Critical Context

In 1980, McCarthy moved from his home state of Tennessee to El Paso, Texas, where he wrote Blood Meridian. It was his fifth novel and the first set outside Tennessee. The first four (The Orchard Keeper, 1965; Outer Dark, 1968; Child of God, 1974; and Suttree, 1979) do, nevertheless, anticipate the themes, characters, and moral concerns found in Blood Meridian. McCarthy now appears to have taken the Southwest as his primary setting. His All the Pretty Horses (1992) also takes place in Texas and Mexico, although it is set a hundred years later than Blood Meridian. Its protagonist, John Grady Cole, is another sixteen-year-old boy setting out to make his way in a violent world, but John Grady is a stronger, more principled character than the kid, and his choices give the reader hope for his future.

Blood Meridian was not a commercially successful novel at the time of publication, although it did receive a number of very appreciative reviews. It is, however, now ranked by many as McCarthy’s masterpiece. After many years of writing in obscurity, McCarthy achieved both popular and critical success with All the Pretty Horses, which won the National Book Award and the National Critics’ Circle Award for fiction and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. All the Pretty Horses is the first volume in a proposed “Border Trilogy,” and it seems certain that McCarthy’s reputation will continue to grow with each new work.