Effective Use of Dialogue in All the Pretty Horses
All the Pretty Horses, by Cormac McCarthy, is, among other things, an exploration of its main character, John Grady Cole. The author chooses words carefully and sparingly when creating dialogue for Cole. In doing so, McCarthy creates poetic effects and rich meaning from limited verbiage. This novelist lets his readers get to know his main character largely through dialogue instead of through direct description. In this way, readers find the techniques used by McCarthy similar to those used by Ernest Hemingway in many of his books and short stories. Like the dialogue of Hemingway's protagonists, Cole's speech is sparse, but it is indicative of a great deal of meaning.
In Cole's brief discourse, wise readers can find many individuality indicators that help us to understand this stoic character.
The first verbal exchange of this novel only requires 17 words of Cole. The first twelve words tell us a great deal considering the limited number of words used:
I appreciate you lighting the candle, he said.
La candela. La vela. (4)
On the first line of Cole's dialogue, he shows his appreciation of a kindness done for him. This act suggests some goodness in his character. This sentence is in English. The person speaking with Cole in this scene replies in Spanish, and we find that our protagonist is at least bilingual in the next line when he replies to the other speaker in Spanish. The fact that Cole knows two different Spanish words for candle suggests a more extensive understanding of his second language.
Readers will find that this is not the only example of individuality indicators expressed in Cole's speech. McCarthy, like many good writers, chooses to show us who his main character is instead of just telling us. He shows us through the words of John Grady Cole. The author both foreshadows the major conflict in this novel and gives us a better understanding of Cole's character in just three words when he replies to a comment from his sidekick, Rawlins. Rawlins has failed to win the affection of a girl he likes, and claims that "She ain't worth it," and that "None of em are" (10). John Grady replies simply, "Yes they are" (10). In this line, readers learn several things. Included are the facts that Cole likes women, and that he is willing to endure greater challenges than some men would for love. One can infer from these facts that John Grady is a romantic because of this attitude--for...