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All the Pretty Horses | Study Guide

Cormac McCarthy

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All the Pretty Horses | Discussion Questions 21 - 30


In Chapter 1, Parts 1 and 2 of All the Pretty Horses, what are Rawlins's feeling about female relationships?

Rawlins doesn't seem to place a high value on female relationships, or at least not nearly as high as John Grady does. At the beginning of the book, he tries to console John Grady, who had just been broken up with by Mary Catherine Barnett, by telling him "she aint worth it. None of em are." Then, after narrowly escaping from Encantada after freeing Blevins's horse, he warns John Grady, "A goodlookin horse is like a goodlookin woman ... They're always more trouble than what they're worth. What a man needs is just one that will get the job done."

What does John Grady's final conversation with Rawlins in Chapter 4, Part 2 of All the Pretty Horses suggest about his personal growth?

John Grady's final conversation with Rawlins reveals his views have changed significantly. Rawlins asks what John Grady plans to do now that he's home and suggests he should stick around town because "this is still good country." "Yeah. I know it is. But it aint my country," John Grady responds. This is a remarkable statement considering how hard he fought to keep the farm and stay in San Angelo at the beginning of the story. In effect he is renouncing any further claim to his former family land. Arguably, this shows John Grady has grown up and moved on after his experiences in Mexico.

How is Emilio Pérez, the well-connected prisoner in Saltillo, presented in Chapter 3 of All the Pretty Horses?

Unlike most of the men in prison, who are brutish and rough, Pérez is portrayed as something of an evil genius—or at least an evil smart guy. He is articulate and worldly, and only hints at his capacity for brutal violence with oblique statements such as "If you dont show faith to me I cannot help you." During John Grady's second visit to his room after Rawlins is stabbed, he waxes philosophical about the limitations of the Anglo mind and the deficiencies of the Mexican justice system. Pérez seems to get perverse pleasure in speaking with John Grady, who tries his best to resist his cleverness and sociopathic charm.

In Chapter 3 of All the Pretty Horses, in what ways does Emilio Pérez echo the worldview of Dueña Alfonsa?

Pérez is remarkably cynical—perhaps not unsurprisingly, given he's well connected and savvy enough to have survived prison for this long. He scoffs at John Grady's assertion he'll be OK because he's innocent, informing him innocence is a privilege for those with money. "You think there are no crimes without owners?" he asks rhetorically. "It is not a matter of finding. It is only a matter of choosing." If the corrupt authorities want to implicate John Grady, they will do so whether he's innocent or not. Emilio Pérez's harsh realism echoes the worldview of Dueña Alfonsa, who tells John Grady about her disillusionment with human nature. "Some people dont have a price ... What about those people?" John Grady asks Pérez. "Those people die," he responds. His message is clear: stiff-necked morality won't save someone in a world that doesn't value morality. This observation seems like it could have been uttered by Dueña Alfonsa.

In Chapter 2 of All the Pretty Horses, what is the meaning of Don Rocha's assertion that "there is no greater monster than reason"?

This statement is a veiled warning to John Grady, who, he implies, lives life by the (dangerous) powers of reason. How else could someone like John Grady think it would actually be acceptable to get involved with someone like Alejandra, an upper-class Mexican Catholic girl? By reasoning that love isn't restrained by things like nationality or social class, that's how. Before he makes this assertion, Don Rocha explains how prior to the Mexican Revolution bright young upper-class Mexicans came back from Europe "full of ideas"—that is, reason. This couldn't save them, however; many of them were killed during or after the revolution. The implication, thus, is John Grady's reasoning has gotten him into deep trouble.

In Chapter 2 of All the Pretty Horses, what effect does John Grady's work mating Don Rocha's stallion have on the story?

John Grady's work mating the stallion with the mares takes the sexual tension in the story into overdrive and foreshadows a romantic encounter with Alejandra. The stallion is described as "lathered and dripping and half crazed," and John Grady rides him—bareback, we are told—with "the smell of the mare on him and the veins pulsing under the wet hide." The innuendo here is so thick it practically leaps off the page; if he weren't describing horses, McCarthy might rightly be said to be writing erotica. So when John Grady runs into Alejandra "in this condition," the reader gets the impression that the intensity of John Grady's passion for her has become nearly intolerable. It seems inevitable the two of them will be involved sexually in the near future.

How does John Grady react to Rawlins's aloofness after the boys get arrested in Chapter 3 of All the Pretty Horses?

John Grady understands Rawlins blames him for their arrest, but he doesn't have much sympathy for Rawlins's anger. In John Grady's view, by deciding to come to Mexico Rawlins agreed to deal with whatever came their way, good or bad. Now that the going has gotten tough, however, he seems too ready to blame John Grady and give up, a position that John Grady—who is always alert to issues related to loyalty and honor—disagrees with. "I dont believe in signing on just till it quits suitin you. You either stick or you quit and I wouldnt quit you I dont care what you done," says John Grady.

What justification does the charro give for paying the captain to kill Blevins in Chapter 3 of All of the Pretty Horses?

The captain explains the charro's motivation to the boys before they enter prison in Saltillo. He says the charro's family wanted to avenge the death of the charro's brother, whom Blevins killed while trying to get his horse back in Encantada. According to the captain, the charro spoke of "justice" and "honor of his family." The message is that for the charro's family, justice dictates an eye for an eye. Because there is no death penalty in Mexico, the charro's family seeks their "justice" through a different means. In this view the blood of Blevins must be spilled to make the world right.

What conclusion about life does John Grady come to after he kills the doe in Chapter 4, Part 2 of All the Pretty Horses?

John Grady shoots a doe at the end of his journey back to Texas. As the beautiful animal lies dying, he puts his hand on her neck to comfort her and thinks about Blevins and Alejandra and the events of the past few months. He concludes that life is a conflict between suffering and sweetness, and that so often people and things must suffer for the sake of something else. As the narrator puts it, "he thought the world's heart beat at some terrible cost and that the world's pain and its beauty moved in a relationship of diverging equity."

In All the Pretty Horses, why does John Grady stick by Blevins?

It would be hard to fault John Grady for leaving Blevins. Even before his actions in Encantada set off the chain of events that get Blevins killed and John Grady and Rawlins thrown into prison, the hotheaded kid consistently shows remarkably bad judgment. Still, John Grady doesn't abandon him, despite Rawlins's frustrated needling to be rid of him. This is because John Grady's moral code doesn't allow for abandonment, even if—especially if—things get hairy. He articulates his beliefs to Rawlins after they are arrested, telling him, "I wouldnt quit you I dont care what you done." He's speaking to Rawlins, but his philosophy applies to anyone he's involved with—especially Alejandra.

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