What is a good example of a literary device in Cormac McCarthy's book All the Pretty Horses?

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McCarthy's prose is dense with figurative literary devices. The examples below are just a small selection.

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...

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McCarthy's prose is dense with figurative literary devices. The examples below are just a small selection.

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 and they rode at once jaunty and circumspect, like young thieves in a glowing orchard

This first example, from early in the novel, describes Rawlins and John Grady riding towards Mexico. Rawlins and Grady are, metaphorically, raised into the "swarming stars," so that they ride among the stars and not "beneath" them. Stars often symbolize fate, or destiny, but here Rawlins and Grady are not "beneath" the stars and governed by them but are "among" them as equals. At this point in the novel they feel free, and as if their fate is in their own hands. There is also a simile in the above quotation, as Rawlins and Grady are compared to "young thieves in a glowing orchard." This simile alludes to the fact that the men do not belong "among" the stars. Their proper place is "beneath" them.

. . . for a moment he held out his hands as if to steady himself or as if to bless the ground there or perhaps to slow the world that was rushing away and seemed to care nothing for the old or the young or rich or poor or dark or pale or he or she. Nothing for their struggles, nothing for their names. Nothing for the living or the dead.

In this second quotation, McCarthy emphasizes the indifference of the world to the plights of men. The world is here personified, and is said to "care nothing" for the feelings of the men who reside within it. Its indifference is emphasized by the repetition of the word "Nothing," and also by the listing ("the old or the young or rich or poor or dark") which emphasizes that the world cares for absolutely nobody.

. . . in the dream he was among the horses running and in the dream he himself could run with the horses . . . and there was nothing else at all in that high world and they moved all of them in a resonance that was like a music among them and they were none of them afraid

In this third quotation, John dreams of horses. The horses symbolize the freedom of the natural world he longs for, which is compared, using a simile, to the rhythm of "music." The repetition of language connoting movement ("running . . . run . . . moved") also connotes a sense of freedom. There is of course an irony here as John has this dream while he is in prison, where his movement is obviously very much restricted.

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Of course, every novel is full of examples of literary devices, and so what you need to do is go back over the novel and carefully re-read it, paying attention to aspects that could be considered literary devices. Here is a paragraph that contains many from the first couple of pages:

As he turned to go he heard the train. He stopped and waited for it. He could feel it under his feet. It came boring out of the east like some ribald satellite of the coming sun howling and bellowing in the distance and the long light of the headlamp running through the tangled mesquite brakes and creating out of the night the endless fenceline down the dead straight right of way and sucking it back again wire and post mile on mile into the darkness after where the boilersmoke disbanded slowly along the faint new horizon and the sound came laggins and he stood still holding his hat in his hands  the passing groundshudder watching it till it was gone. Then he turned and went back to the house.

Obviously a number of literary devices you can identify in this one paragraph. Consider the simile that is used to describe the train: "like some ribald satellite of the coming sun". Also note the onomoatopoeia in "howling and bellowing". Also note the hyperbole in "endless fenceline". What others can you spot in this paragraph? And also, think about what effect these literary devices are creating. How do they make the train appear? Hope this helps - good luck as you try to spot others and comment on their significance!

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