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Literature / All the Pretty Horses

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All the Pretty Horses is a 1992 novel by Cormac McCarthy.

The novel tells the story of John Grady Cole, who grew up on his grandfather's ranch in San Angelo, Texas. In 1949, when Cole is 16 years old, his grandfather dies and Cole learns the ranch is to be sold. With no home and faced with the prospect of moving into town, Cole asks his best friend Lacey Rawlins to join him to travel to Mexico, to seek work as cowboys. After an encounter with a peculiar 13-year-old boy named Jimmy Blevins during their trail, they find employment at a large ranch, where Cole falls in love with the owner’s daughter, Alejandra Villarreal. But Cole's romantic interest in Alejandra is not welcomed by her wealthy aunt, and that’s not the last of his troubles.

The book was adapted as a 2000 film, starring Matt Damon and Penélope Cruz, and directed by Billy Bob Thornton.


This work provides examples of:

  • Did Not Get the Girl: In the end, Alejandra decides she must keep her promise to her aunt to not see John Grady again.
  • Dirty Cop: The police captain who captures Cole, Rawlins and Blevins, kills Blevins in cold blood, and throws Cole and Rawlins to a prison full of dangerous inmates.
  • Hellhole Prison: The Mexican prison that John Grady and his friend are thrown into; they have to fend off against dangerous inmates who almost kill them.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: After John Grady kidnaps the captain who imprisoned him and Rawlins and killed Blevins, he hands him over to a group of Mexican men, and it is implied that they will kill the captain, not unlike how the captain killed Blevins. In the movie, one of them is even explicitly shown to be a man who was also imprisoned by the captain and who had previously shared a cell with Cole.
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  • Reasonable Authority Figure: The judge who grants John Grady legal possession of Blevins' horse after Blevins is killed, who also tells him later he is being too hard on himself for Blevins' death and that he must go on and live his life.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: John Grady and Alejandra. He's a poor American ranch hand, she's the daughter of the wealthy Mexican ranch owner that employs him.
  • Translation Convention: Averted in the novel, as is common in the works of Cormac McCarthy. The novel features long passages of untranslated Spanish.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The captain kills Jimmy Blevins, who is stated to be around 13 years old.

Alternative Title(s): All The Pretty Horses