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Cormac McCarthy’s All of the Pretty Horse, Essay Example

Pages: 2

Words: 535

Essay

Cormac McCarthy’s All of the Pretty Horses presents the modern manifestation of ideal manhood in western society through the myth of the sacred cowboy. The protagonist John Grady Cole strives to become a cowboy engaged in holy communion with mother nature to tame the wilderness. Taming the wild is necessary so that Cole can raise cattle through the eradication of the buffalo population. The cowboy typifies one of the most revered myths in American discourses because he embodies the combination of Manifest Destiny, American exceptionalism, democracy at the frontier. rugged individualism and the conquest of and communion with nature. Moreover, the cowboy symbolizes the hegemony of the white race over all others rendered subaltern. Within this cultural landscape, the cowboy is rendered iconic as   the embodiment of America as a nation, although McCarthy’s novel uncovers how false and fragile the life of a cowboy truly is. Cole so fervently desired to become the cowboy buried away in a mythic American past, hoping that a return to innocence would bring meaning to his life. Within this narrative about national identity and culture is the notion of religion within a western setting, and it pervades the novel through various descriptions and dialogue between the characters.

John Grady and Rawlins embark on a journey across the farmlands and deserts, which propels them to reflect on society and the world around them. As such, the author narrates their journey of self-discovery and coming-of-age as they immerse themselves into the rough and wild terrain that almost seems mythical.  It is within this setting that the two characters discover a strange religion within the souls of the horses there and when conversing with a Christian God. There are various allusions to the Bible throughout this work, as John and Rawlins often discuss God and converse about death despite the fact that they deny that they are fervently religious. Although they repudiate structured religion due to the lack of freedom within them, they nonetheless discuss God’s role in their lives and grapple with it. Beyond God as being a part of the religion in the novel, horses retain a spiritual and religious component of the novel. Various times in the novel, horses are compared humans and are associated to the mythical wild west of the past that was so free and innocent. They constitute an important facet of the cowboy religion, and in one conversation between the two protagonists and some Mexican ranchers by the fireside, they wax poetic about how spiritual horses are. One of the ranchers tells the two cowboys that he once rode a horse during battle, and when the horse died, he was able to see their souls. The notion of horses’ souls being interconnected is juxtaposed with the Christian idea that human souls are fated to go to heaven or hell, represents how Christianity structured the characters’ worldviews. John then probes the rancher about what would transpire if horses went extinct, which itself is an apocalyptic notion that suggests such an event would be unusual and freightening just as it would be if all humans ceased to exist. The rancher then states that there is no point to portend such events because God would never that to happen (McCarthy 95). Thus, horses are sacred and vital to the lives of cowboys and for the natural order to be preserved.

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