All the Pretty Horses

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John Grady Cole Character Analysis

The protagonist of the book, John Grady Cole is a sixteen-year-old from San Angelo, Texas, who enjoys working on his family’s ranch when he’s not in school. Alienated by his mother’s decision to sell the ranch, he sets off to Mexico with his friend Lacey Rawlins. John Grady has a special way with horses: he is particularly loyal to his own horse, Redbo, but he also earns respect and admiration from Mexicans for his ability to tame or “break” wild horses. John Grady holds an idealistic, romantic vision of Mexico. He doesn’t really believe anything will go wildly wrong there, though when it does, he faces the events that confront him with grit and determination. He’s naturally kindhearted, as shown in his friendliness to Blevins, but this generosity can easily become naïveté that leads to disaster. In some ways, John Grady’s development over the course of the novel can be thought of as a bildungsroman, a novel of growing up, as he learns about life and is gradually disabused of his romantic ideals.

John Grady Cole Quotes in All the Pretty Horses

The All the Pretty Horses quotes below are all either spoken by John Grady Cole or refer to John Grady Cole. 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 1 Quotes

What he loved in horses was what he loved in men, the blood and the heat of the blood that ran them.

Related Characters: John Grady Cole (speaker)
Related Symbols: Horses, Blood
Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:

John Grady has just found an old skull of a horse lying in the grass on his family's ranch, and as he looks at it he is reminded of what is so appealing to him about riding and taking care of horses. Interestingly, it is an inert, bloodless skeleton that reminds John Grady of the blood coursing through horses' veins, blood that for him symbolizes the ardent desires and courage that one needs to succeed in the American West. John Grady identifies with horses in many ways, as he measures horses so too does he measure his fellow human beings: in terms of how strong and intensely alive they are. The skull is certainly a powerful image, but it is largely important in terms of what John Grady reads into it—his romanticized view of the West colors much of what he experiences.

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They heard somewhere in that tenantless night a bell that tolled and ceased where no bell was and they rode out on the round dais of the earth which alone was dark and no light to it and which carried their figures and bore them up into the swarming stars so that they rode not under but among them and they rode at once jaunty and circumspect, like thieves newly loosed in that dark electric, like young thieves in a glowing orchard, loosely jacketed against the cold and ten thousand worlds for the choosing.

Related Characters: John Grady Cole, Lacey Rawlins
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:

This passage is typical of Cormac McCarthy's prose, with its lack of punctuation and rousing descriptions that carry the reader along breathlessly. John Grady and Rawlins have just left, late at night, to run away to Mexico. The world seems vast and empty to them, but rather than terrifying this proves beguiling to them both: they revel in feeling like the night belongs to them, and that the land over which they ride is also available for them, beckoning them in endless "worlds" of possibilities. 

As John Grady departs with Rawlins, he is simultaneously constructing a narrative about the deeper meaning of their departure. They are not just running away from home, as he sees it, but also taking part in a story of their own creation. He imagines them as "thieves" confidently riding into the night rather than two teenagers escaping their family obligations. John Grady tends to see the land of the West as wide-open, simply waiting for him to encounter adventures wherever he might find them. He has little sense at this point of the real-world compromises of this land, or even of the other people and groups with their own complicated histories also populating this space. 

Part 2 Quotes

Finally he said that among men there was no such communion as among horses and the notion that men can be understood at all was probably an illusion. […] Finally John Grady asked him if it were not true that should all horses vanish from the face of the earth the soul of the horse would not also perish for there would be nothing out of which to replenish it but the old man only said that it was pointless to speak of there being no horses in the world for God would not permit such a thing.

Related Characters: John Grady Cole, Luis
Related Symbols: Horses, Religion
Page Number: 111
Explanation and Analysis:

Luis, in the same conversation with John Grady and Rawlins as above, has already suggested that there is something shared between the souls of human beings and of horses. Here he qualifies that view, expressing an even more pessimistic outlook on the fate of humans. Even if there is something shared in these beings' souls, Luis suggests, humans fail to understand that unity. Luis also continues to use his age and lived experience not to convince John Grady and Rawlins of certain truths, but rather to show how, according to what he has learned over the years, so little about human beings can be understood at all.

John Grady is fascinated by Luis and by his knowledge of horses. He takes the opportunity to run his own theories on the souls of horses past the elderly man. However, Luis is skeptical about this desire to construct theories or play hypothetical, "what-if?" games. For Luis, the world is the way it is because of what God has ordained. God has filled the world with horses, so it will remain with horses as part of his larger plan, and it is pointless to speculate on what things would be like otherwise. The book seems to privilege Luis's point of view as someone who has slowly and painfully gained knowledge and humility over the years; but it also underlines how difficult this same process will be for John Grady, who still has the innocence of youth. 

Part 3 Quotes

But some things aint reasonable. Be that as it may I’m the same man you crossed that river with. How I was is how I am and all I know to do is stick. I never even promised you you wouldnt die down here. Never asked your word on it either. I dont believe in signing on just till it quits suitin you.

Related Characters: John Grady Cole (speaker), Lacey Rawlins
Page Number: 155
Explanation and Analysis:

John Grady and Rawlins have been captured by guards and led away from Don Hector's hacienda, quite possibly at Don Hector's command (because of John Grady's budding relationship with Alejandra). They have reached the town of Encantada, and neither of the boys knows what is going to happen to them, or even what they may be charged for. Rawlins is sulking, angry at John Grady for having gotten them both into this mess. Here John Grady attempts to defend himself through two arguments. First, he says that he hasn't changed, and indeed wouldn't know how to change if he wanted to. All they can do is accept what the world has in store for them, and react to it the best way that they know how. Second, John Grady appeals to Rawlins's sense of loyalty, which he knows is strong in his friend, and to the value of determination in refusing to "quit" each other when things become difficult.

We can make the truth here. Or we can lose it. but when you leave here it will be too late. Too late for truth. Then you will be in the hands of other parties. Who can say what the truth will be then? At that time?

Related Characters: The captain (speaker), John Grady Cole
Page Number: 168
Explanation and Analysis:

John Grady and Rawlins have been thrown in prison, where they encounter Blevins. Now the prison guards bring John Grady and Rawlins, separately, into the office of the "captain," most likely a police chief, who is attempting to get them to corroborate his story about Blevins's career stealing horses. Rawlins and John Grady both tell the truth, but that doesn't seem to satisfy the captain, as he orders the guards to whip them both.

The captain's words reveal a frightening cynicism about the very nature of the truth, and destroy any kind of idealized concept of objectivity. The way he employs the term suggests that the truth can be whatever he and John Grady decide that it is. He dangles the word "truth" in front of John Grady as a kind of bait, proposing that John Grady choose one version of the truth now, which will be better for both of them. In some ways, the captain is merely maximizing his own chances to get what he wants. But the narrative also wants to show how, in an unfamiliar world, all values that one might believe to be eternal and unchangeable are actually subject to being challenged. The captain's threat suggests that the "other parties" that have their own version of the truth could be even more dangerous to John Grady.

John Grady watched the small ragged figure vanish limping among the trees with his keepers. There seemed insufficient substance to him to be the object of men’s wrath. There seemed nothing about him sufficient to fuel any enterprise at all.

Related Characters: John Grady Cole, Lacey Rawlins, Jimmy Blevins, The captain
Page Number: 177
Explanation and Analysis:

The prison guards have loaded John Grady, Rawlins, and Blevins into a truck to carry them to some unknown place. They pause somewhere far from any civilization, and the captain takes one of the guard's guns and leads Blevins away into the woods, where he will shoot the boy. Meanwhile, John Grady and Rawlins remain in the truck, knowing that there is nothing that they can do, and until the last moment imagining that something else will happen.

This is the first moment in the book where John Grady and Rawlins are made to confront seemingly meaningless violence, spurred by rules and customs that they cannot understand, rather than merely hearing about such violence from other people. The brute force of Blevins's murder is so incomprehensible to John Grady, as shown in this passage, because it clashes with how small and unthreatening he knows Blevins to be. It is not that John Grady will mourn the loss of Blevins as a friend—Blevins is not like Rawlins to him—but he cannot understand why such an effort has been mounted to hurt and kill someone so harmless. John Grady is brought face-to-face here with the tragic gap between powerful institutions and fragile human beings, as well as the gap between his idealistic view of Mexico and the reality of the situation in which he finds himself.

You dont understand the life here. You think the struggle is for these things. Some shoelaces or some cigarettes or something like that. The lucha. This is a naïve view. You know what is naïve? A naïve view. The real facts are always otherwise. You cannot stay in this place and be independent peoples. You dont know what is the situation here. You dont speak the language.

Related Characters: Emilio Pérez (speaker), John Grady Cole, Lacey Rawlins
Page Number: 188
Explanation and Analysis:

The prison where John Grady and Rawlins are housed is supposedly guarded over by the state, but the boys soon learn that the real authorities in the jail are certain prisoners, in particular Emilio Pérez, who rules the place through bribery, corruption, and intimidation. Like the captain, Emilio Pérez expresses to John Grady a cynical, stark view of institutional reality. John Grady and Rawlins have come to recognize that even the smallest possessions, like cigarettes, are part of a dangerous, shifting economic system—yet Emilio Pérez tells them that the reality of prison life goes far beyond those material trades. The prison, he claims, is its own social microcosm with its own tribes and leaders. The two boys cannot understand this world, not only because they are Americans, but because they do not yet speak the "language" of these social relationships. Even after having confronted violence and cynicism head-on, the boys still have to be disabused of the idea that they can simply adapt to the new circumstances by following their reason, or their thoughts on what this new life is like. They can only learn "the language" through their own harsh experiences.

The Mexican does not believe that a car can be good or evil. If there is evil in the car he knows that to destroy the car is to accomplish nothing. Because he knows where good and evil have their home. The anglo thinks in his rare way that the Mexican is superstitious. But who is the one? We know there are qualities to a thing. This car is green. Or it has a certain motor inside. But it cannot be tainted you see. Or a man. Even a man. There can be in a man some evil. But we dont think it is his own evil. Where did he get it? how did he come to claim it? no. Evil is a true thing in Mexico. It goes about on its own legs. Maybe some day it will come to visit you. Maybe it already has.

Related Characters: Emilio Pérez (speaker), John Grady Cole
Page Number: 194-195
Explanation and Analysis:

Pérez is trying to win John Grady over to his side, so he continues to choose his words carefully, but as he does so he also develops a fascinating contrast between what he sees as American and Mexican ethical theories. Americans might think that Mexicans are superstitious, he says, but in fact Americans see everything as black and white, good and evil, and believe that you can simply bang evil out of something or someone, as Pérez once saw an American attack his car with a hammer out of anger since it wouldn't start. This is part of Americans' general naïveté, he believes. But Mexicans understand that evil is more clever, unruly, and thus more powerful than that: it can move "on its own legs" from person to person and from situation to situation. On the one hand, this means that a person is not inherently evil, even if he commits an evil action. But it also means that it is more difficult to track down and eradicate evil. 

I never thought I’d do that.
You didnt have no choice.
I still never thought it.
He’d of done it to you.
He drew on the cigarette and blew the smoke unseen into the darkness. You dont need to try to make it right. It is what it is.

Related Characters: John Grady Cole (speaker), Lacey Rawlins (speaker)
Page Number: 215
Explanation and Analysis:

John Grady has just killed another prisoner, and he is expressing the shock of what seems to have been an almost disembodied experience: he repeats to Rawlins that he never could have imagined doing such a thing. In claiming that John Grady had to kill the man, since he would have been killed himself otherwise, Rawlins is trying to comfort his friend, and also to in some way justify John Grady's actions.

John Grady refuses to accept any easy answers or justifications for why he killed. At this moment, John Grady's thoughts on the captain after he killed Blevins—thoughts expressed in a quotation above—come back to haunt him: John Grady has now joined the ranks of that class of murderers that he once perceived as so divided from the rest of the world. Even then, John Grady had considered the captain as possessing some kind of powerful secret, but now John Grady hardly revels in his new status—he has gained unique knowledge and experience, but has also lost a crucial kind of innocence forever. Now, though John Grady doesn't seem particularly emotional about his guilt, he is still apparently committed to bearing the burden of his actions and taking responsibility for them.

Part 4 Quotes

Because the question for me was always whether that shape we see in our lives was there from the beginning or whether these random events are only called a pattern after the fact. Because otherwise we are nothing.

Related Characters: Alfonsa (speaker), John Grady Cole
Page Number: 230
Explanation and Analysis:

Alfonsa has called John Grady to him so that he might understand that she was the one who had him freed from prison, though only on the condition that he and Alejandra never see each other again. In a long series of passages, Alfonsa attempts to justify her decision to John Grady, while also musing on her own past and the way in which she sees Mexican history and individual choice within it. Alfonsa brings up a question that has beset several of the characters throughout the novel: whether there is ultimately an underlying order to the world, or whether life is only a chaotic series of events.

For Rawlins and, at times, John Grady, this question has been closely tied to the existence and the omniscience of God: if an all-powerful God exists, then he would be the author of a pattern, which would exist. Alfonsa does not refer to God in this passage, but she too is concerned with such ideas. What is terrifying for Alfonsa is that the lack of a pattern, the existence merely of random events, would to her mean that human actions are essentially meaningless. Yet she cannot, at least here, determine whether the pattern exists or not—whether there really is a kind of meaning or purpose behind the events of life.

My father had a great sense of the connectedness of things. I’m not sure I share it. He claimed that the responsibility for a decision could never be abandoned to a blind agency but could only be relegated to human decisions more and more remote from their consequences. The example he gave was of a tossed coin that was at one time a slug in a mint and of the coiner who took that slug from the tray and placed it in the die in one of two ways and from whose act all else followed, cara y cruz. No matter through whatever turnings nor how many of them. Till our turn comes at last and our turn passes.

Related Characters: Alfonsa (speaker), John Grady Cole
Page Number: 230
Explanation and Analysis:

Alfonsa continues to speak to John Grady about her own past and her thoughts about Alejandra's future. For her these notions are inextricably bound up with the question of fate: whether there is an ultimate pattern in everything that happens, and thus whether all that happens does so for a reason, or whether events are no more than random. Alfonsa's father, for his part, does not seem to embrace the exact notion of fate that some others, like the cook Luis, have espoused to John Grady. Rather than understanding actions as driven by an external force, God or another power, Alfonsa's father sees causes and consequences as part of an unending stream of human activity: whether one tosses a coin and sees heads or tails (cara y cruz) might seem to have nothing to do with a coiner making money out of metal, and yet these two events are tied together, however distant they may seem. One particular human being enters into this stream at a given point, but it is larger than himself or herself. However, even as Alfonsa describes this viewpoint of her father's, she doesn't align herself with it entirely, complicating the book's portrayal of fate even more.

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.

The world is quite ruthless in selecting between the dream and the reality, even where we will not. Between the wish and the thing the world lies waiting.

Related Characters: Alfonsa (speaker), John Grady Cole
Page Number: 238
Explanation and Analysis:

Alfonsa finishes the story of her past to John Grady by telling him of how her father sent her off to Europe, refusing to bring her home unless she would disassociate herself from the radical Madero brothers, which she refused. As a result, she did not return home until her father, as well as both the brothers, were dead. Alfonsa recognizes now that her father was more like than unlike Gustavo, and she regrets her stubborn idealism. She has lived long enough now to understand the difference between "the dream" and "the reality": she has accepted that even the greatest idealism is no match against the ruthlessness of the world.

The way this quotation is structured, though, leaves us with little sense that Alfonsa's growing knowledge and wisdom about the way of the world, or her dismissal of youthful idealism, has anything positive or fruitful about it. She does not embrace reality as a productive, meaningful truth revealed, but rather only forces herself to come to terms with it. Indeed, she portrays this process of maturation as tragic and inevitable, taking place as a result of vast workings on the scale of life itself.

In history there are no control groups. There is no one to tell us what might have been. We weep over the might have been, but there is no might have been. There never was. It is supposed to be true that those who do not know history are condemned to repeat it. I dont believe knowing can save us. What is constant in history is greed and foolishness and a love of blood and this is a thing that even God—who knows all that can be known—seems powerless to change.

Related Characters: Alfonsa (speaker), John Grady Cole
Related Symbols: Religion, Blood
Page Number: 239
Explanation and Analysis:

Alfonsa was once a student of biology, which taught her that the way to best decide on causes and effects, and distinguish between them, was to put one set in an experiment aside to use as a control group: that is, a group that the experimenters never touch, so that they can compare it to what happens to the other sets that they do modify. This scientific method, Alfonsa argues, is useless for history, because there is never any group that remains outside historical forces: there is thus no way to know how things could have been different if certain events had never occurred. 

Again, Alfonsa expresses her deep skepticism that experience and knowledge are positive goods. She has certainly gained wisdom, but those she loved were still violently killed, and Mexican history has only grown uglier—there is no redemptive power to that experience, as she sees it. Rather than understand God as the author of a pattern lying behind everything, she sees even God as implicated in the irrational, bloody forces of human desires. The law of violence, as Alfonsa understands it, seems to be the only way that she can make sense out of human affairs—and even this law has nothing inherently meaningful behind it.

It’s not so much that I dont believe in it. I dont subscribe to its nomination. If fate is the law then is fate also subject to that law? 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 jealously at our work, determined that not even chaos be outside of our own making.

Related Characters: Alfonsa (speaker), John Grady Cole
Page Number: 241
Explanation and Analysis:

Alfonsa has explained to John Grady that she has told him about her past so that he might understand her, even if he still hates her for separating him from Alejandra. Indeed, Alfonsa argues that even though things happened outside John Grady's control, that is no excuse in his favor.

Alfonsa has already positioned herself as a skeptic with regard to the existence of fate, that is, a predetermined pattern that dictates what will happen and who we will be. Here she qualifies that view. Fate, according to Alfonsa, is something we think of as an external, independent force, and yet we often use it to assign responsibility for why things happen the way they do, just as we think of ourselves or others as responsible for what we as people do (and how we affect others). Fate, then, comes to be another way for humans to put themselves at the center of the world: rather than an escape of responsibility, it is for Alfonsa another way of considering responsibility, as people become convinced that you can trace actions back to a given agent (even if that agent is a kind of personified Fate, like the coin-maker).

Alfonsa's tone suggests that she is doubtful about this possibility, and humans don't really have control over anything—there is no "responsibility" if everything is essentially random. But Alfonsa also recognizes that it almost doesn't matter whether or not fate and responsibility exist, or whether or not she doubts their existence, since human history has proven that we cannot get away from these ideas no matter what.

He saw very clearly how all his life led only to this moment and all after led nowhere at all. He felt something cold and soulless enter him like another being and he imagined that it smiled malignly and he had no reason to believe that it would ever leave.

Related Characters: John Grady Cole
Page Number: 254
Explanation and Analysis:

Alfonsa had already told John Grady that Alejandra will refuse to be with him, but he has not fully believed it until now. They have met at a town called Zacatecas and have spent several nights together; now, after he has asked her to go away with him, she says that she loves him but she cannot leave with him. In this passage John Grady takes a retrospective look back at his life—a look that for us mirrors the events of the novel—and believes that, even if he could not see it at the time, this moment is the culmination of everything he has done. Now, however, with Alejandra refusing to be with him, John Grady does not see what else might give his life meaning as he goes forward. The "something cold and soulless" might be considered a kind of knowledge, the wisdom that comes from experiencing profound loss after the period of romantic and romanticized love that had formerly characterized his relationship with Alejandra.

In his sleep he dreamt of horses and the horses in his dream moved gravely among the tilted stones like horses come upon an antique site where some ordering of the world had failed and if anything had been written on the stone the weathers had taken it away again and the horses were wary and moved with great circumspection carrying in their blood as they did the recollection of this and other places where horses once had been and would be again. Finally what he saw in his dream was that the order in the horse’s heart was more durable for it was written in a place where no rain could erase it.

Related Characters: John Grady Cole
Related Symbols: Horses, Blood
Page Number: 280
Explanation and Analysis:

John Grady has taken the captain prisoner and the two of them are riding through the Mexican hills. He has told the captain that he will not kill him: John Grady is not like the captain. John Grady has dreamt of horses before, and here his dream becomes a kind of allegory for the ideas of destiny and order that have concerned so much of the novel. The "antique site" he dreams of is full of stones on which are written a meaning and pattern to the world, but now time and history have made that meaning unclear. The horses bear within them not any explicit meaning and purpose, but rather the memory of former times and places. For John Grady, however, this means that they do reflect a kind of order to the world. Even if he does not embrace a "solution" to the problems of violence, loss, and heartbreak that he must confront, having been fully disabused of his romantic innocence, horses present a way to accept the overwhelming nature of the world, and to trace some kind of an order through what might otherwise seem mere chaos. 

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John Grady Cole Character Timeline in All the Pretty Horses

The timeline below shows where the character John Grady Cole appears in All the Pretty Horses. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1
Loyalty and Belonging Theme Icon
John Grady Cole enters the hallway of his family’s house, which is lined with dimly lit portraits... (full context)
The Idea of the American West Theme Icon
Romanticism and Reality Theme Icon
It’s cold outside, but John Grady goes out to stand on the prairie for a long time, until he hears the... (full context)
The Idea of the American West Theme Icon
Romanticism and Reality Theme Icon
At the funeral, John Grady’s father stands by himself a little away from the others, as the women hold onto... (full context)
The Idea of the American West Theme Icon
Romanticism and Reality Theme Icon
Meaningful and Gratuitous Violence Theme Icon
John Grady finds an old horse skull in the brush and turns it over. He loves in... (full context)
Meaningful and Gratuitous Violence Theme Icon
We learn that it’s 1949, and though the house was built in 1872, John Grady’s grandfather is the first man to die in it. Before that, the original family ranch... (full context)
Romanticism and Reality Theme Icon
Loyalty and Belonging Theme Icon
John Grady meets his father in a café, where people seem to recognize them. John Grady says... (full context)
Romanticism and Reality Theme Icon
Loyalty and Belonging Theme Icon
In the next scene, John Grady and his friend Lacey Rawlins are lying outside in the dark on saddle blankets. Rawlins... (full context)
The Idea of the American West Theme Icon
Romanticism and Reality Theme Icon
John Grady returns home and walks into his grandfather’s office, where he looks at his mother’s framed... (full context)
Loyalty and Belonging Theme Icon
John Grady’s mother, referred to as “she,” switches on the light and comes into the office to... (full context)
The Idea of the American West Theme Icon
Romanticism and Reality Theme Icon
It’s autumn and there are a few warm days left, which John Grady spends drinking coffee (his father whisky) in the hotel room where his father is now... (full context)
The Idea of the American West Theme Icon
Romanticism and Reality Theme Icon
Loyalty and Belonging Theme Icon
John Grady says he should be getting back home, and as they walk into the lobby his... (full context)
Romanticism and Reality Theme Icon
Innocence, Expertise, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Over the next few weeks, it rains and floods, and John Grady’s horse Redbo has to be cajoled into directing the cattle. John Grady, Luisa, and another... (full context)
Romanticism and Reality Theme Icon
Innocence, Expertise, and Knowledge Theme Icon
John Grady goes to see Mr. Franklin, a lawyer, who tells him that the ranch is his... (full context)
Romanticism and Reality Theme Icon
Innocence, Expertise, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Loyalty and Belonging Theme Icon
After Christmas John Grady’s mother is always absent. Luisa is often crying. One morning, John Grady carries a leather... (full context)
Romanticism and Reality Theme Icon
Innocence, Expertise, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Loyalty and Belonging Theme Icon
The next day John Grady pays for a balcony seat for the town theater. At intermission he smokes a cigarette... (full context)
Innocence, Expertise, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Loyalty and Belonging Theme Icon
...morning the temperature’s still freezing and the only café open is a Mexican café, but John Grady is able to order and speak to the waitress in Spanish. He walks up Broadway... (full context)
The Idea of the American West Theme Icon
Romanticism and Reality Theme Icon
Innocence, Expertise, and Knowledge Theme Icon
John Grady and his father ride one last time together in early March, along Grape Creek into... (full context)
Romanticism and Reality Theme Icon
Innocence, Expertise, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Loyalty and Belonging Theme Icon
...“boarding” his horse, keeping it at the ranch in exchange for feeding and cleaning stalls. John Grady says Redbo wouldn’t like that. His father asks if he’s still seeing the Barnett girl,... (full context)
Fate and Responsibility Theme Icon
Loyalty and Belonging Theme Icon
That night, John Grady and Rawlins lie out beneath the stars. Rawlins asks if John Grady has told his... (full context)
Romanticism and Reality Theme Icon
Innocence, Expertise, and Knowledge Theme Icon
John Grady sees the Barnett girl (Mary Catherine) one last time in town, running into her on... (full context)
The Idea of the American West Theme Icon
Romanticism and Reality Theme Icon
Late that night, John Grady meets Rawlins in front of his house with their two horses. They ride across the... (full context)
The Idea of the American West Theme Icon
Romanticism and Reality Theme Icon
Innocence, Expertise, and Knowledge Theme Icon
...They water the horses and eat the sandwiches they’ve brought, resting under trees at midday. John Grady has only brought his grandfather’s old revolver, which he doesn’t know how to shoot. By... (full context)
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...in rolling hill country and then into a town, Pandale. They’re dirty and dusty and John Grady tells Rawlins he looks like a desperado. The woman at the deli is impressed that... (full context)
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The boys cross the Pecos River, the horses gingerly choosing their steps. John Grady says someone has been following them on horseback, but he says they should just keep... (full context)
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...if he’s following them, and the kid denies it, saying he’s going to Langtry. When John Grady asks where he got the horse, the boy says it’s his. He claims to be... (full context)
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...they should cross. Before doing so, they eat lunch under willow trees. After a nap, John Grady sees the same boy riding towards them. Rawlins says they should remount and get away:... (full context)
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...of a plain, and when Rawlins asks, Blevins says he last ate several days ago. John Grady and Rawlins tell him their names and say they’re from San Angelo, but Blevins doesn’t... (full context)
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...pole corral. They enter a store where a girl is sitting reading a comic book. John Grady asks in Spanish for something to drink, and she hands them cider, which Rawlins pays... (full context)
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...He climbs over the bench and goes out, and the owners look worried. After dinner John Grady finds Blevins sitting on the ground, and Blevins refuses to get up to sleep in... (full context)
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John Grady and Rawlins sleep in the back of the house, and John Grady says that the... (full context)
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...stare into the embers of their fire. Rawlins tells Blevins how good a horse rider John Grady is—that he can outride anyone he’s ever seen. Blevins claims he’s seen Booger Red ride,... (full context)
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...to get there—it looks like paradise. He remarks how huge a country this is, and John Grady says that the hugeness is what he’s there for. (full context)
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...persimmon trees. That night, for the first time, they hear the howls of a wolf. John Grady looks up at the constellations in the sky, picking out Orion, Cepella, and Cassiopeia, and... (full context)
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...around a fire. Rawlins asks how long they’ll last on coffee and cold tortillas, but John Grady says he isn’t worried. As they watch the sun rise, Rawlins asks if there will... (full context)
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...saddles, and smell of smoke and sweat. They seem wild and strange to the boys. John Grady watches them to see what they are thinking but can’t tell at all. After speaking... (full context)
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...the Sabinal River. He continues to refuse to answer why he’s run away, but when John Grady asks if he’s done it before, he says he has. He had gotten a job... (full context)
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...horse goes forward and Blevins falls backward into the road. Rawlins spits in disgust and John Grady curses at him to get back on the horse. (full context)
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...deaf in one ear. He says wildly that he’ll try to outride the storm, which John Grady tells him is impossible. But at the first crack of thunder Blevins rides out towards... (full context)
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...across Blevins’ horse tied to a willow tree next to a stream beside the road. John Grady rides through the willows until finding Blevins crouched under a dead cottonwood tree. John Grady... (full context)
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John Grady and Rawlins take shelter under a rock overhang. At one point they hear a horse... (full context)
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John Grady finds Blevins in the same place he left him. His clothes are washed way, and... (full context)
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...for wax. A dozen men dressed in rags are eating off clay plates beside them. John Grady greets them in Spanish and asks if they have something to eat. They gesture at... (full context)
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Blevins asks if John Grady will ask them about his horse. Rawlins says he won’t get his horse back, and... (full context)
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John Grady asks the Mexican men about the candelilla, which looks like a bar of soap. He... (full context)
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When John Grady heads back to the others, Blevins asks again about his horse, but John Grady says... (full context)
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...with Blevins sleeping wrapped in a blanket, Rawlins says he looks pitiful. He asks if John Grady has thought about Rawlins’ suggestion to leave Blevins behind. Something bad is going to happen,... (full context)
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...of the back pocket of a man bent over the engine of a Dodge car. John Grady grabs Blevins before he slides off the horse. Rawlins says they should stash the boy... (full context)
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Rawlins tells John Grady that for every dumb thing he’s ever done, there was an earlier choice that got... (full context)
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After falling asleep, they wake up to find Blevins squatting watching them. John Grady says his horse is here without a saddle, and they’ll try to help him get... (full context)
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...the road and three pistol shots can be heard from somewhere. Blevins passes Rawlins and John Grady . The two of them race up the hill, hearing shots behind them. They turn... (full context)
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...let him take the road, while they slip into the country. He gallops away and John Grady and Rawlins ride through the brush in the dark. They hear horses on the road... (full context)
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...another hill two miles away. Rawlins swears they’ll have to get past his rifle, but John Grady says he doesn’t want to shoot his way back to Texas. Rawlins says he’ll kill... (full context)
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In the morning, Rawlins goes off to scavenge and finds nopal fruit. As they eat, John Grady says the problem is that they wouldn’t necessarily recognize the three riders. The two of... (full context)
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...they cook over a fire. They’re impatient to eat. As they wait, Rawlins asks if John Grady ever thinks about dying, and if he thinks there’s a heaven. John Grady says yes... (full context)
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Rawlins asks if John Grady thinks God looks out for people, and they both agree that God does. Rawlins says... (full context)
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...each of the vaqueros tips his hat to her. Rawlins exclaims about the girl to John Grady , who doesn’t answer, still looking down the road after her. (full context)
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That evening they help drive the cattle into a holding pen. Afterward the vaqueros introduce John Grady and Rawlins to the gerente (manager), who seats them in the kitchen to ask about... (full context)
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...be good men, though he wonders if they think the two are on the run. John Grady tells him to go to sleep, but his last words are about how this is... (full context)
Part 2
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As Part 2 begins, we learn some background about the ranch where John Grady and Rawlins have arrived, the Hacienda de Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción, an 11,000-hectare... (full context)
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For two days, John Grady and Rawlins brand, castrate, dehorn and inoculate the cattle in the holding pens. On the... (full context)
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Rawlins and John Grady walk over to the kitchen, where they tell the gerente that they are amansadores, or... (full context)
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John Grady chooses a horse and hits it with his rope loop so that it bends down... (full context)
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...twenty people, including women and young children, are waiting for them back at the trap. John Grady walks up to the wildest-looking horse and ties a rope to the hackamore. He leads... (full context)
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John Grady and Rawlins walk down to the bunkhouse, and several people offer them mescal (an alcoholic... (full context)
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On the fourth day, Rawlins stays in the trap and John Grady rides one of the horses away from the ranch. Two miles above it, the girl... (full context)
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...the horses. He nods; he and the gerente look over the other horses before leaving. John Grady and Rawlins look at each other, then unsaddle the horses and head to dinner. When... (full context)
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Three days later, John Grady and Rawlins are sent into the mountains with three young vaqueros from the country. A... (full context)
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...if someone can understand one horse’s soul he can understand all horses. And men’s souls? John Grady asks. Luis says that there is not communion among men like there is among horses,... (full context)
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...the trap. On May second, the hacendado returns from Mexico City in his red plane. John Grady comes to the ranch house, and Don Héctor, a thin gray-haired man, enters the kitchen... (full context)
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Don Héctor asks why John Grady has come to Mexico from Texas. He replies that he and his friend just wanted... (full context)
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Don Héctor asks where John Grady is from, and he seems to studies John Grady. He asks if John Grady has... (full context)
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In the next scene, John Grady and Rawlins are sitting on the bunkhouse bed, and Rawlins tells John Grady it’s a... (full context)
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A week later, John Grady , Rawlins, Luis the mozo, and two vaqueros go up into the mountains. After the... (full context)
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...Sunday they ride into the town of La Vega, placing fifty-cent bets to race horses. John Grady wins, even when they switch horses. Wide-eyed country peasants watch the boys race and yell... (full context)
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...with fruit cans holding lights and colored crepe, casting shadows on the floor and walls. John Grady , Rawlins, and another boy from the ranch toast their bottles of mescal to the... (full context)
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John Grady asks Alejandra to dance, and for the first time he touches her on her small... (full context)
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John Grady rides back alone, since he doesn’t see Rawlins at the barn. A mile from town... (full context)
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John Grady asks Don Héctor if he might ride the horse, as he admires it. In the... (full context)
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John Grady and Antonio breed the mares daily for several weeks. Antonio too loves horses, and conspires... (full context)
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Sometimes John Grady wakes up early in the mornings to hear María, a house attendant at the hacienda,... (full context)
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John Grady rides back slowly on the Arabian, hoping Alejandra will come back so they can switch... (full context)
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...pictures of her taken in front of European cathedrals, and oil portraits of her ancestors. John Grady had never seen her until the week after Alejandra returns from Mexico City, when, upon... (full context)
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Alfonsa invites John Grady into the dining room, speaking with an English accent. They play chess, and John Grady... (full context)
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...doesn’t understand the grave real-world consequences of her actions. It’s not proper for her and John Grady to be seen riding together. Alfonsa says a woman has only her reputation here, and... (full context)
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John Grady and Rawlins sit on the mesa (plateau) watching a storm from the north, and John... (full context)
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Several nights later, Alejandra knocks at John Grady’s bunk. She asks what Alfonsa said to him, and John Grady tells her. She says... (full context)
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...swims out into a lake, and Alejandra follows him, her hair floating in the water. John Grady feels that the betrayal makes the moment sweeter, and when she asks if he loves... (full context)
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One day John Grady and Rawlins are sitting in the bunkhouse smoking and waiting for supper when, suddenly, they... (full context)
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After the nine days, Alejandra returns to the city. The next evening, John Grady speaks to the hacendado in the barn, but Don Héctor responds without looking at him.... (full context)
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As they play, Don Héctor, who wins easily, tells John Grady of the history of Mexico and of Alfonsa and Francisco Madero, whose brother may have... (full context)
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Later, John Grady sits on his bunk and remembers what Alejandra had said the night before—I’ll do anything... (full context)
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The next Sunday, Antonio invites John Grady to his brother’s house for dinner. John Grady tells Antonio about playing billiards, and asks... (full context)
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John Grady lies awake until dawn, and in the morning Rawlins says he looks terrible: Rawlins hopes... (full context)
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Two days later John Grady and Rawlins ride into the mountains again, camping in the same spot as they had... (full context)
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...hacienda at dark with eleven young mares. The next morning, at dawn, two men enter John Grady’s bunk with pistols and flashlights and order him to get up. They tell him to... (full context)
Part 3
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...mountains and the country they’d first crossed four months earlier. At a break for lunch, John Grady sits and watches Rawlins, who won’t meet his eyes. The guards say little to each... (full context)
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John Grady says he had asked the officials to wake Don Héctor: they said he’d been awake... (full context)
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...to hunt them, but Blevins denies it. Still, they knew there were three of them, John Grady says. But Rawlins says they wouldn’t have hunted them if they’d gotten the horse back—Blevins... (full context)
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...the penitentiary—he isn’t old enough to be hung—but Rawlins says they’ll lie about his age. John Grady tells Blevins not to listen: there’s no capital punishment in Mexico. John Grady asks Blevins... (full context)
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That night John Grady dreams of horses running in a high plain. He’s one of them, and their colors... (full context)
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...says he doesn’t know. The captain says he’s foolish. They let Rawlins go, and it’s John Grady’s turn. Rawlins says he can tell them whatever he wants—it won’t make a difference. (full context)
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The captain tells John Grady that his friend told them everything, and it would be best for him to admit... (full context)
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...a burning cigarette by his ear. He asks how old the assassin Blevins is, and John Grady says he doesn’t know. He tells John Grady to give him his billfold, and he... (full context)
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Back in the cell, the boys watch Blevins being led away. John Grady tells him they’re going to Saltillo, and it seems like the captain wants to make... (full context)
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John Grady talks with the old man, who doesn’t know what crime he’s accused of. He’s been... (full context)
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...and cursing at him. Damn you to hell, he keeps repeating, almost in tears, and John Grady tells him to let it go. (full context)
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When John Grady asks the old man if they’ve mistreated him, he waves it off: he says there’s... (full context)
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Three days later John Grady , Blevins, and Rawlins are led from their cell onto a truck. The captain and... (full context)
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They stop outside a bright blue house where an elegantly dressed man, whom John Grady calls a charro, or cowboy, comes out and gets into the front of the truck... (full context)
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...they’re going to do, and Rawlins says they won’t do anything. When he looks at John Grady , John Grady says nothing. The guard grabs Blevins’ arm, and he wrenches off his... (full context)
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...captain seems to occupy another space, the privilege to those of the “irreclaimable act”—murder—to which John Grady and Rawlins are barred access. Once someone chooses that world he cannot leave it. The... (full context)
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...papers, lost people—will arise, making trouble for everyone. As the captain is about to go, John Grady says he didn’t have to kill Blevins. The captain turns and says he’ll tell him... (full context)
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...ready one is to kill. When the fighting starts again, Rawlins says they’ll be killed. John Grady thinks they’ll either kill them or eventually leave them be—there’s no middle ground. (full context)
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...had intimated. He says he never imagined there was such a place as this, but John Grady says there must be every kind of place you can think of. (full context)
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Rawlins asks John Grady about the Spanish lingo he’s picked up here: words for cigarette butt, big shot, and... (full context)
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...a gas heater, and a carpet. He says to them that they enjoy fighting, and John Grady cuts Rawlins off to say yes, they do. Pérez says that Americans don’t stay long... (full context)
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...but they don’t have time. He can only help them if they show him faith. John Grady and Rawlins push back their chairs and rise, and Pérez says they’re very foolish. He... (full context)
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...an unknown man with a knife stabs Rawlins with an Italian switchblade. Rawlins runs to John Grady , and they cross the quadrangle to the gate shack. John Grady hands Rawlins over... (full context)
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Three days after the stabbing, John Grady arrives at Pérez’s door. Pérez asks after his friend, and John Grady says that that’s... (full context)
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John Grady asks what Pérez wants to know, and he says only what the world wants to... (full context)
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As John Grady turns to go, Pérez says he thought John Grady wanted to know what would happen... (full context)
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John Grady tries to buy a knife, but no one will sell one to him. Finally he... (full context)
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Half an hour later, John Grady heads into the dining hall for dinner. It’s Sunday, so many prisoners have eaten food... (full context)
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The boy stubs out his cigarette and John Grady hears sounds from beyond the prison walls, meaning that the dining hall is silent. He... (full context)
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John Grady accidentally drops his tray and, touching his shirt, realizes it’s sticky with blood. He backs... (full context)
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Other prisoners are still watching John Grady , but no one follows as he walks to his room with blood sloshing in... (full context)
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John Grady wakes up in a dark stone room, finding it difficult to breathe. He calls out... (full context)
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For the next three days, John Grady thinks about the terrible things probably done to his father in Goshee, and about everything... (full context)
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...carrying a leather bag comes in, saying he’s the doctor. He cuts away gauze over John Grady’s wound and rewraps the dressing over his stitches. He says John Grady is a fast... (full context)
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The next time John Grady wakes up, the man from the first visit comes in with a pile of clothes... (full context)
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Both say they thought the other had died, but then John Grady says they should sit and be quiet. It’s gray and raining outside, and some of... (full context)
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At the centro (town center), John Grady suggests they get something to eat: he has a whole envelope full of money—the envelope... (full context)
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Rawlins says he knows John Grady wants to go back to the ranch for Alejandra and for the horses. Rawlins tells... (full context)
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...eyes, cursing and saying he keeps thinking about Blevins. He looks old and sad to John Grady , and says he keeps thinking how scared Blevins was. John Grady watches him and... (full context)
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Rawlins and John Grady find a hotel room and, after showering, talk about how they’re going to get their... (full context)
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...buy Rawlins a ticket to Nuevo Laredo. They tell each other to take care, and John Grady watches Rawlins climb stiffly onto the bus. After standing for a while, John Grady turns... (full context)
Part 4
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On the other side of Paredón, the truck picks up five farmworkers, and they ask John Grady where he’s from and where he’s going. One of them, older, nods at his cheap... (full context)
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John Grady sets out the next morning along the road west, hitchhiking and stopping to bathe in... (full context)
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John Grady sleeps under a grove of trees, and the next morning hitchhikes into the town of... (full context)
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The next morning John Grady walks up to the house, where Carlos is standing outside and nods to him gravely.... (full context)
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A vaquero calls out to John Grady as he passes the bunkhouse, saying the horse is happy to see him. John Grady... (full context)
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Back at the hacienda, the other vaqueros invite John Grady to eat with them, and he tells him about everything that happened. They’re sad not... (full context)
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After dinner John Grady waits in the kitchen until María tells him that Alfonsa is in the parlor. She... (full context)
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John Grady asks why Alfonsa bought them out of prison. She says he knows that, and that... (full context)
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John Grady says he would have thought Alfonsa’s own disappointments would have made her more sympathetic to... (full context)
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...from the beginning, or whether random events shape themselves into a pattern after the fact. John Grady , in response to her question, says he believes in fate. Alfonsa says her father... (full context)
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...is true above what is useful. It is not the case that Alfonsa has rejected John Grady for being young, uneducated, or foreign. But now she sees him more clearly. (full context)
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John Grady says Alfonsa won’t let him make his case for being with Alejandra, and she says... (full context)
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The next morning, John Grady says goodbye to the vaqueros and María and then chooses a horse to ride. As... (full context)
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In Torreón, the hotel clerk tells John Grady the only place to tie his horse is in the lobby. He sleeps almost twelve... (full context)
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The next morning John Grady wakes up at six and boards a train to Zacatecas. As he eats breakfast he... (full context)
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John Grady says he must tell Alejandra what happened, everything from Blevins to the cuchillero. When Alejandra... (full context)
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Late that night they make love, and Alejandra tells John Grady that she saw him dead in a dream long ago, being carried through the streets... (full context)
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John Grady sees clearly how his entire life has led to this moment, and after it leads... (full context)
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The next morning John Grady wakes up in a green room in an unknown part of the city. He hitchhikes... (full context)
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John Grady rides all the next day towards Encantada, finally arriving to the old mud walls at... (full context)
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...are at Don Rafael’s hacienda. They all ride out the ten kilometers. At the corral John Grady dismounts, draws his pistol, and leads Rawlins’ horse through the gate. He calls out to... (full context)
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John Grady hands rope to the charro and tells him to bridle Blevins’ horse. He snaps the... (full context)
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John Grady yells to the charro to bring a saddle and bridle for his horse or he’ll... (full context)
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They set out back toward Encantada, the captain complaining about his dislocated shoulder, which John Grady ignores. Ten minutes later four riders appear galloping from behind. John Grady fires at them... (full context)
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...ride through the brush and stop to rest by a creek. The captain asks why John Grady won’t leave him here, and John Grady replies that the captain is a hostage. The... (full context)
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That night they stop to camp, and John Grady builds a fire. He sticks the barrel of the pistol into the coals, and soaks... (full context)
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...dawn they rest and drink water. The captain says he can go no farther, but John Grady says they will. They rest again further on, at which point the horses are exhausted,... (full context)
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They continue on up through the hills at a much-reduced pace. In the early evening John Grady glimpses riders about five miles away. As he sleeps, he hears the horses stepping and... (full context)
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When John Grady awakes there are three men standing over him with pistols. A man with a rifle... (full context)
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John Grady rides the entire next day with the three horses through the north country, which by... (full context)
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When John Grady wakes up he knows his father is dead. He rides on until the evening, when... (full context)
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John Grady rides out of the town and heads north, crossing the river to Texas in the... (full context)
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...him have doubts about the human race, but this isn’t one of them. That night John Grady knocks at the judge’s door. He’s invited in and is introduced to the judge’s wife.... (full context)
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The judge asks John Grady if he’d want to be a judge, and when he says no, the judge said... (full context)
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The next Sunday, John Grady is in a Bracketville, Texas café when he hears a voice on the radio saying... (full context)
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The reverend invites John Grady in for dinner. He tells him how he got started, when he realized how powerful... (full context)
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John Grady never finds the horse’s owner. In March, he heads back to San Angelo and reaches... (full context)
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It’s cool and windy the day of Abuela’s funeral, and John Grady stands across the road, apart from the mostly Mexican group. He crosses the road afterward... (full context)
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After four days of riding, John Grady crosses the Pecos River at Iraan, Texas, and thinks about the time when there were... (full context)