All the Pretty Horses Summary

All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy describes the events that are experienced by the 16-year-old John Grady after he sets out on an aimless journey on the back of a horse. The scene starts off with John’s grandfather’s funeral in the year 1949. Tragedy strikes immediately after this death as John’s father falls seriously ill after having served in World War II, which had taken a massive toll on his health, and his mother is obliged to sell off the ranches after her father passes away. John Grady loved nothing more than the ranches and the cowboy lifestyle which endeared him to freedom at the closest proximity. John’s agony in the unfavorable situation teamed with his prepubescent drives made him run away from home with his friend Rawlins. Both had decided to go far off on horseback, trying to live and reminisce the idealistic, picture-perfect lifestyle of a cowboy and ride far towards the Mexican border.  

As they proceed on with their journey, John and Lacey come across another kid named Jimmy Blevins. After finding out about the expedition that John and Lacey were proceeding on, Jimmy pestered them to let him join. The scenario resembled that of a younger sibling always wanting to tag along with the older one’s plans. John and Rawlins did not trust the kid, who claimed to be 16 years old but looked 13. Also, the fact that his name resembled that of a famous radio jockey also came off eerie. To top it off, Jimmy also brought a very extravagant looking horse which set the other 2 boys in doubt. Despite both the boys’ distaste in the little kid joining them, Jimmy does it anyway and hence, the story of the journey becomes of the 3 boys.

The understanding between these teenage boys was not the best. They kept fighting over trivial things, just as little bickering siblings would. And without the supervision of an adult, these fights never really stopped properly. They find out that Jimmy Blevins was really good with shooting; he had a great eye for aiming. Because they were quite literally travelling, there was no luxury of eating delicious home cooked food. They would usually resort to hunting down small animals like rabbits and roast them on a fire to make a tummy-filling supper out of them. Amidst all this, the boys had also witnessed how good Jimmy was with skinning and roasting rabbits as well since he was the one who would always prepare food for all of them. They have their share of harmony in their path to the edge of Mexico until one day, when they all encountered a lightning storm in their route. This terrorized Blevins so that the poor boy panicked which led him to stripping off his clothes and running off to hide, ditching his own horse. Later the boys decide to enter Encantadas and find his lost horse. They eventually find it but someone had already taken ownership of it, presuming it was abandoned. This made the boys decide to steal back the horse since Jimmy was the rightful owner and they understood that the niceties surely would not let them have the horse as no one would believe it belonged to him. Despite Rawlins voting against this, the other two stole the horse and ran away. In the process of eloping with the horse, they were being chased by the people who had caught them in the act. This had caused massive panic amongst the kids which eventually resulted them in splitting up in their routes: Blevin goes off alone and John and Rawlins go together. John and Rawlins keep proceeding south as going back to the other route will only be a waste of time. On their way they came across an extraordinarily gorgeous cattle ranch named the Hacienda de Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción, owned by one Don Héctor Rocha y Villarreal. As both of the boys had a love and passion for ranching, they immediately applied for a job there and eventually got in. During their time of services, they successfully wooed the people with their skills of breeding horses, something that they always wanted to do. Amongst all of these, romance in no way was left behind. John had started to develop interest in the Don’s gorgeous daughter Alejandra. But this romance remains short-lived as Alfonsa, a notorious great-aunt of Alejandra, warms John to maintain a distance with her as they were not of the same level in terms of social class. This however, did not change how John felt for Alejandra, and he continued to be in love with her which made him do little gestures of romance for her. This does not go too well for long since the news reaches the Don, (Alejandra’s father) and of course, like a typical father, he is infuriated. Since Don was very powerful and influential, he had decided to hand over both the boys to the corrupted and deluded police and had asked for them to punish the boys. Surprisingly, as the two were jailed, they were put in for suspicion for associating with a known horse-thief who went by the name Jimmy Blevins. The two boys were constantly tortured to let out the confession of a crime they had not done. It seemed like the detour path of Jimmy led to the city itself and that Jimmy wanted to take back his gun and even take revenge while at it. It was evident in his reports that he had shot the people who had claimed his stolen horse as theirs. After the boys meet Blevins in jail, they are set for a trial. During the trial, they were all sentenced to be sent to the prison of Saltillo. Because Blevins had killed many people, shot them dead mercilessly for a stolen horse, he was sentenced to death despite capital punishment being illegal in the respected time frame. This had left the two boys in shambles as they realized one of their own had been killed.  Life in prison was too hard and challenging for these teenagers as they were constantly being threatened by the other prisoners. John even had to come across a life-threatening attack which had required him to kill the offender for the sake of his own life.

In the last scene, the boys are released, thanks to the money Alfonsa had kept for the sake of Alejandra. Alfonsa knew very well that John would have been perfect for Alejandra but only restricted them because the women of such a lineage had a reputation to uphold. After their release, Alfonsa made John promise to never see Alejandra again and this bargain truly broke his heart. After their prison release, Rawlins had decided to set off back to Texas and heal from all the tortures they had been through. John, on the other hand, wished to spend one last day with Alejandra before departing for good. Even though Alfonsa showed up to give him a long speech and advice about the cruelty that resided in the world which overshadowed humanity in countless ways, Alejandra also came to have their farewell memorably. After that John had decided to take hostage the corrupt captain who had taken them to the prison without any context. He had also reclaimed his horses. A strange encounter had taken place with John while he was taking the captain hostage. A few men who had crossed paths with him had decided to take the captain along with them without providing any proper explanation to John. They had also decided to leave John back, not harming him in any way, and had left with the captain. John, being unable to process this had set out towards Texas with his reclaimed American horses.

When he went back to Texas, he realized that there was no home left. His father who had been seriously ill after the war had passed away. His mother also was not doing too well on her own and the ranch was eventually sold. The only thing that was left to do was give back Rawlins the horses that were rightfully his. But even the friendship did not seem like anything to him, as Rawlins acted as a complete stranger with John. Starting from the rush of running away from home to the array of events that were resulting in corrupted or ancient mindsets, John had to face a great deal of unfair treatment. His friend Rawlins who had been awkward with him had been tortured to the point where he had to accept the false accusations placed on them. The love of his life had to choose her family over him even though they were in love with one another only because this was their family expectation, and it had shattered John entirely. The story, in the end, closes with John riding, once again on horseback towards the west hoping to find a newer place which he can call home.