All the Pretty Horses
John Grady is not your average cowboy. All the Pretty Horses is not your typical coming-of-age story. This is an honest tale. Cormac McCarthy follows John Grady as he embarks on his journey of self-discovery across the border. Armed with a few pesos in his pocket, a strong horse and a friend at his side, John Grady thinks he’s ready to take on the Wild West of Mexico. At their final steps in America, a stranger, aged thirteen, joins our heroes. This unexpected variable named Blevins challenges John Grady, testing his character and pushing him to uncomfortable limits. The dynamic of their relationship reveals John Grady’s capacity to care for others as he shelters this kid from the hardships of reality and the foolhardiness of youth. The journey into Mexico demonstrates his readiness to be recognized as a man, but when the critical moment arrives, John Grady’s will fails to meet unforeseen demands. His inability to speak at this crucial juncture acts as a mirror for self-reflection, returning him to the beginning.
Coming out of the horizon, Blevins approaches John Grady and his comrade, Rawlins, uninvited. John Grady poses half a dozen pointed questions, deliberately accusing Blevins of lying. His eyes study Blevins, calmly taking in the stranger. He doesn’t ask for an explanation or the details of his trip nor does he offer Blevins companionship. “Is that your hat? he said” (40), suggesting Blevins isn’t a legitimate cowboy, let alone a man. John Grady subtly establishes himself as the power to be reckoned with, the superior cowboy. His assertion is self-serving, a justification to himself that he is capable of the journey ahead. It’s also a demonstration for Rawlins’ sake, to assure him that they are competent “men”, especially next to this stranger. John Grady interrogates Blevins with a cool authority, reducing him to a child who’s stolen a hat and horse to play dress-up.
These two cowboys have no use for an extraneous kid with a showy horse, and Rawlins makes that clear to him, but they do not deliberately run Blevins off. John Grady recognizes the beginnings of a relationship, and he does not refuse. “We aint seen the last of his skinny ass” (41), he reflects as they continue, abandoning Blevins in the dust. His words are not resentful nor does he appear aggravated. Blevins’ eventual inclusion reflects the nonchalant attitude John Grady maintains throughout the beginning of his journey.
John Grady assumes the role of leader not on account of his own actions but rather as a reaction to his companion and their surroundings. Rawlins looks at him several times, searching for guidance regarding this strange kid. An optimistic, self-assured outlook washes away the danger surrounding Blevins, giving way to John Grady’s passive response. He accepts responsibility because he doesn’t decline, consenting to his role as leader by default. In theory, this superficial acknowledgement is rooted in genuine ability, and...