All the Pretty Horses


Cormac McCarthy

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Themes and Colors
The Idea of the American West Theme Icon
Romanticism and Reality Theme Icon
Innocence, Expertise, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Fate and Responsibility Theme Icon
Meaningful and Gratuitous Violence Theme Icon
Loyalty and Belonging Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in All the Pretty Horses, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Loyalty and Belonging Theme Icon

One way John Grady escapes from the constant, uncertain loop of fate and responsibility is by clinging to the value of loyalty above all else. We know from early on that John Grady is fiercely loyal to his ranch—he makes various attempts to prevent it from being sold, and finally decides that he himself must leave rather than see the ranch leave his family’s possession. For the rest of the novel, loyalty directs his actions and serves as a means for him to choose between difficult options. Another way to look at John Grady’s and Rawlins’ relationship to Jimmy Blevins, for instance, is to understand it as not just one of responsibility, but also of loyalty. Having established a kind of friendship, the boys are now obligated to do what they can to protect him. If there’s a hierarchy of loyalty for John Grady, though, Rawlins remains at the top: they’ve been friends from childhood and partners in their escape to Mexico. Rawlins feels similarly, even refusing to entertain the possibility of escaping from the prison’s hospital ward if it means leaving John Grady behind. John Grady’s loyalty to Rawlins also lasts beyond Rawlins’s own departure from Mexico, as Rawlins is the first person he returns to see back home. Their relationship seems irrevocably changed by their time in Mexico, however, particularly by their time in prison. The novel seems to say that loyalty doesn’t have to mean complete understanding, and it doesn’t imply that to be loyal to someone is to be his or her soul mate: instead, loyalty is both weaker and more powerful than this.

The importance of loyalty in the novel is underlined in a more striking way through John Grady’s relationship to horses. After escaping from prison and managing to see Alejandra one last time, he risks his life again (and nearly loses it) in his attempt to take back his, Blevins’, and Rawlins’ horses. This attempt is tied to John Grady’s loyalty to Blevins and Rawlins, but it’s more than that. He feels loyal to the animals themselves. John Grady feels comfortable around horses as he does around few other people. With his parents divorced and his ranch sold, Texas is no longer a true home for him—even at the end of the novel, he tells Rawlins that it’s “alien country” for him. But Mexico is equally foreign, and once Alejandra refuses to stay with him, there is no one place where he can belong there either. Instead, by remaining loyal to his friends and to his horse, John Grady stakes out a space of belonging. In establishing bonds between living things, then, loyalty makes it easier for John Grady to find other ways of belonging than a specific home or country.

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Loyalty and Belonging ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Loyalty and Belonging appears in each part of All the Pretty Horses. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Loyalty and Belonging Quotes in All the Pretty Horses

Below you will find the important quotes in All the Pretty Horses related to the theme of Loyalty and Belonging.
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 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.

Page Number: 177
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 4 Quotes

They were saddened that he was not coming back but they said that a man leaves much when he leaves his own country. They said that it was no accident of circumstance that a man be born in a certain country and not some other and they said that the weathers and seasons that form a land form also the inner fortunes of men in their generations and are passed on to their children and are not so easily come by otherwise.

Related Characters: Lacey Rawlins
Page Number: 226
Explanation and Analysis: