At some point in childhood, most people consider running away, most for a few days but, in some cases, forever. Many causes influence a child to run away, including fights, abuse, and unhappiness. In All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy, two boys run away into the Wild West to find a life you can only read about. Though they can never find this perfect place, the journey itself is extraordinary. The reader is taken on a ride that entails danger, love, and, ultimately, self discovery. This ride has rite of passage written all over it. The novel builds and destroys a surreal adventure that describes the transition from boyhood to manhood. The novel describes the transition of John Grady from a surreal, inocuous youth to a real and painful manhood.
The reoccurring theme of John Grady’s rite of passage begins with a simple conversation between father and son, a relationship in which the unsophisticated, young boy looks up to a figure of superiority. The youth of this boy is first illustrated by a conversation between the two in which John Grady’s father says, “When I come around askin you what I’m supposed to do you’ll know you’re big enough to tell me.” (McCarthy, 8) The inferiority and youth of this boy in the shadow of his father is clear here. This can also be seen when John Grady asks if he can run the ranch and his mother says, “you’re sixteen years old, you can’t run a ranch.” (McCarthy, 15) This is particularly intriguing because we are introduced to his bright, ambitious character which is only marginalized by his age. These early indications of John Grady’s youth set up a motive for running away. He is not getting the respect or recognition he feels he deserves. The latter quotation is in fact...
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...at last seeing the harsh reality of the world and not the fairytale he was used to. It is unfortunate that he flung himself wholeheartedly into his adulthood because he now has to face the painful realization that youth is a gift which protects those innocent ‘heart[s]’ from a world of troubles. John Grady’s heart was not that lucky. It craved the surreal adventure and got more than a spoonful of life.
In All the Pretty Horses, John Grady’s passage to manhood is symbolized by a surreal adventure that is destroyed in the end by the harsh reality of this manhood. At first it does not seem possible that John Grady could mature so quickly but the reader definitely sees him shed his happy, boyish nature by the end of the novel. And though this seems sad, it doesn’t truly matter because the lessons learned on this journey were more important than the journey itself.
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