All the Pretty Horses

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Gustavo Madero Character Analysis

Francisco’s brother, another historical figure who sought to remake Mexico through progressive social reform. In the novel, both and he Alfonsa suffered physical accidents and bonded over their suffering: though they were never engaged and though he suffered a violent death in the Revolution, she has remained in love with him to this day.

Gustavo Madero Quotes in All the Pretty Horses

The All the Pretty Horses quotes below are all either spoken by Gustavo Madero or refer to Gustavo Madero. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Idea of the American West Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Vintage edition of All the Pretty Horses published in 1993.
Part 2 Quotes

They went to France for their education. He and Gustavo. And others. All these young people. They all returned full of ideas. Full of ideas, and yet there seemed to be no agreement among them. How do you account for that? Their parents sent them for these ideas, no? and they went there and received them. Yet when they returned and opened their valises, so to speak, no two contained the same thing. […] People of my generation are more cautious. I think we dont believe that people can be improved in their character by reason. That seems a very french idea.

Related Characters: Don Hector Rocha y Villarreal (the hacendado) (speaker), Gustavo Madero
Page Number: 145-146
Explanation and Analysis:

Don Hector, the owner of the hacienda, has invited John Grady into his billiard room and is discussing the history of his family and of Mexico. These histories are intertwined, since Hector's mother Alfonsa may have once been engaged to Gustavo Madero—Gustavo's brother Francisco was the first popularly elected president of Mexico, but waves of violence ultimately resulted in the death of both brothers. Here, Don Hector contrasts his own pessimism with the idealism of an earlier generation, which learned radical ideas from France (long a hotbed of revolutionary activity). For Don Hector, at least, those ideas failed, since instead of resolving Mexico's issues they only fostered greater disagreement; indeed, ultimately they fostered only greater war and violence.

In a way, Don Hector's story rewrites the book's emphasis on individual growth, and the replacement of a romantic view of the world with an understanding of reality, on a broader scale—that of an entire society. He argues that the knowledge and idealism gained by powerful ideas can be harmful, and is skeptical that "reason" alone can change people's minds or improve them. At the same time, Don Hector is not just giving John Grady an abstract history lesson. He knows that he is taking a risk by inviting a young American into his home, especially since he knows that his own daughter Alejandra is headstrong and independent. His words thus also have personal implications, prodding John Grady to have a sense of humility as he enters into this complex world.


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Part 4 Quotes

He said that those who have endured some misfortune will always be set apart but that it is just that misfortune which is their gift and which is their strength and that they must make their way back into the common enterprise of man for without they do so it cannot go forward and they themselves will wither in bitterness.

Related Characters: Alfonsa (speaker), John Grady Cole, Gustavo Madero
Page Number: 235
Explanation and Analysis:

Alfonsa tells John Grady of a severe accident she suffered to her fingers as a teenager, an accident that made her, in the eyes of society, much less appealing as a marriageable young girl. However, Gustavo Madero, recently returned with his brother Francisco from Europe, was one of the few who continued to call on her  and speak with her. He had a glass eye from an accident of his own, and it was Gustavo who cheered Alfonsa by talking of their shared misfortunes, and of the strength that they can draw from it. 

In some ways, Gustavo's sense of those struck by misfortune as "set apart" recalls the way John Grady perceives those, like the captain, who have murdered. The difference in Gustavo's opinion is that he stressed the need to immerse oneself once again in the "common enterprise" of human activity, so as not to become embittered and isolated. Alfonsa drew solace from Gustavo's words because they seemed to suggest that meaning could be drawn from an apparently meaningless, painful accident. In addition, his words tied the two of them together as people who had experienced more than others. Especially since Gustavo would later die a horrible, violent death, Alfonsa continues to remember his emphasis on courage and constancy, and his attempt to draw meaning from tragedy and violence.

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Gustavo Madero Character Timeline in All the Pretty Horses

The timeline below shows where the character Gustavo Madero appears in All the Pretty Horses. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 4
The Idea of the American West Theme Icon
Romanticism and Reality Theme Icon
...with European visitors and orchestras. When she was seventeen, the two oldest boys, Francisco and Gustavo, returned from studying in Europe and the United States. Francisco set up schools for poor... (full context)
Romanticism and Reality Theme Icon
Innocence, Expertise, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Meaningful and Gratuitous Violence Theme Icon
Alfonsa was especially attracted to Gustavo, who had a glass eye from an accident, and with whom she talked for hours... (full context)
The Idea of the American West Theme Icon
Romanticism and Reality Theme Icon
Loyalty and Belonging Theme Icon
...Díaz. He was arrested and forced to flee to the United States, but he and Gustavo returned with guns and the revolution began. Meanwhile, Alfonsa was sent to Europe. Her father... (full context)
Romanticism and Reality Theme Icon
Innocence, Expertise, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Meaningful and Gratuitous Violence Theme Icon
...for he was constantly surrounded by schemers. Ultimately, General Huerta plotted against him with rebels. Gustavo and Francisco were arrested, and Gustavo was turned over to a mob, where he was... (full context)