Suffering in Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses Essay

1395 Words 6 Pages
Suffering in Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses


In All the Pretty Horses, Cormac McCarthy tells the tale of John Grady Cole’s quest to capture the ideal qualities of a cowboy as he sees them: laid-back, unfettered, nomadic and carefree attitudes. These qualities soon clash, however, with the reality of darkness, suffering and mystery that seems to follow him. Reality constantly subverts his ideal dream. Time and time again, John Grady Cole works to be this fantasy, but through reality’s constant rejection of his fantasy, he lives the dream.

John Grady Cole starts on his journey to live the dream of a cowboy with his companion, Rawlin. Both are searching for a better life as they wander the plains waiting for
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Reality rejects the fantasy of escaping the situation without consequence. Eventually, John Grady and Rawlin are arrested. The crime committed resulted from Blevin’s stupidity and John Grady’s desire to follow his instinct be helping Blevin retrieve his horse and rifle. Darkness and suffering was the only result of this frivolous attempt.

Through this situation, Blevin caused conflict and hardship for Rawlin and John Grady, but he allowed John Grady to live the dream. Without the situation, John Grady would not have encountered darkness and suffering, which forced him to grow. The prison, as reality’s rejection, allows John Grady to express ideal qualities of a cowboy. Ironically, these qualities come out because of contrast: prison emphasizes his desire to be unfettered, the threat of his life emphasizes his laid back approach, his confinement emphasizes his nomadic desires, and the lack of concern about a jail brawl stab emphasizes his carefree attitude. Conflict results in darkness, allowing John Grady to live his dream.

The demonstration to live the dream through rejection happens more than once in All the Pretty Horses. As a new chapter opens in the life of John Grady, an oasis seems to appear in the middle of the desert, or in the middle of the darkness. This oasis is many things for John Grady. Physically, it is Hacienda, the ranch. As a person, it is Alejandra, his future lover. Emotionally, it is hope and optimism…