All the Pretty Horses Cormac McCarthy
Cormac McCarthy • July 20, 1993 – Providence, Rhode Island • 10 novels – southern gothic, western, and post-apocalyptic • U.S National Book Award & National Book Critics Circle Award • First novel – The Orchard Keeper • Lee Holliman, Anne DeLisle, & Jennifer Winkley
Foundation • The novel begins and ends in Texas, but the majority of the novel takes place in a town called Encantadaand Don Hector’s ranch in Mexico. The novel takes place around the time of World War II. • The point of view is third person omniscient.
Primary Characters • John Grady Cole – He values honor, intelligence, responsibility justice, loyalty, honesty, and skill. He has a great love for horses, Alejandra, and the ‘Cowboy life’ in Mexico. • Lacey Rawlins – He is Cole’s best friend who went with him to Mexico. He lacks patience and intelligence unlike Cole. • Jimmy Blevins – A run-away that follows Cole and Rawlins to Mexico. He cannot stand to be insulted or stolen from which led him to flee his abusive stepfather and reclaim his horse. • Alejandra – A beautiful blue-eyed young woman who falls in love with Cole and vice versa. Their love causes many problems and results on a solemn note due to her great-aunt.
Secondary Characters • Don Hector – Alejandra’s father who is the owner of the ranch Cole works at. He is unforgiving when it comes to the relationship. • Alfonsa – Alejandra’s great-aunt who understands Alejandra and Cole’s relationship, but will not allow it to happen because of her past. • Antonio – A cowboy who works on the ranch and befriends Cole. • The Captain (Raul) – The man who wrongly accuses Cole and Rawlins of being outlaws and murders Blevins. • Perez – A wealthy and powerful prisoner who offers freedom to Cole and Rawlins in place of money. • The Charro (Luis) – The man who bribes the Captain to kill Blevins. • Armondo – The foreman of the ranch and the brother of Antonio. • Maria – Don Hector’s cook. • Louisa – The cook at Cole’s ranch who raised Cole when his mother ran off.
Summary • The death of Cole’s grandfather leads to his mother selling the ranch. • Blevins starts to follow Cole and Rawlins into Mexico. • Blevins is deathly scared of lightning, leading him to lose his horse. • The boys go on a wild run to find Blevins’ horse to find him stolen. Blevins attempts to reclaim his horse and his gun, but only causes more trouble. • Rawlins and Cole find themselves at Don Hector’s ranch without Blevins. • Don Hector soon hires on Cole and Rawlins as trainers for his horses. • The job the boys landed didn’t last long due to his intimate relationship with Alejandra. • Alfonsa told Cole that reputation is all a woman has in Mexico, and he should not rob her of her reputation. • Don Hector turns the boys over to the police where they find themselves in the penitentiary.
Summary (Continued) • On the way to the penitentiary, the Captain murders Blevins in a field. • The boys meet Perez at the penitentiary where he offers them freedom. • Alfonsa provides the money to get the boys out of the penitentiary due to Alejandra’s wishes. • Rawlins returns home and Cole goes to see Alejandra for the last time. • Cole refuses to leave Mexico without their horse, so he takes the Captain as a hostage to reclaim his horses. • Cole becomes severely injured by a gunshot wound, but still makes it back to Texas. • He goes in front of a judge and tells his story. • The novel ends as another one of Cole’s journeys begins, and he rides off into the sunset.
Quotes • “There is no forgiveness. For women. A man may lose his honor and regain it again. But a woman cannot. She cannot.” • “He said that those who have endured some misfortune will always be set apart but that it is just that misfortune which is their gift and which is their strength.” • “A goodlookinhorse is like a goodlookin woman, he said. They're always more trouble than what they're worth. What a man needs is just one that will get the job done.” • “Because the question for me was always whether that shape we see in our lives was there from the beginning or whether these random events are only called a pattern after the fact. Because otherwise we are nothing.”
Themes • Love • Loyalty • Violence • Gender roles • Loss of innocence
Literary Devices • Biblical references & allusions – Cole journeys back to Don Hector’s ranch as “some newfound evangelical being.” Cole and Rawlins describe the hole in the penitentiary walls as a “judas-hole.” • The novel goes back and forth between settings, and McCarthy’s use of repetition draws in the reader such as “That was not sleeping. That was not sleeping.” • The use of humor in the novel lightens the mood of this serious work when it is appropriate such as “We’re runnin from the law… we robbed a bank… You ain’t robbed no bank.” • McCarthy portrays a unique style in All the Pretty Horses in which he does not use quotation marks and instead uses breaks in the text to indicate the character’s dialogue. This is also evident in The Road. • Romanticism is also evident throughout the whole novel, especially through John Grady Cole.
Symbols • Blood • Sunset • Horses
Quotes • “I’ve known people to spend their lives nursing a hatred of phantoms and they were not happy people.” • “He thought the world’s heart beat at some terrible cost and that the world’s pain and its beauty moved in a relationship of diverging equity and that in this headlong deficit the blood of multitudes might ultimately be exacted for the vision of a single flower.” • “He thought that in the beauty of the world were hid a secret.” • “In the end we all come to be cured of our sentiments.”