All the pretty horses thesis

The horses are part of the fabulous landscape scenes described here, in the desert southwest as well as the varied vegetation of Mexico, and often with magnificent mountains as a backdrop.


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But the horses do more than take the characters into the wilderness, into areas of great earthly beauty. They also help them leave, or escape, areas of harshness and danger. It is to the nature of the horses themselves that many of the characters are drawn. After centuries of training and domestication of horses by men, we still cannot truly understand them and are often surprised by their behavior. John Grady reminds Rawlins, when he is sacking out the first wild Mexican mustang, that he does not know how a horse thinks. But John Grady is praised by Don Hector for understanding horses and, indeed, he does have the skills and instincts to work wonders with the horses.

This is because John Grady has a spiritual connection to the horses, and he totally accepts them in all their power. To be in a pasture with a great stallion and several bands of mares and be accepted in their circle is an awesome experience. There is no explanation for why horses, even penned, accept some people and not others. And the horses do accept John Grady. This spiritual connection may be why John Grady can ride that wild chestnut stallion in the breeding season, a feat few would attempt. John Grady is a real cowboy who is capable of amazing feats with horses. This can be contrasted to the current rodeo, which some defend as the last place where people can exhibit their prowess with horses, cattle, and ropes.

It is unfortunate that a needed skill has now developed into a sport only. Larry McMurtry has criticized this in Rodeo, "the West. My grip about rodeo, as publicly promoted, is that it wants both the lie and the truth: to be both the Wild West, and yet steeped in family values.

In another quote from McMurtry, we get at the problem of the romance and myths even more. Malory may have felt the same way about the Morte D'Arthur. Readers suck so hard at the old myths, that they turn stones into sour grapes. He is portraying the dreams and legends as we still imagine, but he is also casting a realistic eye on all of it.

Horses do carry with them the images of romance, of time long past. The romance endures, which is partly why horses have become so popular again. But the social protest of authors like McCarthy warns us that we are not able to relive the past.

Essay on All the Pretty Horses

We, and the horses, must exist in a landscape that is dwindling in size and changing in use. So the images that the pretty horses call up are not all positive and romantic. Aside from commercialization in rodeos, other dark sides to pretty horses do exist. One vaquero tells John Grady that to see the soul of a horse is a terrible thing. It is not just power and beauty that horses call up, but fear and fear of death even.

Another old vaquero tells John Grady that horses love war. The idea that horses have a cruel side is not developed by McCarthy, but here the old man seems to be saying that horses like to strive, compete, and battle. Even if horses are essentially creatures of flight, who run from danger, they will fight for territory and also when trapped.

This death theme of horses adds to the John Grady myth. We are enamored, because he is young, he is very bright, he is on a quest.

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Analysis on All the pretty Horses Essay Example

He is a cowboy. What is the romance of the cowboy in American culture? It is the romance the idealist has always elicited.

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The man of action still thrills — maybe especially because of the age of anxiety we live in. Romantic figures can call up something timeless, something so thrilling we can't avoid it. The horses are an integral part of this romance. They are huge domesticated animals that have accompanied mankind on our adventures and travels for centuries. Almost every culture of the world has prized and used them — with the exception of some island societies, perhaps. They are beautiful creatures, which is why they lend themselves to more pretty romance than camels, for example.

Horses are a connection to the most awesome, powerful, and beautiful parts of nature. When a man can train and ride a great horse, he partakes of that power and beauty that so often eludes us. Then nature is not quite so overpowering or frightening. If we can survive the horse gallop, we can do anything. Whatever the negatives, it is hard to not return to the romance. But there are also the realists, and Rawlins is the main one in the novel, who try to get John Grady, as well as the reader, back to earth. In fact, the image between the three of them slowly dissipates throughout the next three parts of the novel.

This is first seen in the second quarter, when the three of them are separated for the first time and John Grady is seen as more of a charismatic front man than the others. Although seeing Alejandra may seem harmless to John Grady, this is the first time he receives disapproval from a majority, and that point expands at the end of the part, when John Grady and Rawlins are arrested.

What occurs in the last two parts is all buildup of John Grady morphing slowly into that image; in the third part, he becomes much more lawless and in the final part, his lawlessness only amplifies as he becomes a lone traveler. In regards to western tropes throughout the novel, they are still manipulated; John Grady just fills some of the characteristics because it is necessary due to the setting.

Cowboy's Dream/All The Pretty Horses (Medley) (Instrumental)

He is generally a humble character who holds an unwavering honor code, but due to his circumstances, John had to fit the image of a cowboy. Therefore, with the idea of western tropes in mind, McCarthy constantly manipulated them because in common westerns, death does not take a negative emotional toll on cowboys nor does the cowboy want to travel with a companion. The journey from childhood to maturity is guided primarily by the search for meaning. Throughout the novel, John Grady chased the ideal vision of the ranch lifestyle instilled in him by his late grandfather, but was forced to reconcile his romantic dreams of the old west with a reality of violence and injustice that was less than kind to him.

The sixteen-year-old set off from home in search of the answers he was always looking for but never managed to find at home, in his relationships with his estranged mother and his inadequate father. He might not get answers, but he knows that the kind of life his mother leads in San Antonio is not for him. He leaves home and finds comfort in the familiar desert, in embracing the rugged cowboy lifestyle that directly contrasts with the modern industrialism he is running from.

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Eventually, Rawlins runs away from home with Grady for the sake of adventure, and because there is not much of a life for him in San Angelo. It becomes clear early in the trip that instead of leaving out of a longing for the freedom of the cowboy lifestyle, Rawlins views his new lifestyle as a positive consequence of his decision to leave. In finding these answers, Grady is faced with an unsheltered view of the world that forces him to grow up. Throughout the novel, John Grady, Rawlins and Alfonsa offer their own perspectives on the nature of free will and fate. Doubt and regret for his own choices lead Rawlins to struggle with the idea of whether it is fate or free will that rules his future.

He finds no support in Grady, who solidly believes that people make their own destinies. While Rawlins is trying to find the right answer, Grady tells him that there is no right answer. For his part, John Grady is the embodiment of the American Dream. He believes that anything is possible if you just put your mind to it.

This belief is what drives him to leave home in search of a future that is dying out, in the hope that he has the power to shape his future. Not that I was about to get into it. Rawlins interprets his experiences as proof of fate, but Grady holds to his belief, even though it is his strong faith in free will that causes him the most emotional turmoil in the second half of the novel.

He is plagued with shame at not doing more to stop Blevins from being executed, regret over losing Alejandra, and guilt over killing an inmate who threatened his life. Although John Grady believes that man has ultimate power over his own destiny, he was faced with so much hardship and loss that was seemingly out of his control.

By the end of the novel, rather than accepting the world as it is and surrendering to a life in San Angelo, Grady sets off in search of the life he really wants, confident in the fact that he can shape his life in any way he chooses. Both novels address this central concept with plot lines that follow the characters through elaborate journeys and focus on set ups for heroism and, at times, failure in achieving it. The most powerful and understandable medium through which this idea can be translated in the two novels are the characters.


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  • Both main characters are used as examples of heroism through means of non-heroic acts or failure at heroism itself through the eyes of the audience or other characters in the novel. These are the two characters received as heroes in their own respective worlds if not by the other characters that inhabit them. The attainment of this perceived greatness is drastically different for each character, how ever, and this difference calls into question the very basis which the audience uses to classify a hero. The holistic comparison of these two characters and their failures in their heroic attempts or lack thereof reveal a similar result from two very different approaches, effectively establishing a blurred line for an audience as the the validity and meaning of a heroic figure.

    In an extension of the exemplification of character driven heroism, the supporting characters in each of the novels provides more insight into the view the two authors hold of the attainment of greatness. In All The Pretty Horses, McCarthy presents two other key figures that, in addition to John Grady, create a group whose flaws are characterized in each of its members.

    This trait, how ever, is a downfall for him as he can be overly ambitious. Rawlings is a representation of cowardice, a trait that removes his chance at a heroic status and eventually confines him to the option of retreat back to Texas. Finally, Blevins is the character who represents youth, the main shortcoming of the group as a whole. This combination is the set back that gives John Grady his heroic feature after he overcomes its confinement.

    This is where the characters of Lena Grove and Byron Bunch become key in understanding why we view Christmas the way we do at the end of the novel despite his less than honorable actions. Christmas is the ultimate concentration of sin in the novel but is not its sole ambassador. He is simply a result and manifestation of the sins of others. Lena is a testament to his impurity for which he suffers.

    Her lack of virginity is a parallel to the lack of belonging Christmas feels because of his racial background. Byron is more a figure of corruption as he is distracted from his routine activities and even God by the sinfulness of lust. This reflects the corruption suffered by Christmas through the abuse of others and the festering of sores created through minor acts of untreated sins eventually snowballing into murder.

    Between the two works, it can been seen an interesting contrast in that one character become dedicates to a goal of heroic notion and achieves the same effect as someone who simply happened to be the product of misfortune and poor circumstances. While the realization of heroic stature is something attained by both characters, the means to achieving this goal and the effectiveness of their supposed heroism can be debated. The reason that these two are able to be presented as heroes is because they are the best that each novel has to offer. Both works present characters who are searching for a world that cannot exist for either of them whether it be one of acceptance or of an era that has already passed.

    It is the pursuance of a dream that is the most heroism quality the audience sees in these characters and their failures in such an endeavor only create a sense of sympathy in the reader.