John Grady is not your average cowboy. All the Pretty Horses is not your typical coming-of-age story. This is an honest tale. Cormac McCarthy follows John Grady as he embarks on his journey of self-discovery across the border. Armed with a few pesos in his pocket, a strong horse and a friend at his side, John Grady thinks he’s ready to take on the Wild West of Mexico. At their final steps in America, a stranger, aged thirteen, joins our heroes. This unexpected variable named Blevins challenges John Grady, testing his character and pushing him to uncomfortable limits. The dynamic of their relationship reveals John Grady’s capacity to care for others as he shelters this kid from the hardships of reality and the foolhardiness of youth. The journey into Mexico demonstrates his readiness to be recognized as a man, but when the critical moment arrives, John Grady’s will fails to meet unforeseen demands. His inability to speak at this crucial juncture acts as a mirror for self-reflection, returning him to the beginning.
Coming out of the horizon, Blevins approaches John Grady and his comrade, Rawlins, uninvited. John Grady poses half a dozen pointed questions, deliberately accusing Blevins of lying. His eyes study Blevins, calmly taking in the stranger. He doesn’t ask for an explanation or the details of his trip nor does he offer Blevins companionship. “Is that your hat? he said” (40), suggesting Blevins isn’t a legitimate cowboy, let alone a man. John Grady subtly establishes himself as the power to be reckoned with, the superior cowboy. His assertion is self-serving, a justification to himself that he is capable of the journey ahead. It’s also a demonstration for Rawlins’ sake, to assure him that they are...
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...s, the boundaries of his emotional strength. John Grady could not speak on behalf of Blevins because he is not ready to let go of his youthful innocence. The mantle of responsibility is too heavy to bear.
Blevins haunts John Grady’s mind. Beautiful daydreams of Alejandra transform themselves into thoughts of Blevins, but he never voices his guilt—until he returns to America. John Grady’s remorse manifests itself in a dogged determination to return Blevins’ horse to his family in America. Through this tangible form of repentance, John Grady is proving to himself that he’s capable of doing Blevins’ memory a final justice. His dream of Mexico is no longer a possibility, defeated by his conscience. He earnestly recognizes his need to start over and return to America. John Grady may have failed his initial adventure, but he came out of Mexico a stronger person for it.
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