All the Pretty Horses

The Constant Progression of Society and the Futility of Dreams 12th Grade

Cormac McCarthy’s ‘All the Pretty Horses’ exposes the futility of clinging to “phantom” dreams which are ultimately “falling away” as a result of the inevitable progression of society. McCarthy emphasises that protagonist John Grady Cole is unable to achieve the idealistic life of an American cowboy of the ‘Old West’ and is instead left adrift and disillusioned, wondering “what happens to country” and mourning a bygone era. ‘All the Pretty Horses’ further illustrates his powerlessness in the ‘adult’ world.

McCarthy's depiction of John Grady's reflections in his grandfather's office demonstrates the unrelenting modernisation of society and the hopelessness of longing for a past American era, embodied to John Grady Cole in the life of his grandfather. The use of polysyndeton in McCarthy’s description of how John Grady “entered his grandfather’s office and went to the desk and turned on the lamp and sat down” builds momentum in the beginning of the passage. “September 13th”, the date of his grandfather’s death, forms an abrupt end to this momentum, underscoring its significance for John Grady as the demise of his chance of running the family ranch like the quintessential American cowboy. John Grady Cole’s yearning for the past is...

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