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All the Pretty Horses | Study Guide

Cormac McCarthy

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All the Pretty Horses | Quotes


The riders of that lost nation came ... pledged in blood and redeemable in blood only.

Narrator, Chapter 1, Part 1

The narrator points out that Indians once ruled over the area of west Texas where John Grady's family ranch is. They righteously fought to preserve their society but sacrificed countless people in their futile attempt to do so.


What he loved in horses was ... the heat of the blood that ran them.

Narrator, Chapter 1, Part 1

The narrator describes one of the reasons why John Grady is so infatuated with horses: They share certain human traits that he finds worthy.


Drinkin cactus juice in old Mexico ... What do you reckon they're sayin at home about now?

Lacey Rawlins, Chapter 1, Part 2

The boys feel lightness and exuberance once they first enter Mexico. They have completely discarded their responsibilities and are free to roam around and drink alcohol ("cactus juice") without any cares.


A man may lose his honor and regain it again. But a woman cannot. She cannot.

Dueña Alfonsa, Chapter 2

Dueña Alfonsa points out the sexist double standard in Mexican society. Men can sleep around and engage in bad behavior but will only be temporarily harmed. Women, however, are expected to be completely virtuous. More specifically, young women must be seen as virginal; if they are thought not to be, they are given no chance to regain their position.


Beware, gentle knight. There is no greater monster than reason.

Don Héctor Rocha y Villareal, Chapter 2

Don Rocha says this to John Grady at the end of their pool game, during which Don Rocha explains and justifies the rigidity of Mexican social norms. This is a warning against trying to change things, even if they seem wrong. Like Dueña Alfonsa, the lesson he learned from the Mexican Revolution is that change can be costly, even lethal.


We can make the truth here. Or we can lose it.

The Captain, Chapter 3

In the captain's view, the "truth" is not a factual account of something but simply a convenient story. He says this to John Grady in an attempt to get him to pay his way out of prison. If he doesn't, he says, some other "truth" will find John Grady—and it won't be in his favor.


All over a goddamned horse.

Lacey Rawlins, Chapter 3

In this pithy and darkly humorous remark, Rawlins—who is incarcerated in Saltillo with John Grady—expresses his frustration and amazement at the series of unfortunate events that Blevins's raid on his horse has unleashed.


In the end we all come to be cured of our sentiments.

Dueña Alfonsa, Chapter 4, Part 1

Dueña Alfonsa says that one way or another our fantasies about how things are or should be eventually give way to reality—how things are. She makes this disillusioned (albeit insightful) observation after years of witnessing heartbreak and suffering.


It was good that God kept the truths of life from the young ... or ... they'd have no heart to start.

Narrator, Chapter 4, Part 2

The narrator captures John Grady's changed perspective, which he has developed after breaking up with Alejandra and experiencing prison. He has finally come to accept the world on its own terms, but he is sad that doing so requires a loss of innocence. However, he is grateful that God gives children some time to be happy and ignorant.


I got no reason to be afraid of God. I've even got a bone or two to pick with Him.

John Grady Cole, Chapter 4, Part 2

In answering the captain's query, "Are you no afraid of God?" John Grady gives a telling response. His defiance reveals his deep anger over his forced separation from Alejandra. If there is a God, John Grady seems to be saying, He's not the all-perfect being the character had been led to believe He is. After all, what sort of God would keep him apart from his true love?


He held out his hands ... to slow the world that ... seemed to care nothing for the old or the young or rich or poor or dark or pale or he or she.

Narrator, Chapter 4, Part 2

John Grady experiences sadness and despair after the death of Abuela, a woman who helped raise him and one of the last links to the Grady family ranch. It captures his feelings about the world's inexplicable, unstoppable cruelty.

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