All the Pretty Horses

by Cormac McCarthy

Start Free Trial

What responsibility is implied in the quote from All the Pretty Horses?

"Finally he said that among men there was no such communion as among horses and the notion that men can be understood at all was probably an illusion."

Quick answer:

The specific responsibility connected to this quotation is capturing wild horses for the purpose of taming them. More generally, it refers to the cowboys’s need to understand the souls of men and horses. Luis, the speaker, is an elderly Mexican camp hand who cooks for the Mexican and American men while they round up wild horses in the mountains. Based on his experience, Luis says, going to war on horseback is essential for understanding horses.

Expert Answers

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

When the American and Mexican cowboys ride up into the hills to capture wild horses, an elderly Mexican man serves as their mozo, or camp hand and cook. John Grady is disturbed by the wild horses’s behavior after they are penned up. The way they squeal and kick and bite makes him wonder about the essential nature of horses. The confined wild animals seem “as if they were no more than some evil dream of a horse.” At camp that night, Luis tells them about his long-ago wartime experiences when he, along with his father and brothers, served in the cavalry. He had learned the most about horses by being with them when they died. Luis says,

the souls of horses mirror the souls of men more closely than men suppose…

Elaborating on the analogy between war and their current situation, Luis speculates further about horses’s souls. He believes that all horses share a common soul, out of which each individual horse draws its separate, mortal self. It is in answer to John Grady’s question about men’s souls that Luis speaks the quoted line. The “communion. . .among horses” refers to this common soul from which they originate, which is a distinct situation than the way that men arise. Because men lack this spiritual commonality, it may not be possible to understand them. Luis implies that humans must expend the effort to understand the horses, not the other way around.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial