Cormac McCarthy amassed a devoted coterie of critics and readers decades before the publication of his breakout masterpiece All the Pretty Horses, but until then, he remained largely unknown, despite his Guggenheim Fellowship and grants from the MacArthur Foundation, the William Faulkner Foundation, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Widespread acclaim came when All the Pretty Horses won the National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award in 1992.
In McCarthy’s The Border Trilogy, a complex world and its mythic characters evoke not only his own earlier works, such as the acclaimed Blood Meridian: Or, The Evening Redness in the West (1985), but also the works of writers such as William Faulkner, Mark Twain, Miguel de Cervantes, and William Shakespeare. McCarthy incorporates initiation narratives, heroes’ journeys, history lessons, psychological portraits, and linguistic brilliance, making the trilogy challenging yet accessible as well as stunning and beloved.
McCarthy’s main characters in the trilogy are remnants of a dying world—the Old West specifically and vast expanses generally. In each of these novels, society’s encroachment is making open range and wild land valuable for housing developments and military installations while eradicating the age-old ways of animals and people. The boys grow into men who are increasingly lost, essentially evicted from the familiar country and existence in which and for which they were bred. This new reality is a catastrophe, out of which come not secure residents of the future but rootless anachronisms, picaros...
(The entire section is 670 words.)