All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy - Individualism vs. Society Essay

All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy - Individualism vs. Society Essay

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The concept of what is "individuality" and what is not has plagued and delighted man since the dawn of time. “All the Pretty Horses” by Cormac McCarthy adds 302 more pages to the pile of all the works that have been on the quest to define individualism. In this novel, McCarthy takes us through four faces of the key character’s life, John Grady, to portray the idea of illusory individualism. He contends that John Grady is simply a product of a society in contrast to his (Grady) notion of free will. Simply put: Grady has no alternatives but an obligation to conform to society. McCarthy uses him to create the platform in which to comment on oppression of individuality, expectation of conformity to the values of the society and the fact that the concept of individualism is a myth.

McCarthy’s plot is built around a teenage boy, John Grady, who has great passion for a cowboy life. At the age of seventeen he begins to depict himself as a unique individual who is ambitious to fulfill his dream life – the life of free will, under the sun and starlit nights. Unfortunately, his ambition is at odds with the societal etiquettes. He initiates his adventurous life in his homeland when he futilely endeavors to seize his grandfather’s legacy - the ranch. John Grady fails to appreciate a naked truth that, society plays a big role in his life than he could have possibly imagined. His own mother is the first one to strive to dictate his life. “Anyway you’re sixteen years old, you can’t run the ranch…you are being ridiculers. You have to go to school” she said, wiping out any hopes of him owning the ranch (p.15). Undoubtedly Grady is being restrained to explore his dreams, as the world around him intuitively assumes that he ought to tag along the c...


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...asing nothing but the wind, when he eventually returns home. He then heads back to Texas probably in hope to renew his friendship with his old friend- Rawlins. After, a short conversation with him (Rawlins), Grady realizes that they cannot really connect any more. He declares, “this is aint my country” (299) and he opts to ride on. He is aware that without society- Rawlins, Abuela, his mother and the rest – he has no future in Texas.

So finally he is back from where he started – the life influenced by those around him. Soon he found himself playing the ball accordingly. He recognizes that in contrast to his idea of seeing himself as an independent and unique identity is a myth in the real world. Nevertheless, in the end John Grady is still headed west (p.302), just as he does at the beginning (p.5). Does he still hope for better pastures further west of Mexico?

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