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Life Lessons Of John Grady Essay Sample

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Life Lessons Of John Grady Essay Sample

In the novel, “All The Pretty Horses”, Western cowboy life makes another name for itself. This time around, John Grady Cole shows an in-depth understanding how passion makes everything propel in a certain manner and in a particular direction. This sixteen-year old cowboy promulgates a journey towards rewarding himself with a future or with a kind of life he was taught to believe in. In the coarse of the journey to cross the borders of Mexico, he comes to realize that evil can actually take place and that desperate situations may really call for desperate measures. In life, when we experience tragedies, most often that not, it is a natural human reaction to rebel against the mere idea of it.

The perfect picture we have painted is now drenched in water, you could barely see any form or color. In this light, we are moved to become distant from ourselves and sometimes it goes to the extreme of even bringing ourselves away from where we came from and develop a selective memory- because this is the most immediate way to get by. McCarthy himself reminds us of his own life-lesson principle inculcated in the character of John Grady Cole : “There is no such thing as life without bloodshed.

The notion that the species can be improved in some way, that everyone could live in harmony, is really a dangerous idea. Those who are afflicted with this notion are the first ones to give up their souls, their freedom. Your desire that it be that way will enslave you and make your life vacuous.” (Woodward, 1992) It could be deduced that the novel was named as such because this journey of this boy teaches us that “all the pretty horses” a cowboy has ever dreamt and when they go after such may be the very reason they will not want anymore of these.

            As we are growing up, our families mould us into different personalities. We carry a sense of belonging or otherwise and however it is replayed in our years in the future, we are guided by the principle that prince and princess get married and they live happily ever after. There is a stereotype of happiness we get ourselves accustomed to and this promulgates our beliefs in what kind of life we should have. This idealism we keep also influences our decisions and marks very important events in our life that lead us to various paths of development or regression. This is the very same thing that happened to John Grady Cole, he had that vision of a life and in his journey away from San Angelo he realizes that everything he knew while growing up as a Cowboy is only half-true.

In other words, some things just do not turn out the way we hoped or wished for. The more we expect, the more frustration we are bound to encounter. As he left San Angelo towards Mexico, there was hope but along the way, John Grady sees what the real world is all about and that there is evil all around us and the moment we decide to step out of our comfort zone, we are exposed to all and nothing can actually protect us. This came as a big disappointment to him because he never expected such a dismay to his hopes.

He wanted a new beginning and most often than not, in our lives when we search for that fresh start, we realize that there was really no need for us to runaway because one way or another, fate has a way in our lives and we end up back where we started because of two things: escape and unfinished business. Running away from trouble is simply temporary bliss and it can satisfy our silence for the mean time but time will come when the past is left unsealed, it will catch up to us and we have no other choice but to deal with it. The moment that he decided to flee San Angelo, he was bounded by circumstances brought about the happening of their ranch being sold, his grandfather who just died and his mother who left him for another future.

All these came down unto him and thinking that if he gets as far as he can from where he was, he will be able to get better. It was a sudden escape for a sixteen-year-old boy who probably had a bigger future at stake in San Angelo. He took the risks. At a very young age, a very important life lesson for Johh Grady that he absorbed was the fact that risks do not make us any stronger or weaker. It merely opens us up to numerous avenues of opportunities that can shape the way we want our lives to be lived. According to Gail Morrisson (2002), “ Like virtually all of McCarthy’s work to date, “All the Pretty Horses” is permeated with a sense of loss, alienation, deracination and fragmentation.”

The sense of loss, alienation, deracination and fragmentation was brought upon the risks that he took but his decisions afterwards would make out the actual risk that he took- his character. When we are faced with troubles, our character is put to the test and we are kept abreast to all kinds of people. They all say that no one is alike but some have more similarities than the rest. In the novel, John Grady encountered people from almost all walks of life. He fell in love, he was trusted by a haciendero, he was bribed by powerful men, he was empowered by a friendship and he felt how it is to actually survive with whatever is there.

         Many cowboy stories of the West depict loyalty and romance. This novel is different according to Morrisson (1999), “Like Blood Meridian, “All the Pretty  Horses” is a western, although it is considerably gentler in tone and imbued with an archetypal aura of romance. It is rather subdued with the theme of greatness we see in a cowboy’s life. The novel shows us that John Grady Cole, just like some of us, are in search for a lot of answers and the only way to actually seize these questions would be if we actually take the risk of trying out things, of actually leaving our comfort zones. When we come across something new, it opens horizons that we have never even ever imagines. This is the good part about all the storms that come our way.

When all winds calm down and the rain stops pouring, we see everything that we never saw before because somehow it illustrates a whole new perspective on us, a fountain of chances, a ray of hope and a structure to rebuild once again – this time, the way we always wanted it to look like. When their friend Rawlins was captured, put to jail and captured, we can see that desperate situations call for desperate measures. He was compelled to give false confessions just to save his life or torment.

We are all captives of certain sins and even if we have not committed anything, we sometimes come across situations where they is no choice but to stand by survival. Whether we admit it or not, our breathing life as humans is the only item that we can protect because at the end of the day, each person is after their benefit and survival, no matter how selfless one is.  Moreover, John Grady Cole also learned that family comes before love in a lot of cases.

When Alejandra disconnects herself from John because of the father’s obvious disapproval, we can see that love is not everything. To many, some other things may be a lot more important and in this case, it is her family. In relationships such as this one that John and Alejandra was wishing to maintain, both have to want the same things for it to work and prosper. Both parties must be working at the same level to keep at it and this is obviously what their relationship did not have. Priorities map out our decisions.

         The Western cowboy life follows a certain “code”. As proven by history and probably our ancestors, when we speak of such life, we embody the idea of honor. With this honor, comes loyalty, manhood, skill, justice and responsibility. All these John Grady Cole may have had internally but they had to be nurtured and because of his risks, he was able to realize that a contemporary Western Cowboy lifestyle does not always have these, it should be in every person. When Rawlins decides to return to Texas after their Mexican jail episode, John Grady now confirms that the closest people around you are the very same people who can hurt you the most.

As relationships and friendships are established, we maintain a certain special connection with the other and these could be the exact reasons for feeling hurt and pain indirectly or directly caused by their words, actions and even decisions. John Grady expected Rawlins to take this journey with him, whatever odds they may come across. However, it seems as if this is not the case, Rawlins could not longer take on the challenges. John Grady was disappointed and may have felt betrayed.

This is what the closest people to us can do, because they know so much, because they have been around us so much, they can come out doing things recklessly and end up disappointing us. This is not to be cynical but the novel shows up that this is very plausible and it is always good to take cautions and somehow not to expect so much because it is in doing so that we get greatly dismayed by our loved ones most especially.

         As Morrisson (1999) states, “He left a boy and returns a man, but it is a poignant and sobering rite of passage that leaves him still adrift in time and space.” This proves to us that life is a continuing journey and even if at this point we seek to accept our past and turn to our future, we should keep in mind that there are still a lot of blanks to be filled and each and everyday we learn – in the hopes that this knowledge will be put to good use. We can never be ready enough to take on the challenges of life. Just like John Grady, he has definitely stepped up and matured with everything that he has gone through but still he remains to be distant because he has not realized that each and everyday, there is a big chance of him going through another Mexican Jail episode or ranch episode just maybe in different context.

It is when we have experienced many that we are truly tested. It is when our characters are tried to the brink even if we are already falling into pieces. Character is best seen during the hardest times because when we are going through turmoil, as humans we tend to be emotionally drawn to do evil just to get by. And naturally this is not the best way to live one’s life. No one is supposed to live in evil or hurt another, but the reality is some people actually get away with it.  And being on the other side of the angle, just like John Grady Cole, we need to stop despising them but trying to work against their influences would be a good start in succeeding towards change for the good.

As Morrisson (1999) enlightens us, “He has experienced first hand the fact that the chaos and anarchy, the irrationality and senselessness, of the world are perfectly capable of triumphing over love, loyalty, truth, law, justice, honor and idealism”; we conclude that bad things do happen. Its inevitable and we can not escape it but we absolutely do something about it.  As John Grady Cole leaves San Angelo in search for greener pasteurs and a new life, we see that somehow the past has a way of catching up to us. The past has always something to do with the present we have and the future we will have. Life has a way of reminding us that this is a cycle at the same time a maze and a journey as well. We need to incorporate all aspects of such to be able to survive life’s demands and needs. The supply is never enough, we have to make do with what we have to be able to either lessen or multiply the goods.

         John Grady Cole also learns all about the pressure of manhood. One of our sources, Kevin Cole (2001) says that, “ One way of gaining further insight into McCarthy’s novels is to recognize how the broken relationships between fathers and sons and the broken lines of patrilineal descent govern the development of those novels.”  The father was divorced from the mother and having no right to the ranch, his ego as a man was greatly struck and this particularly contributed to John Grady’s decision to leave San Angelo. Patriarchal influences and presence in one’s life is detrimental and it can push one’s limits to the farthest, just like how it affected John Grady.

         Throughout his journey the code that John Grady Cole disappears in idea and appears in fact. A cowboy is known to be tough but he learns the importance of silence and humility. Boasting can only get a man into more trouble. When he makes the choice of pursuing Alejandra he used minimal wisdom rather than numerous explanations. He learned through the hunger and cold that it is better to contain his emotions rather than complaining and spilling his fears unto others. He learned these ironies, very contrary to what he has been accustomed to. Most importantly, he learned that there are some battles even the toughest cowboy can not survive or win. In failing, we determine our weaknesses and put them aside and work on our strengths, as hard and idealistic as it may sound, this is as real as it gets in the real world.

         John Grady Cole also learns the value of caution. As Dan Flores (1999) exemplifies from the novel, “It is the horses who make men wild. With a horse under me, I myself am no better than a Comanche.” Sometimes we avoid the thought that it in our wanting that we find frustration. It is in what we desire that we find almost nothing. We need to be careful about the things we go after, it may look all gray and dark at this point, but it should get better. When he hit rock bottom, it is a fact that there is no other way to rise above it all. John Grady Cole may have followed the wrong path and did many for the wrong reasons but he learned at the end of it all that it just takes a little bit more or perseverance to get what we want, sometimes we need not look to far to attain them.

Also, the main characters sees that there are greater things above him and it takes time to actually tackle them down and go with their plight. As Aldridge (1994) states, “In a sense, All the Pretty Horses seems to represent McCarthy’s allegiance to the authority of the secular.” Compelled by his experiences and anger, he was immediately given the chance to prove himself and in doing so, he was surprised to see that he could still find out so much more about himself and the answers he needed were right within him. Just like the main character, we see that life has tricks on us, there is no use to condemning them.

Play it and who knows, all the pretty horses may be non-existent even, however it is the journey in finding out whether they actually exist or not is what makes the kind of person we become as we exit this lifetime. We would all like to be remembered, just like the Western Cowboys, that is why they have a very reputable image. All the Pretty Horses indeed have a way of enticing many, especially the younger ones. Anything grand is most often then not the best, but sometimes we need to realize that all the pretty horses do not entirely comprise of the good, they could still be tainted by imperfections, nevertheless,  it does not make them not “pretty”.  Everything that may look as a disappointment may also at some point and angle be an achievement in itself.

Works Cited

Aldridge, John. “Cormac McCarthy’s Bizarre Genius: A Reclusive Master of Language and the Picaresque, on a Roll.” The Atlantic Monthly, 1994, Vol. 274, No. 2.  89-92.

Arnold, Edwin. “Blood & Grace: The fiction of Cormac McCarthy.” Commonwealth, 1994, vol. 121, No. 19. 11-18.

Cockburn, Alexander. “All the Pretty Horses.” The Nation, 1995, Vol. 261, No. 4. 121.

Cole, Kevin. “McCarthy’s the Border Trilogy.” The Explicator, 1999. Vol. 59, No. 3. 162.

Flores, Dan. Horizontal Yellow: Nature and History in the near Southwest. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1999. 81.

Morrison, Gail Moore. “All the Pretty Horses: John Grady Cole’s Expulsion from Paradise.”  Perspectives on Cormac McCarthy. University Press of Mississippi, 1999. 175-185.

Woodward, Richard. “Cormac McCarthy’s Venomous Fiction.” New York Times Magazine, 19 April 1992:  28

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