The Pretty Horses

Table of Content

All John Grady Cole, the last in a long line of west Texas ranchers, is, at sixteen,poised on the sorrowful, painful edge of manhood. When he realizes the only lifehe has ever known is disappearing into the past and that cowboys are as doomedas the Comanche who came before them, he leaves on a dangerous and harrowingjourney into the beautiful and utterly foreign world that is Mexico.

In theguise of a classic Western, All the Pretty Horses is at its heart a lyrical andelegiac coming-of-age story about love, friendship, and loyalty that will leaveJohn Grady, and the reader, changed forever. When his mother decides to sell thecattle ranch he has grown up working, John Grady Cole and his friend LaceyRawlins set out on horseback for Mexico, a land free of the fences and highwaysthat have begun to invade west Texas, a land where the boys are not able to readthe look in a man’s eye. As they approach the Rio Grande, they are joined by theyouthful and mysterious Jimmy Blevins, whose fine horse, hot-blooded temper, andtalent with a pistol are as certain an omen of trouble as the desolate andforbidding landscape stretching out before them.

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In a violent and freakishthunderstorm, Blevins loses all his worldly possessions; and the foolhardyattempt to recover them soon brands the boys as horse thieves. On the run, theysplit up, with John Grady and Rawlins finding refuge on a hacienda where fewquestions are asked and a talent for breaking horses is still a source of honor,and where they fall into a routine as familiar to them as the shape of theirsaddles.

At night, John Grady rides the patron’s prized sire through themountains beyond the hacienda in the company of Alejandra, the patron’sbeautiful daughter. But in a land as bound by honor and reputation as this is,the white-hot love between John Grady and this girl is as dangerous as anythingthey will face. When soldiers arrive to take John Grady and Rawlins away, theboys know it has nothing to do with Jimmy Blevins, but is instead because ofsome deeper, more elusive transgression that John Grady has committed in thename of love.

With no one to plead their case, their fate is dire indeed. JohnGrady and Rawlins find themselves in a Mexican prison governed by starkviolence. But in the hands of Cormac McCarthy this place takes on a dreamlikequality; it is not right or wrong, good or evil, but merely as inevitable a partof life as the sun setting in the West, something that must be faced in orderfor one to survive. All the Pretty Horses is the first volume in the BorderTrilogy (the second volume is entitled The Crossing; and the third, The Citiesof the Plain), and this name implies that the text is as much about the arid anddesolate landscapes and blood-red skies of the great Southwest as it is aboutthe people who inhabit the region. Together the land and sky form a lyricaltapestry that colors and alters the narrative in subtle and unexpected ways.

John Grady’s journey leaves him wiser but saddened, yet out of this heartbreakcomes the resilience of a man who has claimed his place in the world. There isno record of John Grady passing through customs on his return to the UnitedStates, but we realize he has much to declare. Written with the lyricism thathas made McCarthy one of the great American prose stylists, All the PrettyHorses is at once a bittersweet and profoundly moving tale of love, loss, andredemption and a stunning portrait of Mexico. of fate and the weight of manhood.

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