Describe the various issues John Grady has with his mother. What is the source of his problems? Does John Grady have any other mother figures in the novel?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

All the Pretty Horses is an award-winning novel by American author Cormac McCarthy. Set in 1949, it tells the story of John Grady Cole, a teenage boy who, upon learning the ranch where his grandfather raised him will be sold, runs away to Mexico. He eventually finds work as a cowboy and proves he has an uncanny ability to deal with horses. However, his infatuation with the boss's daughter ultimately leads to problems.

The story touches on themes of loss, suffering, and loneliness and explores the dichotomy between realistic and romantic portrayals of human interaction. These themes all play into John Grady's relationship with his mother, who remains nameless and appears only briefly in the novel's opening.

John's issues with his mother are numerous, starting with the fact that she divorced his father when John was very young and abandoned him to be raised by Louisa, the cook at the ranch where he grew up, all in the selfish pursuit of acting fame. She never tried to have a relationship with him, leaving them strangers and filling John with a repressed loneliness.

His mother cared little for her family or life on the ranch—things that John loved and found important, which only increased their emotional disconnect. She comes across as distant, absent, and more engrossed with social status than mothering. Her selfish behavior simply doesn't play well against John's code, which values honor, loyalty, and responsibility.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial