Masculinity In Cormac Mccarthy's All The Pretty Horses

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In Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses the ruthless, hypermasculine frontiersman of Blood Meridian has evolved over a period of one hundred years (1849- 1949) into the restless, domesticated cowboy ignorantly nostalgic for the days before barbed wire industrialization and suspicious of the social and political gains of women. John Grady Cole, the sixteen-year-old protagonist in All the Pretty Horses, aspires to embody a cowboy code of behavior, stemming from a strict tough-guy rural hypermasculinity defined by intense self-reliance and recklessness. Ultimately, his failure to do so renders him ironically heroic since success would perpetuate the reckless myth of the hypermasculine cowboy hero. In large part, John Grady’s notion of cowboy hypermasculinity rests in fiction and cinema, where Western writers like Owen Wister and directors like George Stevens created the popular culture Hollywood cowboy, itself based mostly on an abstract notion of the frontiersman. All the Pretty Horses simultaneously affirms and…show more content…
The popular culture Hollywood cowboy appropriated and commodified this hypermasculine figure, projecting an antiseptic version without all the especially gruesome violence. John Grady is a boy who has read “The Horse of America” (McCarthy, All the Pretty 116) and appears well versed in the genealogies of horses in general, and yet cannot differentiate between real horses and “picturebook horses” (16). Likely he has consumed mass quantities of popular culture and, like the rest of America, cannot differentiate between the real frontiersman and the Hollywood cowboy. Consequently, his notions of the hypermasculine cowboy likely stem from popular culture and not from the actual brutal frontiersmen
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