Ubiquitous Love In the novels, The Road and All the Pretty Horses, by Cormac McCarthy, McCarthy shows through symbolism and setting, that ever-present love is a basic human need. In The Road, the boy symbolizes faith, and is the source of never-ending love. All the Pretty Horses, the horses symbolize an unfallen spirit, and is the basis of a deep love. In The Road, the desolate and godless world proves to be unforgiving, yet there is a beacon of light and love found through the boy. In All the Pretty Horses, the beautiful yet disappearing Wild West is a source of pain, but also love.
McCarthy uses symbolism in both of his novels, to show an underlying importance, and to further enhance his overall theme of needing something concrete to love. In The Road, McCarthy shows how a father and son’s relationship is based off of the father’s unconditional love for the boy. McCarthy writes; “Can I ask you something? Yes. Of course you can. What would you do if I died? If you died I would want to die too. So you could be with me? Yes. So I could be with you. Okay” (McCarthy 11). This quote dives deep into how the man feels about the boy.
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Through this quote, the man fully expresses that he would not want to live if he had to live without the boy. The boy proves here to be the man’s only hope and the source of what keeps him going. The boy symbolizes faith in a godless and desolate world. In All the Pretty Horses, horses hold deep importance and meaning for John Grady Cole as he adventures away from home. McCarthy writes, “What he loved in horses was what he loved in men, the blood and the heat of the blood that ran them” (McCarthy 7).
In this quote, John Grady Cole simply, but quite deeply displays his undeniable love for horses. John Grady Cole goes as far as to say that he loves horses equally as much as he loves mankind, and that both horse and man have similar qualities. McCarthy gives great symbolism to the horse, as it is being compared to mankind. Horses symbolize an unfaltering spirit that John Grady Cole so dearly idolizes as he experiences pain and anguish while his beloved Wild West slips through his fingers.
The horses are the only thing that John Grady Cole can hold onto from the Wild West. He will hold on strong, no matter what happens to him, and will love horses as he loves mankind. In both The Road and All the Pretty Horses, McCarthy symbolizes holding onto something and never wanting to let go in both the boy and the horses. The boy and the horses prove to be something that is ever-present that the main characters in the novels can love unconditionally. McCarthy uses setting to further enhance plot and the theme that ever-present love is a basic human need.
In The Road, McCarthy creates a desolate and destroyed world that the man and the boy find themselves trapped in. McCarthy writes, “When he woke in the woods in the dark and the cold of the night he’d reach out to touch the child sleeping beside him. Nights dark beyond darkness and the days more gray each one than what had gone before. Like the onset of some cold glaucoma dimming away the world. His hand rose and fell softly with each precious breath” (McCarthy 1). In this quote, McCarthy sets the stage for what the world looks like.
He describes it as extremely dark, and uses the simile of glaucoma to physically describe the Man and Boy’s experiences. The sight of this new, harmed world basically deteriorates your sight, as the world is no long worth looking at. McCarthy also uses strong and consistent word choice with dark, darkness, gray, cold and dimming. These words give rise to the depressing setting that the Man and the Boy are in. Also in this quote, describes the man’s love and protectiveness for the boy.
McCarthy uses juxtaposition here to show that despite the dark, dreary and ever discouraging world they are in, there is a strong and deep love that can overcome any type of desperation. In All the Pretty Horses, McCarthy paints a beautiful country whose culture is slowly diminishing. McCarthy writes, “They rode out along the fence line and across the open pasture-land…The light fell away behind them. They rode out on the high prairie where they slowed the horses to a walk and the stars swarmed around them out of the blackness.
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” (McCarthy 30). In this quote, McCarthy sets up John Grady’s world with incredible imagery, describing the open fields, prairies and the abundance of stars that consume them. John Grady’s world is picturesque and seems quite perfect as the feeling of this quote is quite calming.
But, in the face of this beauty, John Grady is still faced with the ever-present disappearance of the Wild West culture. Although McCarthy finds sadness in the beauty, John Grady is yet again placed with his horses. McCarthy describes the men and their horses as “they” showing an unbreakable bond. In both The Road and All the Pretty Horses, McCarthy uses contrasting settings to ultimately unite them by showing that ever-present love can be found no matter where you are. In the novels, The Road and All the Pretty Horses, McCarthy shows through symbolism and setting that ever-present love is a basic human need.
He cleverly displays this by providing similar and contrasting elements. Humans need to know that they have something constant and concrete to love in order to survive. People tend to struggle when faced with challenges alone. The presence of something to love; whether it is a son, or a horse, is essential. This love is what drives the human race to overcome obstacles and barriers throughout life. McCarthy, Cormac. All the Pretty Horses. New York: Knopf, 1992. Print. McCarthy, Cormac. The Road. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006. Print.