Plot in Cormac McCarthy’s “All the Pretty Horses”

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A follow-up to Crutches:

I’m in the middle of Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses. There’s a big middle section of the novel where “nothing” happens. I think this is intentional.  The central question at this point is why the two boys have run away to work on a Mexican ranch, and why they want to stay there instead of going home as might be sensible. The author needs us to understand what the characters want, which is just to be cowboys, to live on a ranch and work with horses.

So he describes ordinary things going on at a ranch, putting the plot on hold in the meanwhile, except for the introduction of a love interest. There may be all sorts of symbolic things going on here – breaking horses can be a metaphor for many things, and how the ranch hands treat and gain respect for the boys is also a story — but plotwise, it’s mostly horses. He makes the daily activities of a horseman interesting enough that we want to stay with the story. Once we realize that we keep coming back just to read more about working with horses, then we’ve understood why the characters do, too.

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