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The novel was built on themes of isolation and the evils of man. John Grady is a character in isolation. His relationship with his parents is almost nonexistent and with his cousin is tenuous and lacks intimacy. Grady is left to face his prison time alone and once out is rejected by the woman he loves. With nothing left for him in Texas he begins his journey to Mexico alone. Of all the relationships in the book, Grady is closest with his horse and although an equestrian at heart, his love moves beyond admiration to pure understanding. In the end he finds himself a man in a country that’s not his, left alone to find one that is.
Evils are present throughout. It begins with Blevins, who seems to be running from something or someone but the point is not cleared. The boy comes to shoot a police officer and in turn is held, tortured, and executed by an unofficial police captain. The captain holds Grady and Rawlins prisoner and seems wholly unconcerned with justice, but rather finding the two guilty. He sends them to a prison where chaos and depravity rule, where one is forced to conform or be killed. Alejandra’s aunt later tells Grady the story of Mexico, how two brothers who’d given their money and lives to helping the poor of the country were later killed by the men they dedicated themselves to. At the culmination of his experiences Grady begins to questions the evils within himself.
There are many examples of the evils of man in dialogue. For example, "...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."