Now a major motion picture from Columbia Pictures starring Matt Damon, produced by Mike Nichols, and directed by Billy Bob Thornton. The national bestseller and the first volume in Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy , All the Pretty Horses is the tale of John Grady Cole, who at sixteen finds... read more
The American conception of the West is a romantic ideal born of a profoundly unromantic reality. It has been the self-appointed role of contemporary scholarship and culture to reach past the popular vision of America's westward expansion and settlement--a vision shaped and colored by hundreds... read more (warning: may contain spoilers)
The American conception of the West is a romantic ideal born of a profoundly unromantic reality. It has been the self-appointed role of contemporary scholarship and culture to reach past the popular vision of America's westward expansion and settlement--a vision shaped and colored by hundreds of Western movies and their depictions of death without blood, and solitary heroic cowboys vanquishing ultimately cowardly villains--in an attempt to recover the true history of the American West, to remove the romantic and heroic veneer from a past of violence and prejudice, of dreams shattered as much as hopes fulfilled. Cormac McCarthy's novel All the Pretty Horses concerns itself with the meeting place between realism and romanticism.
All the Pretty Horses is set in 1949 and 1950. The opening of the novel shows John Grady Cole, a sixteen-year-old Texan who wants badly to be a cowboy, at the funeral of his grandfather. The driving economic force in Texas, it becomes clear to John Grady, is oil rather than cattle: after the funeral, John Grady's mother will sell the ranch the grandfather owned, and on which John Grady was raised. It is a ranch built by John Grady's great-grandfather in the formative years of the cowboy culture, the years immediately after the Civil War, and its passing out of the family is a symbol of the passing of the old West, the West of cowboys, horses, and cattle. But John Grady Cole retains a romantic vision of the cowboy life, and he tries desperately to live his life according to the code he has both inherited and invented, defined by the critic Jane Tompkins as consisting of "self-discipline; unswerving purpose; the exercise of knowledge, skill, ingenuity, and excellent judgment; and a capacity to continue in the face of total exhaustion and overwhelming odds." In order to live his life by this code, John Grady Cole needs to leave the United States for Mexico, to go to a place American civilization has not yet reached. Looking for something that has been lost from America--indeed, some romantic lifestyle which maynever have existed--he travels to a place that is, on a metaphysical level, more West than the West.
All the Pretty Horses is the story of this cowboy code of honor--the foundation of the Western lifestyle--put to the test. It is the story of the maturation of John Grady Cole in blood, as his romantic idealism is tried in a place where survival does not concede anything to propriety and nobility.All the Pretty Horses tries to describe, time and again, the human and psychological cost of living according to dreams and romantic ideals: it is the search for the romantic cowboy life that leads John Grady and his companions into Mexico; it is the romantic pursuit of forbidden love that ends in John Grady's harrowing imprisonment.
What is remarkable in all this is that John Grady Cole survives, and his idealism survives as well. In Mexico he finds nothing but tragedy, but he keeps faith with his religion of stoicism and skill and competence. If McCarthy's is a de-romanticized world peopled by the cynical and the savage, men and women driven by the need above all else to survive, John Grady Cole remains a hero, albeit shrunken and sensitive--perhaps the ghost of a hero, a hero victim to anachronism. Most moving and tragic among John Grady's heroic traits is his refusal to bow to fate, his insistence on personal responsibility. John Grady is a cowboy who denies destiny, however manifest: All the Pretty Horses details its hero's struggle against forces of history and changing economy, against social barriers and overwhelming odds. On some level, John Grady Cole fails tragically. On another level, whether he succeeds or fails must be measured in terms of his consistency to his internal code. In All the Pretty Horses, the fabled Western mindset has become internalized: it is something perhaps absent from the external world but that exists in the minds of heroes. Indeed, it is fair to say that All the Pretty Horses is about the internalization of a myth that has always been writ in starkly physical, larger than life terms. Its landscapes, sunsets, horses, and mountains, so iconic of the West, are symbols and reflections; through them the novel concerns itself with the human soul.
“The boy...sat a horse not only as if he'd been born to it which he was but as if were he begot by malice or mischance into some queer land where horses never were he would have found them anyway.”
“Shrouded in the black thunderheads the distant lightning glowed mutely like welding seen through foundry smoke. As if repairs were under way at some flawed place in the iron dark of the world.”
“He saw very clearly how all his life led only to this moment and all after led nowhere at all.”
“His grandfather was the oldest of eight boys and the only one to live past twenty-five. They were drowned, shot, kicked by horses. They perished in fires. They seemed to fear only dying in bed.”
“The closest bonds we will ever know are bonds of grief. The deepest community is one of sorrow.”
That all courage was a form of constancy. That it was always himself that the coward abandoned first. After this all other betrayals came easily.Highlighted by 180 Kindle customers
it was good that God kept the truths of life from the young as they were starting out or else they’d have no heart to start at all.Highlighted by 170 Kindle customers
Scars have the strange power to remind us that our past is real. The events that cause them can never be forgotten, can they?Highlighted by 137 Kindle customers
What he loved in horses was what he loved in men, the blood and the heat of the blood that ran them. All his reverence and all his fondness and all the leanings of his life were for the ardenthearted and they would always be so and never be otherwise.Highlighted by 135 Kindle customers
In the end we all come to be cured of our sentiments. Those whom life does not cure death will. The world is quite ruthless in selecting between the dream and the reality, even where we will not. Between the wish and the thing the world lies waiting.Highlighted by 130 Kindle customers
He said that those who have endured some misfortune will always be set apart but that it is just that misfortune which is their gift and which is their strength and that they must make their way back into the common enterprise of man for without they do so it cannot go forward and they themselves will wither in bitterness.Highlighted by 127 Kindle customers
He thought that in the beauty of the world were hid a secret. He thought the world’s heart beat at some terrible cost and that the world’s pain and its beauty moved in a relationship of diverging equity and that in this headlong deficit the blood of multitudes might ultimately be exacted for the vision of a single flower.Highlighted by 126 Kindle customers
In history there are no control groups. There is no one to tell us what might have been. We weep over the might have been, but there is no might have been. There never was. It is supposed to be true that those who do not know history are condemned to repeat it. I dont believe knowing can save us. What is constant in history is greed and foolishness and a love of blood and this is a thing that even God—who knows all that can be known—seems powerless to change.Highlighted by 120 Kindle customers
A goodlookin horse is like a goodlookin woman, he said. They’re always more trouble than what they’re worth. What a man needs is just one that will get the job done.Highlighted by 116 Kindle customers
You never know when you’ll be in need of them you’ve despised, said Blevins.Highlighted by 108 Kindle customers
Followed by The Crossing.
Ar mature book, but a great match for serious readers of high school age who can handle moral complexity. While there is violence, it is not merely gratuitous, for it seasons the protagonist's soul, albeit by revealing life's shadow side. There is so much hope and beauty behind the surface of things, and the langauage is stunning and compelling. --An AP Lit Teacher
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