This article focuses on the relationship of four Mexican characters in Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses and their rhetorical use of the Mexican Revolution in conversation with John Grady. Rather than these characters being shaped by the revolution, analysis of their historical embellishments, omissions, and fabrications show them to instead imagine the revolution as a history that validates their individual perspectives. In so doing, they reflect John Grady’s desire to imagine a mythical cowboy past that can be lived in Mexico. These similarities therefore suggest that John Grady’s cowboy fantasies arise from a universal human desire rather than the flaws of an individual person, age, or country. By John Grady’s ultimate removal from Mexico and confession to the Texas judge, he may in fact be the only character in the novel who attempts to resist the universal impulse to turn history into self-justification.

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