All the Pretty Horses is a novel by Cormac McCarthy published in 1992. It is also the first of McCarthy’s “Border Trilogy.” The main character is John Grady Cole who is a sixteen-year-old. He is not physically described, but by the end of the novel, we know that he is badly scarred across his face and chest. He is curt and brooding and appears older than he really is. He lives by to an exacting code. He values honor, brains, accountability, honesty, fidelity and talent. He loves horses, and is unusually gifted with them. He loves the cowboy life. The novel follows him as he flees the Texas ranch where he was raised and travels with his friends Rawlins and Blevins into Mexico. The novel also shows what happens to his romantic vision of the West as he grows up.
Lacey Rawlins is John Grady Cole’s best friend. We learn little about Rawlins physically. We know that at 17 he is tall and thin. Rawlins is louder, more edgy and less pensive than Cole. He is also not as smart as and less talented with horses than Cole. Also, he does not hold to Cole’s code and he lacks the will that drives Cole to pursue his dreams. Rawlins and Cole are together until their nightmare in the Mexican jail. After that, Lacey returns to Texas.
Jimmy Blevins is a 13-year-old runaway who follows Cole and Rawlins to Mexico. We never learn his real name. He is very sensitive to ridicule or anything he thinks encroaches on his self-esteem. This emotion causes him to run-away from his sadistic step-father. It also leads to his death; as he goes back to retrieve his stolen horse and gun, Jimmy is captured and executed by the Captain.
Don Hector Rocha y Villareal is the owner of the ranch, where Cole and Rawlins work. He is a member of the Mexican aristocracy and is intelligent and cultured and also seems to be both practical and kind. He is impressed by Cole’s skill with horses and promotes Cole to the position of horse-breeder. When he discovers that Cole has been having an affair with his daughter Alejandra, he turns both Cole and Rawlins in to the corrupt Mexican police.
Alejandra is the daughter of Don Hector, the patron (owner) of the Mexican ranch on which Cole and Rawlins work. She is very lovely with dark-hair, blue-eyes and is also pale and thin. Yet she seems to be a tragic and sorrowful figure. Alejandra and Cole fall in love and start an affair. Don Hector finds about the affair and turns Cole over to the Mexican police. Cole returns to collect her after his release from jail, but she cannot abandon her family and does not go with him to America.
The Captain’s real name is Raul, but it is almost never used in the novel. He is the vicious and crooked lawman of the town of Encantada, where Don Hector’s ranch is located. The Captain wrongly accuses Cole and Rawlins of being criminals. He tortures Rawlins to admit to crimes that he did not commit. Later, after accepting a bribe from a relative of the man Blevins kills in self defense; the Captain murders Blevins. When Cole returns to Encantada after being let go from prison, he captures the Captain. The Captain represents the vice and brutality widespread in that part of Mexico.