Book Analysis: All the Pretty Horses

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In Cormac McCarthy’s novel All the Pretty Horses, the setting is used to represent the main characters transformation over time from one terrain to another. The limitedness of the Texan terrain scattered with barbed wire restrictions identifies the restlessness that motivates John Grady’s brevity in the region at the beginning of the novel. Meanwhile, the Mexican wilderness that John Grady Cole’s sets out for comes to epitomize how the vast territory of fenceless space shapes his experiences as they outline his true character. The result is recognition of the parallel between open terrain and his character, each one exemplifying one another and in the end explains the enlightenment he struggles for. Right out of the gate McCarthy shines light on the theme of personal constraint contingent on the landscape. John Grady is introduced in the beginning of the novel on his ranch in Texas preparing for his grandfather’s funeral. Right away the reader is informed of his feelings of being trapped and contained. The opening sentence of the novel offers intuition into this: “The candleflame and the image of the candleflame caught in the pierglass twisted and righted when he entered the hall and again when he shut the door” (McCarthy 3). The symbolism here is that of a character whose energy and aspirations for western lifestyle are being confined to a location that is changing and slowly vanishing. He therefore remains “caught,” with limited opportunity to participate in the way of life he hopes for. This fact is ultimately disheartening, particularly for a character that is symbolized as a flame that burns with exuberance. However, at the same time he struggles, “twist[ing] and right[ing]” himself to be free to chase his ambitions. John Grady’s contempt and restlessness stem from the hardships of his family. The Cole family made their name in cattle ranching for almost a century, but is now facing a financial crisis due to an increase of industrialization. The problem is...
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