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 adventure. The bump in the previously smooth road arises from Blevin, a thirteen-year-old boy, eager to join the adventurous party. Only after persistent persuasion, a valuable horse and an impressive demonstration of skill, John Grady and Rawlin allow Blevin to join them.
Not long after, the characters face their first challenge; during a thunderstorm Blevin stripes himself of any metal and clothing because of his fear of lightning. When morning comes, naked Blevin has lost everything: clothes, horse and rifle. Continuing their journey, they ride into the village of Encantada to discover someone else has possessed Blevin horse and rifle. Eager to recapture his own possessions, Rawlin predicts trouble because of Blevin’s prides, however, John Grady decides to be true to his heart and help Blevin to retrieve his horse and rifle. The situation creates tension between the reality of the consequences and the fantasy of a cowboy.
The tension results in disaster. The friends leave Encantada being chased by a band of Mexicans. Blevin on his fast horse tries to outrun the band, while John Grady and Rawlin escape. 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...