All the Pretty Horses

Myths Revealed: Smoking Kills and the Western Myth is No More!

Although smoking of the past was viewed as glamorous and romantic, its cancerous, harmful effects are now a common fact. Similarly, in Cormac McCarthy’s novel All the Pretty Horses, the consistent smoking throughout the novel juxtaposes the negative effect of smoking with a naïve faith in the American western myth. The recurring motif of smoking in the novel serves to portray both the romanticism behind blind faith in the Western myth and the stark realities of its modern failure.

In the relentless motifs of smoking, it’s hard to deny that smoking has a deeper, symbolic meaning in All the Pretty Horses. The friendly dialogues and cliché beginnings that take place while smoking express the poignant communion between characters before the disappointment of the western myth is discovered. John Grady and his father meet in a café where they hardly talk; during this awkward dinner, his father feels as though he has failed his son. Throughout this first scene where the characters smoke, John Grady’s father “got another cigarette and tapped it against the lighter,” and as Grady contemplates about his future “his father smoked.” This father/son conversation conveys the intimate rapport of characters before the demise of the myth....

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