The Symbolism of Horses in All the Pretty Horses

April 27, 2022 by Essay Writer

Freedom can be interpreted into various of meanings. To have freedom is to live in the moment, without regretting the past or anticipating the future. To have freedom can also mean to be in the state of not being subject to or affected by undesirable things. Freedom requires an individual to overcome his or her personal obstacles. After freedom, comes dreams and aspirations. In his novel, All the Pretty Horses, Cormac McCarthy symbolizes horses to highlight the deeper meaning of the novel: the idea that freedom must be attained to fulfill an individual’s dreams. McCarthy uses the symbolism of horses to convey the idea by emphasizing horses’ significance to the characters and the work as a whole. John Grady Cole seeks for a romanticized western life, so he escapes Texas in order to be liberated in Mexico and live the cowboy lifestyle he always dreamed of. Horses are used as machines of mobilization, both literally and figuratively, to help convey the said meaning. Literally, horses are used as transportation to assist Cole’s search for freedom.

Figuratively, horses share a spiritual connection of freedom with Cole. For example, McCarthy states that “what [Cole] loved in horses was what he loved in men, the blood and the heat of the blood that ran them” (McCarthy, 6). McCarthy demonstrates that Cole is loving and passionate towards horses as he is with people because of their livelihood and essence. He embarked on his journey to Mexico primarily because he aspired to be a part of something more naturally spirit, and have the ability to be free and live in the presence like horses. However, Cole loses his freedom when he is incarcerated in prison. After he is bailed out, he is physically free, yet at the same time feels figuratively captive due to the absence of his horses. He goes to the ranch and reclaims his horses and, in turn, his sense of freedom. By symbolizing horses and operating them as movers of the work, McCarthy calls attention to the idea that freedom must be attained to fulfill an individual’s dreams. Furthermore, horses are used not only as driving forces of the story and the overall meaning of the work, but also as obstacles in developing one’s freedom. John Grady Cole, being a cowboy, is inseparable from horses because in some ways, horses make the cowboy. McCarthy exemplifies this when he asserts that “that night he dreamt of horses in a field on a high plain… and in the dream he was among the horses running and in the dream he himself could run with the horses…and there was nothing else at all in that high world and they moved all of them in a resonance that was like a music among them and they were none of them afraid horse nor colt nor mare and they ran in that resonance which is the world itself and which cannot be spoken but only praised” (McCarthy, 161). This unifying symbol of horses portray Cole’s desire to be free; desire to be free from fear; desire to be running freely in the wild like majestic horses. Cole can live his dream as a cowboy only if he is spiritually free by unifying with horses.

Nevertheless, horses are represented as personal challenges that Cole must overcome to reach complete freedom. For instance, Cole wanted to prove himself and “make em believe” that he is a master horseman to the ranch owner and the ranch owner’s brother (McCarthy, 103). To do that, him and his friend, Rawlins, needed to break a group of sixteen horses in four days, in which they accomplish. In this situation, horses were used as a personal obstacle to Cole so that he may be free from pressure and be free to advance forward in his aspirations without worries.In conclusion, Cormac McCarthy uses the symbolism of horses in All the Pretty Horses to emphasize the deeper meaning of the novel: freedom must be acquired to reach an individual’s dreams and desires. He does this by demonstrating horses’ importance to the characters and the work as a whole. Horses symbolize freedom, unity, the connection between the characters, the connection between the past and the present, etc. McCarthy combines all these elements to underline the said meaning by relating their importance to the characters and the overall work as a whole. For instance, horses are important to John Grady Cole because they help him identify freedom, both literally and figuratively, to achieve his dreams of living a romanticized western life.


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