his family has a history of getting struck by lighting--and he panics: Rawlins and John Grady hide beneath a rock outcropping to wait out the storm.
When they find Blevins the next day, he has lost his clothing and his horse. He puts on a shirt of John Grady's, and they continue their journey southward. They run into their first taste of depravity when a band of migrant workers, with whom they stop for lunch, offers to buy the half-naked Blevins as a slave.
The companions ride into the village of Encantada, where they find Blevins' horse and pistol: John Grady and Rawlins discuss their predicament: Rawlins is worried that Blevins, and his desire to reclaim his property, will get them into trouble.
John Grady insists on standing by Blevins. That night, they creep into Encantada and try to steal the horse. Blevins succeeds in reclaiming the horse, but he wakes up. They decide to split up. Blevins, on the better horse, will try to outrun the pursuit; the other two leave the road and try to evade their pursuers.
After a few days of travel, hungry and thirsty, they come to a vast stretch of grasslands and meet a troop of cowboys. As the Americans ride into the ranch, they are passed on the road by a beautiful young girl, who proves to be Alejandra, the rancher's daughter. The first chapter of the novel ends as John Grady and Rawlins are hired by the ranch's foreman, Armondo, and settle happily into their lives as cowboys.
Commentary This section begins as the most untroubled in a troubled novel. For an idyllic stretch of perhaps a few days and thirty pages, there is no violence. Nothing goes wrong. The journey from San Angeelo to Mexico is accomplished flawlessly and easily.
It conforms to the expectations of the teenage cowboys: It is not that the life is either easy or leisured; they do not have the creature comforts of civilization.
But this is precisely the point: Of course, the two teenagers have yet to encounter situations that will require their true effort and perseverance. Instead, they begin to think--especially Rawlins, the more immature and less driven of the two--that they have succeeded in recapturing the cowboy lifestyle. For now we have the sense of a storm building this storm, of course, will be both literal and figurative , that this idyll is merely a prelude to the bloody trauma of their trial-by-fire; as the nervous Rawlins puts it, "Just seems too damn easy in a way.
If rough and independent living is inseparable from the life to which Rawlins and John Grady Cole aspire, so too is their laconic style of speech. As the companions ride, we overhear their dialogue.
There is a stoic refusal to convey emotion; an avoidance of introspection and elaborate discussion in favor of aphoristic wisdom and statements of fact; occasionally, there is some quiet humor. Of the two companions, Rawlins is the more talkative and nervous: John Grady remains nearly silent throughout, especially during Rawlins' conversations with Blevins. John Grady's silences are not merely an incidental facet of his personality: Readers of American literature will recognize John Grady's silences and speech patterns.
They are a version of the patterns shared by the protagonists of Ernest Hemingway's novels and short stories. Like John Grady, Hemingway's men subscribe to what Hemingway critics have referred to as a "sportsman's code," characterized by scrupulous honesty, self-control, courage, skill, and stoicism. Adherence to this code, for Hemingway's heroes, is necessary for survival, and also necessary to retain any honor and individuality in the chaos of human life.
The same might be said of John Grady Cole. Although his code leads him again and again into mortal danger--in this section he refuses to abandon Blevins and attempts to rescue Blevins' horse, and later in the. John Grady's triumphs in the novel are largely internal triumphs, and they flow from his unwavering adherence to his moral code. This moral code, in McCarthy as in Hemingway, manifests itself in the speech patterns of its adherents: John Grady quickly proves himself a master horseman when, with Rawlins' help, he successfully breaks a group of sixteen horses in only three days, a remarkable feat.
This success earns the Americans the favor of Armondo, the ranch's foreman, and of his brother Antonio. John Grady is called in to see Don Hector, and quickly impresses the rancher with his knowledge of horses. Don Hector promotes him: John Grady moves out of the cowboys' bunkroom and into a room of his own in the stable. John Grady will help Don Hector breed the magnificent new stallion that he has bought. John Grady's move to the stable also gives him greater exposure to the rancher's beautiful daughter, Alejandra.
That night they go to a dance at the local grange hall. Alejandra is there, and she and John Grady dance and go walking outside. One evening, while riding Don Hector's new stallion bareback across the ranch, John Grady once again meets Alejandra, whom he has not seen since the night of the dance.
She commands him to let her ride the stallion, and he is forced to accede. As he brings her horse back to the barn, however, he is seen by a shadowy someone from the ranch house.
Soon afterward the Duena Alfonsa, Alejandra's aunt, calls John Grady for an audience at the ranch house. After they play chess, she orders him not to be seen again with Alejandra. Five nights later, Alejandra comes to visit John Grady at night. Secretly, they begin to ride out together at night through the ranch.
One night he swims out naked into the ranch's lake, and she too removes her clothes and joins him. There comes a day, perhaps immediately afterwards, when five Mexican soldiers ride up to the ranch house. There is the sense that they are there to inquire after the Americans, but they leave without taking further action. The next night, and for the subsequent nine nights, Alejandra again visits John Grady in his room, and they make love. Then Alejandra goes back to stay with her mother in Mexico City, where she lives, and John Grady is again invited to the ranch house to play pool with Don Hector, who tells him that Alejandra is being sent away for schooling in France.
It is only a week afterwards that John Grady learns from Antonio that Alejandra has not been sent to France at all: A few days later finds John Grady and Rawlins in the mountains, roping wild horses. Don Hector's greyhounds walk into their campfire circle one night, and the two suspect that Don Hector has found out about the affair, and come to the mountains to hunt and kill them.
The next morning, the Mexican soldiers return. This time, they take John Grady and Rawlins away in chains. All the stoicism of John Grady's cowboy code, all of his emotional self-repression and his long silences, serve not to conceal but to throw into sharp relief his innate romanticism. When he runs into Alejandra riding on the ranch, he is defenseless: For one thing, a good argument could be made that it is a poor sentence--clichd, unevocative, naive--for such a master stylist as McCarthy.
For another, love at first sight may seem a strange emotion for a cowboy like John Grady Cole. What follows, too--when looked at from a certain vantage point--is something of a predictable romantic plot: Of course, John Grady's love affair falls to pieces.
And the machinations of Alejandra's relatives, in their deviousness and in the concrete power of the repercussions, go far beyond what would be expected in a typical romance novel. But it should be acknowledged that John Grady is a romantic, and this is a romantic novel.
To embrace an ideal, to privilege a dream over reality, is fundamentally a romantic undertaking. The care and the obvious love that McCarthy lavishes on the physical landscape bespeaks a deep-seated romanticism: The assertion that the physical landscape of the West has metaphysical meaning, just as much as the valorization of John Grady Cole's doomed heroism, is in itself a romantic assertion.
Not that this is a novel that avoids facing the cruelties and concreteness of reality: As the back cover of the novel's paperback version luridly proclaims, this novel details a landscape "where dreams are paid for in blood. Indeed, the world of All the Pretty Horses is a world in which dreams and reality seem to inhabit the same space.
Dreams leave their mark on reality, just as the past leaves its mark on the present, refusing to vanish from relevance: We remember that we know almost nothing about John Grady physically, only that he has a scar on his cheek. He seems a human connection with the past and with the shadowy world of dreams, which is no less real for its being imagined.
If dreams alter and reflect reality, they are also constituted by reality. As John Grady watches Alejandra ride away into a summer rainstorm, the novel reflects on the scene before him: Somehow the concrete elements of the landscape, evoked into being so effectively by McCarthy, combine to form something other than real.
This transmutation is akin to the alchemical process of mythmaking, the process by which the West was transformed from coldly literal reality into nationally worshiped mirage.
The novel's opening line is a key to deciphering this transubstantiation. There, Johhn Grady comes inside to look at his grandfather's corpse, and the novel tells us that both the candle flame and the image of the candle flame gutter in the wind through the open door.
Similarly, only a few pages later, we hear about the Comanches, who are simultaneously "nation and ghost of nation.
John Grady is confronted with a Mexico that is both an incarnation of his romantic imaginings about the West, and the twisted and terrifying reality behind that romance; just as he, himself, is both an authentic cowboy and the self- conscious, stylized, image of a cowboy. On the third day of travel, the manacled prisoners reach the town of Encantada, the same town where they helped Blevins recover his stolen horse. There, the two Americans have an argument: Rawlins blames John Grady for their arrest, maintaining that Don Hector turned the Americans over to the police because he learned of what Rawlins sees as John Grady's foolish affair with Alejandra.
John Grady asks for Rawlins' loyalty, maintaining that were the situations reversed he would show Rawlins the same loyalty. In the Encantada jail, the Americans find Blevins. It seems that Blevins was not content to escape with his horse: In the chase that followed, Blevins shot and killed one of his pursuers. He has been in the jail ever since.
The next day, the local police captain takes Rawlins in for questioning. He accuses Rawlins of being a murderer and impersonator, and tortures him until he confesses to crimes he did not commit. He does not torture John Grady, but he accuses him, too, of being a liar and a criminal. Three days later, guards place the three Americans in the bed of a truck, and then drive them south to the prison at Saltillo. In the front of the truck ride the captain and the charro.
They progress southwards in a curiously casual manner, delivering mail and produce to passing villages. Eventually they stop near an abandoned farm: The truck continues to Saltillo, where John Grady and Rawlins are transferred to the Saltillo prison. The prison is brutal. The prisoners are cruel and violent, and the Americans spend their first days in a continuous fight for survival. They are badly bruised and battered, but they support each other, and John Grady exhorts Rawlins not to surrender.
They suspect that the prison commandant believes that they are rich, and is waiting for them to bribe him.
After a few days, they are summoned to see Perez, a wealthy and influential prisoner who also asks them for a bribe. The day after they refuse him--after all, they have no money--a man knifes Rawlins in the prison-yard.
Rawlins is taken to the prison infirmary, and John Grady loses contact with him. Desperate to learn what happened to Rawlins, John Grady goes three days later to see Perez.
Perez talks to him about the necessity of seeing things--evil, money, human nature--as they truly are, of discarding romantic notions; he also makes sinister innuendoes about what will happen if John Grady does not bribe him. John Grady still refuses to deal. The next day, he uses the last of his money to buy a knife to protect himself against the attack that will inevitably come.
Soon it does: They fight, and John Grady is seriously wounded, but at the last moment he is successful in killing his assailant. Staggering from the hall, he collapses in the prison-yard, and is taken to the infirmary by none other than Perez' bodyguard.
Days pass in the darkness and pain of the infirmary; John Grady is badly scarred, but he survives and heals. Still weak, he is brought before the jail warden, given an envelope full of money, and, together with Rawlins, released onto the street. John Grady discovers that it was Alfonsa, Alejandra's great-aunt, who paid for their release. They discuss what they have done, and what they will do. Rawlins, haunted by the memory of Blevins' death, decides to return home to Texas; John Grady will remain in Mexico, and make a last attempt to reclaim their horses and win over Alejandra.
The chapter's end sees Rawlins on a bus home, and John Grady hitchhiking a ride back north towards Don Hector's ranch. Commentary Cormac McCarthy's sentences have a balance and flow that make their author a worthy heir to one of America's greatest prose stylists, William Faulkner. One of McCarthy's most striking techniques is his variation of pace. In general although not a hard-and-fast rule , McCarthy's descriptions of thoughts and observations tend toward the staccato exhilaration of quick movement, the outpouring of richly evocative phrases piled behind and on top of each other; his descriptions of action, somewhat paradoxically, seem relatively still and serene.
Contrast the rush of John Grady's dream of horses, which flows toward and past the reader in a stream of sensation, with the novel's many crisp, terse descriptions of action, so detailed and dry as to be matter-of-fact, even in the crucial scene when John Grady kills the assassin.
But exactly what she wants either of the young people to do is quite unclear. They start to take night rides together, he on the stallion, she on her black Arab. One night, he leaves her, takes his clothes off, and goes swimming in the lake. She joins him.
This begins their affair. She goes to his room every night for nine nights, and then she returns to Mexico City. When he tells Antonio he intends to reveal to Alejandra his heart when she returns, he discovers that she has already returned.
He continues to work with the mares, and, two days later, he and Rawlins are in the mountains again. One night, three greyhounds come into their camp, but then they vanish and there are no other sounds. After their return to the ranch, they are arrested in the middle of the night and taken on their horses to the north.
John Grady is quickly promoted to breeder after their amazing feat of breaking sixteen wild mustangs in four days. The great-aunt of the girl invites John Grady to play chess, and he excels at that, too. Then the inevitable love affair, initiated by the dark, passionate girl, begins. But at the end of the chapter the two young men are dragged away at daybreak in handcuffs.
What happened to their almost perfect world? In the interview with Rocha, after the breaking of the horses and when John Grady is being considered for the horse breeding position, John Grady is asked if it was just the two of them who rode from Texas. For some unknown reason, John Grady, who is so honest about his abilities and in general very honorable, lies. He denies that Blevins had been with them.
But in the middle of the chapter is the heart of what the novel is really about — horses. The adventure, the love interest, the family histories, even the Mexican Revolution play second string to the horse lore and stories.
First, we read long scenes in which John Grady and Rawlins break the sixteen mustangs.
The animals are so wild that John Grady says they do not smell like horses, they smell like wild animals. They use a method called sidelining to break the horses, which involves hobbling the horses so that when they kick and buck they fall down.
In traditional bronc busting, a couple of cowboys catch and hold down a horse, putting a saddle on it. The work is dangerous, and, using this method, a totally unbroken horse is not really rideable for several weeks. The hobbling of the horse teaches it very quickly to stand without kicking. The horse also learns to walk without humping and dipping and lowering its head in preparation for a good buck. Simpler methods of sidelining exist than the method John Grady uses.
But John Grady does not have a lot of time, so he ties up all their legs with loose slipknots so that he can more quickly get these very unruly horses to stand and walk quietly. For fifteen minutes, he rubs the horse with this sack and talks to it. He does this to build trust in the horse and so that the horse is less 36 jittery about saddle blankets or the saddles that will be used on it. After this complex preparation, the first time John Grady gets on one of these horses, it just stands still, to the amazement of all the onlookers.
Rawlins teases him that he is ruining the show, that this is not what everyone came to see. Of course, the audience expects John Grady to be bucked off right away. The trainer waits until the horse comes to him. Visual techniques are used to tame the horse, cues Roberts learned from watching horses. This shunning seems to work and is what mares use to control their young colts. The trainer also talks softly to the horse to encourage its trust and good behavior.
Demonstrations of this method are put on all across the United States today. We see this when John Grady talks to the horses and in how they respond to his treatment. The first time John Grady and Rawlins go into the mountains to catch horses, the old man who accompanies them recounts his own history and how he fought in the cavalry where his father and brothers had died. He tells them of the horses killed under him and how horses love war, just like men do. He says the souls of horses mirror the souls of men, explaining that if you could understand the soul of a horse, one could understand all horses, but that to understand human beings is probably only an illusion.
John Grady also is tutored in the ways of horses by Antonio, the one who helps 37 with the breeding of the mares. Antonio, too, has many ideas about horses and tells John Grady he never lies to the stallion. John Grady loves to look over the wild mares and pick out the best ones for the shape of their heads, the strength of their legs, and the shape of their hindquarters.
He dreamed of producing the best horses for cutting or cattle work, for endurance, and, hopefully, for beauty. He rides better than most, as Rawlins has pointed out before, he understands horses, as Rocha observes, and he can very successfully work with horses.
Of course, his love of horses is undisputed. He is only 16 years old, but he knows more about the history of horses than most of the other characters in the book, with the exception of Rocha, perhaps. If the commonality between characters and cultures is a love of horses, the clash of cultures and individuals can also be revealed through the horses. For background on this, an analysis of American western-style riding techniques versus English and Spanish techniques may be helpful.
It is a very cruel bit by United States western standards. But the experienced, old vaqueros use the ringbit this way: Then, using a second set of reins, they attach the ringbit. When riding the horse, they use the bosalea reins first to correct the horse. If the horse misbehaves, they then use the reins of the ringbit.
The well-trained Western horse, even in roping competitions, needs no pulling on the bit. The bit is there only for control if the horse should, because of some unexpected happening, do the wrong thing. Then a little pull gets the animal back on course. The difference in philosophy is that in Western riding, horse and rider are partners who know the job to be done and work together to do it. The horse takes its cue from the rider and vice versa.
In English riding, the rider is more the controller, the one in command. The Spanish riding technique is a combination of these two styles. The Americans and Mexicans have different training techniques and, perhaps, different philosophies about civilizing the horses. Of these three methods, none is superior or inferior.
There is no greater monster than reason. Here it is reason versus feeling, the classic view versus the romantic. And where does John Grady stand in all of this?
But he has a habit of talking to them and soothing them, and that comes from another idea about nature — that humans can understand horses, can commune with these creatures for better cooperation. This idea is a more 43 romantic one. But it is the goal John Grady is focused on — to get these horses greenbroke — and he uses all his knowledge, his experience, and any technique that he thinks may work.
He is eclectic and creative in how he approaches a problem. This is the American way — solve the problem and forget the rulebook or the blueprints.
These American attributes come from the whole history of the United States: John Grady is definitely a classic American hero, in all his sensibilities. Another clash of culture is revealed when the great-aunt plays chess with John Grady. He is a worthy opponent and she admires his abilities. But, in conversation, she discusses the role of women in society: For women. A man may lose his honor and regain it again. But a woman cannot. John Grady, Quioxotian in his idealism, understands what she says, but he is not about to change his ideas.
Alejandra is a young woman obviously rebellious like John Grady. She is perhaps even more brash than he is, for it is she who initiates their love affair. But this liberated endeavor is to be allowed by the great-aunt. The great-aunt is determined that Alejandra will not be unhappy as she was in her youth. The reader might also wonder if, because the aunt had an unhappy youth, she does not wish to see Alejandra happy in love — something that would only remind her of what she did not have when she was young.
Even though the great-aunt has lived a life of sophistication and ease, teaching in Europe and living, apparently, where she pleases, she has not been able to have a satisfying life. Unfortunately, she does not have the wisdom to see that happiness is not always found through reason and control, and it certainly is not something the elders can give to the young.
Whether she is happy or not we do not know. But she is allowed to make her own way, neither her father nor her husband forbidding or preventing her from making her own choices.
His unusual youth, partly abandoned by his natural mother, and yet well cared for by the old Abuela and Luisa, played a part in shaping his attitudes. The ideas he developed about the position of women in society certainly affect the outcome of his romance at La Purisima. Strangely, Don Hector laments that he is only a father and will not have a say in what Alejandra must do. In Spanish culture, as related to European Mediterranean culture, women have the power in the house and men have total power in the public arena.
This separation between public and private life is different from the traditions in the United States. Also, the fact that Mexico is a Catholic country and the United States a Protestant one by tradition, makes the position of women in the two countries quite different.
The great-aunt is interesting in light of these observations, because she has not been able to really create or direct her own life to her own satisfaction at all. She has been bound by tradition and sent to Europe. John Grady, thus, coming from another culture, does not understand that, in the end, Alejandra will not run away with him.
He is drawn to Spanish culture, but he is American. The youths, John Grady and Alejandra, are passionately in love and John Grady is working with the hot-blooded horses. But the adults who are inspecting and observing the youths do not seem to take as much care with their human futures as John Grady does with the 45 horses.
There is no education, no training for the young people from the most educated adults. Only the old vaqueros try to impart some wisdom to John Grady. And is anyone trying to impart any helpful knowledge to Alejandra? A true buckskin in decades past was a buttermilk-colored horse with a complete dark dorsal stripe and black points.
Now this sometimes refers to a dun. The dun color comes from yellow hairs on dark skin. A dun can also have red points. Points mane and tail are black. These are horses with large irregular patches of black and white or brown and white.
Variations are designated pinto, calico, or piebald. Not to be confused with Appaloosa, which is an American breed with distinctive spotting.
Roans, duns, bays, and paints are colorings of quarterhorses, although paints now have their own special registry. Originally registered as a color, now as a breed in the United States. In Spain, these horses are called mesquitoes and are special to the king.
Horses can be warm bloods or cold bloods as well. Cold bloods are European draft or work horses. Arabians, Barbs, and thoroughbreds are hot bloods. He was dun colored. This is a romantic west. Spanish There are sixteen horses in the corral.
Spanish We will be able to break them in four days. A large needle appoints the end. They bloom once in seventeen years, when a huge stalk rises out of the middle of the plant. After the yellow-orange bloom dies, so does the whole plant. Smaller versions are called agave. A method of calming the horse with a piece of cloth. See the preceding Commentary section for more information.
Also used in calf roping. A horse with Barb blood, the Criollo is know to be tough and is usually dun-colored.
He is a little tired from traveling, but is still very fine. Sin la caridad de estas manos no tengas nada. Ni comida ni agua no hijos. Soy yo que traigo las yeguas de las montanas, las yeguas jovenes, las yeguas salvajes y ardientes. Spanish I am the leader commander of the mares, I and I alone. Without the charity of these hands you have nothing.
Neither food nor water nor children. I am the one who brings the mares from the mountains, the young mares, the wild and hotblooded mares. Spanish She is waiting for you. Spanish Do you want me? Do you love me? Spanish Number four. Desde ayer. Spanish She is here. Since yesterday. Spanish Who is it? At night, they are manacled to their saddle stirrups and forced to sleep under one blanket this way. They arrive in Encantada, and, while sitting on a bench on the main street, John Grady gestures to two little girls, asking for cigarettes.
John Grady and Rawlins start to argue. John Grady wants to get their problems out in the open and says they are there because of some lie. Grudgingly, Rawlins says he has not quit John Grady. The little girls bring the cigarettes and ask if they are robbers. John Grady and Rawlins are taken to an adobe prison on the north end of town and find that Blevins is already in the cell. They question him without results. But an old man, also imprisoned in the same cell, tells them that Blevins has killed three men.
Blevins says only one died. In order to retrieve his pistol, he returned to Encantada after working for two months. Then he told his captors about John Grady and Rawlins. John Grady dreams of horses that night as he sleeps.
In the morning, Rawlins is questioned and asked to strip off his trousers; he is struck on the back of the head. They say he is lying about who he is. He says they are cowboys who have come to work in Mexico. He is asked why the horses have no brands or papers. Then John Grady is questioned. They are accused of having come to Mexico to steal horses. John Grady is told they will be taken to Saltillo. Back in the cell, John Grady tells Rawlins that he thinks they want a deal to kill Blevins.
This upsets Rawlins, but then he gets angry with Blevins and threatens him. They are heading back south to Saltillo.
They stop for a break, and the captain has ordered a guard to take Blevins away from the other two. Before he goes, Blevins takes off one boot and gives John Grady his money. In Saltillo the truck makes various stops before they arrive at the big prison.
After breakfast in the morning, they are turned loose into a common yard where they have to fight all day. The next day it is the same thing. A man called Perez has them brought to him and he offers them protection, but no deal is made. The next day, Rawlins is attacked and cut with a knife. John Grady takes him to the gate, and the captors take Rawlins. John Grady goes to see Perez, who, it is rumored, is not a prisoner at all. How much power Perez has no one knows. John Grady arranges to buy a knife.
He has another conversation with Perez, which involves a little speech from Perez about the mind of the Anglo. Perez says Americans are godless. John Grady is badly injured, but he survives because he kills the other man with his knife. As his wounds are healing, he thinks of his father and horses. They go to a hotel for food and a room. Rawlins is worried for John Grady and talks about Blevins. They buy new clothes and Rawlins catches a bus for Nuevo Larado.
John Grady spends a week seeing surgeons, and, finally, the stitches are removed from his face and belly. John Grady takes a bus heading north to Monclova. Commentary This chapter is the one in which John Grady and Rawlins face their punishment. Here, the two youths spend time in jail, their adventure goes awry, and they are in greater danger than they have ever been in before. Rawlins spends time in a hospital at the prison, and John Grady is seriously wounded. What is the cause of their many problems?
John Grady and Rawlins talk about this on their trip north, when they are first captured. Do they face this punishment because of a lie, as John Grady says, or because of the truth, as Rawlins says? It is, of course, a combination of factors, including bad luck. Blevins is a major part of their problems. John Grady and Rawlins helped Blevins because he was so young and without common sense.
And he told the authorities who they were. But Rawlins, who has never defended Blevins and always thought he would bring bad luck, says repeatedly that no one deserves to die like that. Although it is only one lie, it has terrible consequences. The lesson here should not go unheeded. Rawlins, of course, thinks that the affair with Alejandra is what has landed them in trouble.
Two young lovers have defied their parents, John Grady by running away from home and school and Alejandra by spending lots of time at the ranch. She is not only soiling her virtue, she is ignoring her class position. And she is the one who initiates the affair. Some things are not reasonable, as John Grady tells Rawlins, and indeed the whole history of tragic romances tells us that this is so.
Nevertheless, we wish there could be a happy ending for the two lovers. Finally, the young men are saved from death and imprisonment because of Alejandra and her great-aunt. So, at least, the lovers escape death. First, there is the creation of the characters, by their families and upbringing. Then the two friends take a journey on their horses and find a paradise to live in, jobs they like, great horses to work with, a beautiful setting.
They have their first taste of adulthood — no parents making decisions for them. But mistakes are made — helping Blevins, lying about knowing him, and having an affair with the forbidden girl. We can clearly see this: If Blevins had just been satisfied to have his horse and not want to go back again to retrieve his pistol, if the great-aunt had wielded her power with more sympathy, if the father had not been so passive about his daughter and a young man he really likes, if the two boys had had papers on their own horses, all would be different.
Instead, they have to endure the horrible prison at Saltillo and learn the most terrible lessons the journey brings them. Rawlins says he never could imagine there was a place like the prison, and both of them are shocked at the inhumane way Blevins is treated.
The young American cowboys are finding out about real evil, real terror, and real pain. The daily fighting in the prison yard looks like madness to an outsider. Only after the prisoners are severely wounded are they given any help. By this definition, you can only prove your manhood by coming close to death. To be a man is to fight. Then there is the captain who shoots Blevins.
He explains later to John Grady that men talk of honor and justice, but is that what they really want? Does this mean that what is proclaimed as honor is often only ego or some kind of saving face?
On the other hand, look at the idealism of the young as portrayed by John Grady and sometimes even by Rawlins. Look where it gets them — in prison. Are the older, more cynical characters people who once were idealists, too?
Has life taught them that idealism is inherently false? Remember, the old greataunt says she was an idealist once herself. The way of the land, nature, and the horses have all been his greatest teachers. From them he has learned that one does not abandon the weakest member of the herd, that one lives to ride and run free over the varied terrain, with the winds.
He thinks Anglos have an incomplete picture of the world. He also has a unique idea of manhood: Or is Perez the existential survivor who sees that John Grady lives through the terrible stabbing? However, it is clear that Perez is also always manipulating his own situation and this makes him a very slippery character, one whose mind is genuinely foreign, not just by nationality, but also temperament.
As an interesting footnote, Rawlins has received over a liter of Mexican blood, and at the end of the chapter it worries him that he might be part Mexican. They now know the effects of their actions and certain circumstances, but the full power of what has happened to them and their total fall from grace has not totally been understood. Spanish Are you all Americans? Spanish Are you robbers? Ladrones muy famosos.
Spanish Yes. Very famous robbers. Spanish country guys. Spanish country house. Spanish I am called the parakeet bird. Spanish I would like to talk Spanish With respect to what? Spanish I would like to buy a knife. Spanish How much money do you have? La tendre esta tarde.
Spanish Good. Spanish seller of tamales. Spanish The patron wants to help you. Spanish Give me a pop. Nothing more. Spanish Who are you? Spanish Your clothes. Spanish Where is my friend? They arrive in Monclova at midnight. He sleeps on a bench and the next day has a breakfast of coffee and pan dulce before catching two more rides. He bathes in an irrigation ditch and starts to walk toward Cuatro Cienagas. Everyone speaks to John Grady as they pass, and, in the evening, workers in a camp invite him to supper.
Rocha and Alejandra are in Mexico City. He asks if he can ride the horse, and he takes the stallion out for the day, riding across the lands of the beautiful hacienda. He thinks of Alejandra and Blevins. At one point, he passes a dead colt being devoured by buzzards. Later, he comes upon an abandoned cabin. He picks an apple, but it is too green to eat and the cattle have eaten all the ripened apples from the ground.
The stallion is nervous in the old cabin and, on the ride home, is afraid of its own shadow. He has a cigarette with the vaqueros who ask him about Rawlins, whom they miss. They tell John Grady the news, but nothing of the Rocha family. Rocha and a great expense to her. She says that the Rocha family had John Grady investigated, and they found he lied twice. She confirms what he had suspected — that Alejandra promised never to see him again if the aunt paid for him to be released.
She talks about her father and his philosophy. She recounts the poverty in Mexico when she was young. She explains how Gustavo Madero helped her face her handicap after the shooting accident and how he was brutally treated — burned and shot after his arrest. She relates how Francisco Madero was also shot and how the family went into exile. Now she visits his grave near the house and talks to him. John Grady asks again to be able to make his case, and she tells him she knows his case.
So he tells them of Rawlins and Blevins and Alejandra. An older girl tells him he is forgetting that he is poor and the family is rich.
When he tells them that is not possible, they suggest a medicine woman. Finally, they tell him to pray. Finally, she agrees to meet him in Zacatecas on her way to the hacienda. She will travel by train. He stables the grullo and catches a train and arrives in Zacatecas in the late afternoon. He gets a room in the Reina Cristina Hotel and walks around the old city. She tells him he is thin. They walk and have dinner in a public place where the men stare at her.
He tells her everything. Alejandra cries. She believes that her father did not kill John Grady in the mountains when the greyhounds came into the camp because he was afraid Alejandra would commit suicide if he did. In the hotel room, John Grady asks Alejandra to go away with him. In the morning, she tells him she had a dream some time ago in which she saw him dead and she made a promise for his life. She takes him to the plaza where her grandfather died in , serving under one of the Maderos.
They go to the hotel room and make love, and she tells him she cannot go with him. He takes her to the train, where they part for the last time. He gets drunk, and in the morning he does not know where he is. He hitchhikes back to Torreon. He buys shells for his pistol and rides into the countryside. That night, he camps without a fire and listens to his horse grazing.
He thinks about the pain of the world. Five days later, John Grady comes to a crossroads and decides to go the other way to La Encantada. After some fighting and the passive help of a charro, he does retrieve his horses, but eventually he 58 must leave the grullo behind, because it is not strong enough for the trip. John Grady has rigged a pistol to shoot after he and the horses are farther away, and it does, leading their followers off the trail. He keeps the captain as a hostage and doctors himself by putting a fire-heated pistol into his wounds to cauterize them.
The captain says he can go no father, but John Grady helps him by pulling his shoulder back into place. He awakens to three men of the country standing over him. They take the keys and the captain, but they give John Grady a blanket. He never sees them again.
He rides all day, headed north, killing a small doe for food. In Texas, naked, he sits on his horse and looks at the pale landscape and knows his father is dead in that country. He weeps. John Grady knows this only by intuition, and he is right. In the town of Langtry, he finds out it is Thanksgiving Day. He rides the border country for days, trying to find the owner of the big bay.
Then, just before Christmas, three men try to go to court to get the horse. He tells his story to the judge, who thinks kindly of John Grady and sends him on his way. After hearing a reverend named Jimmy Blevins on the radio, he goes to Del Rio to meet the man. The preacher and his wife feed John Grady and tell him the horse is not theirs. The minister tells him how he came to be a radio personality. John Grady never finds the owner of the horse, and, finally, the first week of March, he is back in San Angelo.
I know it is. But it aint my country. He stands across the road, and, after all the mourners leave, he walks the cemetery where he knows most of the Spanish names. He rides west, leading his second horse. Some camped Indians watch him, without any reaction. It begins with the outcast theme, as John Grady, injured but healing, makes his way back to La Purisima. It contains the greatest disillusionment of the novel, when Alejandra rejects John Grady and leaves him forever.
John Grady is portrayed as the wanderer, wandering with some purpose until the very last page when he sets out with Redbo and the big bay to become only a silhouette on the horizon. Until this moment, he has ridden with purpose — to try to find Alejandra, to retrieve his horses, to find the owner of the big bay. But at the end of the novel, he joins those who wander forever. Mexico has let down John Grady.
It is a land of cruelties he had not imagined when he first came upon its beauty. The great-aunt is rigid in her adherence to reason. She has no sympathy for the young, the idealist even if she thinks she once was one herself , the romantic. And Alejandra is too educated and tied to her society to run away with John Grady. She even refers to herself as a whore because of the affair she had with John Grady, clearly unable to reconcile the passion she felt toward John Grady with the role she has been groomed to play.
Now he has to endure leaving another beloved landscape. But here, in Chapter IV, the images are even more onerous: As of some site where life had not succeeded. But although sadness and loss pervade this chapter, goodwill is also a strong force We see that goodwill in the children who share lunch with John Grady and try to advise him on how to win Alejandra back; in the country peasants who take the captain away from John Grady but leave John Grady with his horses and even 60 give him a blanket, taking pity on his plight and blessing him with their kindness; in the many people who feed John Grady; in the judge who believes him and lets him keep the bay horse; and in the Reverend Jimmy Blevins and his wife, who feed him a huge meal.
These people, all of whom are strangers, offer advice and help to John Grady. The person from whom John Grady learns the most is the judge.
Forthcoming with wisdom and advice, he tells John Grady that he is being too hard on himself. The judge points out that the prisoner John Grady killed was not a good person and reminds him that the captain was not a peace officer at all. The judge is trying to teach John Grady that there really are, after all, good men and bad men in this world, and we must be able to distinguish between the two.
Disillusion is a major theme in Chapter IV. Rawlins is going home, but neither he nor John Grady is happy. When Alejandra leaves John Grady in Zacatecas, there is more than disillusion; there is a sense of foreboding and doom. Thus, when John Grady makes it back to San Angelo with the three American horses, it is a testament to his strength of will. Sheer willpower brings John Grady back to Texas to his friend Rawlins, whom he has never wanted to let down. The fact that such an honest and honorable person could be lowered to this level serves as a warning to all of us of what can happen if we ignore our sense of right and wrong.
In the end, having traveled and learned lessons he could not have anticipated, John Grady is alone to face the death and funeral of Abuela, the old grandmother who raised him. And both the ranches, Texan and Mexican, offer no future for John Grady. So he sets out to travel west, to New Mexico, perhaps in search of another ranch — a bittersweet ending to a wonderful adventure. The myth of the cowboy in the west is present, but the image is demythologized.
To visualize the scene is to see that classic scene from Gone with the Wind of the riders and stragglers walking across the hill in silhouette against the sky. John Grady loses Alejandra, so there is a parallel there as well.
Because the land is often so barren in the western border region, few admit to loving that land the way Scarlett loved her beautiful Tara, but in Cities of the Plain, John Grady and another cowboy have a discussion in which they admit they find this land very satisfying.
Yet it is the work and love of horses, and ranching with them, that drives John Grady. He loves his friends with great loyalty, just as Scarlett cares for her family, but essentially it is the landscape they are both tied to, even if the connections to that landscape have differing sources. The silhouette on the horizon is a modern image, perhaps first used in the movie Gone with the Wind, and now come to represent the modern dilemma of displaced people.
Strong parallels exist between this movie and All the Pretty Horses: He survives for now, but when will he be checkmated?
John Grady — a lover of horses, passionate, rash, strong, stubborn, and, for now, a survivor — joins a long line of memorable characters. He passes some Indians camped on the western plains. The indians stood watching him. He could see that none of them spoke among themselves or commented on his riding there nor did they raise a hand in greeting or call out to him.
They had no curiosity about him at all. As if they knew all that they needed to know. They stood and watched him pass and watched him vanish upon that landscape solely because he was passing. Solely because he would vanish. The point of the novel is not the myth, or the heroics, or even the survival. Perhaps, like the knight of faith, John Grady does go out each day to fend off evil and try to do good.
But in the end he is just passing by. Passed and paled into the darkening land, the world to come. Will John Grady be like all the great uncles who never died in bed or on their own ranch? Or will he find a ranch and turn out more like the man he was named after?
A certain sense of doom lingers here at the end. Or the reader can take the signs of fading and darkness to mean John Grady is destined to fade into darkness as well. Spanish Where are you from? Spanish Texas. And where are you going? Spanish He is going to see his girlfriend.
Spanish Who is in the house? Spanish He and the young girl fled to Mexico City. By airplane. Spanish When does he return? Spanish Who knows? Spanish Your things are here. Tu pistola.
Todas tus cosas. Y las de tu compadre. Your pistol. All your things. And those of your friend. Spanish Spanish I know nothing, young one. Puedo dormir en lad cuadra?
Spanish It is okay. Si no me lo digas. Spanish How are the mares? She will get up soon. Spanish I would like a horse. For the day, no more. Spanish You may have the horse. Wait a moment.
Spanish You are welcome here. Spanish Have you eaten? Hay tiempo. Spanish Sit. There is time. Spanish She is in the parlor. Spanish She is beautiful, your intended? Spanish outside. Spanish Where? Spanish Through here? Spanish Your mother was crying. With more reason than your whore. Spanish Who was this Mexican thinker? Spanish Come again? Ven aqui. Yes, of course. Come here.
Te lo digo yo. I tell you. Go forward. Spanish You. Where are the other horses. Spanish A thief. Spanish We have to see a horse. Spanish What happened, man? Spanish Who is with you? Nadie le va a molestar. Spanish Pass on. Spanish Is it set? Spanish Which of the horses are yours? Spanish They are all mine. Spanish Where is your blanket? Spanish I have none. Veronica refers to how the cape is held, in the manner of St. A very graceful movement in the bullfight.
Spanish scrambled eggs. Spanish cinnamon. Sometimes used by clergy, like Reverend Blevins, for healing purposes. The crystal picked up the sounds. The horses are more than a means of transportation for John Grady and Rawlins; they are friends. For example, when John Grady Cole finds Redbo in a stable after his long incarceration and travels on the grullo, Redbo whinnies, or calls to him in a touching reunion.
The novel is centered around the horses: They are the core, the soul, of the novel. Horses carry with them centuries of meaning, tied to legend and myth, romance and battle.
When McCarthy uses the word grail in the first chapter of the book, we connect the horses to the romance of adventure that goes back in western culture to the crusades. Ever since that medieval period when, according to legend, women gave men their scarves 67 and waved them off to romantic undertakings, men have gone, often on their horses, to fight wars.
Here, in this book, are all the same ingredients. Except instead of being the glorious legend of times past, this story is skewed, like light shining through a prism.
We have no happy ending, no glorious victory with love awaiting the victors. Not that there were, necessarily, happy endings during earlier historic times, but our notions of romance make us believe there were.
McCarthy is a realistic mythmaker. His ending is not happy, but it is not totally tragic either. The Mexican Revolution that affects so much of what happens in Mexico is year-old history, and it stays with those who lived through it, haunting them and affecting their lives decades later. Yet romance and adventure still reverberate in the undertaking of the two young men when they take their horses and head south. The common thread is the horses.
The horses represent more than just themselves, and they also are the center axis around which the novel revolves. The horses connect all the characters. They connect John Grady to his parents, to his grandfather, to his other ancestors.
Even Rawlins says he had seen his father rattle a few times on a horse, indicating that he was a cowpuncher, too, and most likely broke a few horses as Rawlins did. Horses connect the men and women, not just John Grady and Alejandra, but his parents. His father tells him that the two his parents had in common a great love of horses, and they were mistaken in thinking that was enough. The horses connect John Grady and Don Hector, owner of the hacienda, who can spend hours talking of the merits of individual horses.
The two of them have even read some of the same horse books. The horses connect all the cowboys and vaqueros. They connect the old men and the young, the Mexicans and the Americans. Perhaps most importantly, the horses connect the present to the past.
The imagined scenes John Grady sees on his lone rides on the prairie are of the Comanches in the past on their ponies. The horses are also the connection to work — working the cattle on ranches and play, riding to hunt or just for pleasure. In short, the horses are connected to all the enterprises of the characters. This includes transportation.
Horses still had an important function in , often still used in farming. In the western half of the country, kids still went to school on their ponies, and in the blizzard of , after weeks of being snowed in, fathers finally got to town by horseback.
John Grady and Rawlins are too poor to own a car in this novel. In the fifty years since the novel takes place, this has all reversed, so that everyone has a car, many equipped to get through heavy snow, and only the rich can afford horses. The horse, thus, has become a creature for pleasure, and has lost its work function. When John Grady was a child, an oil painting of horses hung above the sideboard in the formal dining room of the ranch house.
Six wild-eyed horses were breaking through a pole corral with manes flying. The horses had Andalusian and Barb features, and as John Grady grew, he analyzed them and saw that they had good cutting horse hindquarters.