Significance Of The Western Landscape In Cormac Mccarthy's All The Pretty Horses

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Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses, written in 1992, depicts the concept of the “new west” verses the “old west” in a coming-of-age story centering on the protagonist, John Grady. McCarthy’s rough, plain, yet captivating style of writing romanticizes western landscape. The landscape, which is vividly described, is for the most part, glorified, and raises the question: is the west purely an idealized conception? The western landscape in All the Pretty Horses is romanticized and this is significant because the themes of isolation, nostalgia, and freedom are viewed pastorally as well. First, the isolation is evident right from the start of the novel, “the riders sang as they rode, nation and ghost of nation passing in a soft chorale across …show more content…

New west or old west no longer matters, which is the problem. The wilderness is shaped by one’s memory of it. Likewise, due to the nostalgic rendering of the western landscape, the landscape maintains a timelessness. Yes, the natural world evolves and constantly changes, nevertheless, it stays to its natural development, unlike civilization. When John Grady and Rawlins are in prison, the natural order keep moving forward: “Small birds come to feed in the evening cool of the open country flushed and flared away over the grasstops and the hawks in silhouette against the sunset waited in the upper limbs of a dead tree for them to pass” (McCarthy …show more content…

“He rode through a grove of apples trees gone wild and brambly and he picked an apple as he rode and bit into it and it was hard and green and bitter” (McCarthy 225-26). The apple symbolizes John Grady’s epiphany of his so-called adventure being no longer an adventure, but a struggle against the odds. He upholds the desire to break away from the new west, even though, he understands he must have responsibilities, as Alfonsa tells John Grady, “At some point we cannot escape naming responsibility. It’s in our nature. Sometimes I think we are all like that myopic coiner at his press, taking the blind slugs one by one from the tray, all of us bent so jealousy at our work, determined that not even chaos be outside of our own making” (McCarthy 241). Likewise, Mexico, the place where John Grady thought he could find the old west again, is also, shut down to its reality, “the sun descending out of the dark discolored overcast to the west where its redness ran down the narrow band of sky above the mountains like blood falling through water and the desert fresh from the rain turning gold in the evening light and then deepening to dark, a slow inkening over the bajada and the rising hills and the stark stone length of the cordilleras darkening far to the south in Mexico” (285-6). In other words, “That was not sleeping”

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