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Coming of Age in Red Sky at Morning and All The Pretty Horses

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Red Sky at Morning and All the Pretty Horses by Richard Bradford and Cormac McCarthy are two novels that encompass a young man’s coming of age experience. Through the use of the unhealable wound, the hunting group of companions, the parent/child conflict, and the use of a magical weapon archetypes, both young men become increasingly more heroic, whether in overcoming obstacles or rising to the occasion of greatness.

Both Josh Arnold from Red Sky at Morning and John Grady Cole from All the Pretty Horses must endure or overcome a wound that is unhealable for them. In Josh’s case, this is the loss of his father, “The telegram, that goddamn telegram that turns up in all the war movies, was lying on the coffee table.” (pg. 245) This is when Josh and his family are notified of his father’s death, he then has to put his grief aside and deal with his mother’s problems, “When she awakened, late the next afternoon, my mother put her hands over her ears agains and didn’t move. I discovered she hadn’t bothered to get up to go to the bathroom, so I called Dr. Temple again. I signed something he gave to me…” (pg. 245) Although Josh hasn’t recovered from the loss of his father, and truly doesn’t recover, he becomes more heroic since he must persevere and fight through his loss to care for his mother and tend to her pressing needs. John Grady Cole from All the Pretty Horses encounters a similar experience with losing someone, and overcoming it, “He saw very clearly how all his life led only to this moment and all after led nowhere at all. He felt something cold and soulless enter him like another being and he imagined that it smiled malignly and he had no reason to believe that it would ever leave.” (pg. 254) This is when Alejandra tells him that she cannot marry him; he is heartbroken and thinks his life can’t be complete without her, although he triumphs and overcomes the pain and through this onward movement of life he becomes more heroic.

In both novels, Josh and John Grady have a hunting group of companions that they defend sometime in the book, their defense of them makes them more heroic. John Grady defends Blevins to Rawlins, “Meanin just leave him (Blevins)?” said John Grady. “Yessir,” said Rawlins. “What if it was you?” …. “I can’t do it, John Grady said (pg. 79). Although Blevins has brought them trouble in the past, and is certainly about to get them into trouble right now by stealing back his horse, John Grady defends him to Rawlins. This defense of Blevins to his best friend takes some gumption, and John Grady becomes increasingly more heroic because of it. Rawlins could have laughed in John’s face, a fact John knew, and he still defended the underdog in order to do what was honorable. Josh also has to have an uncomfortable conversation with someone to defend a friend, “Chango said: ‘Viola? Amigo, you’re crazy (in reference to Josh spotting her in La Cimajkpg (198). Although Chango was a changed person and intent on doing good, Josh didn’t know how he would react to the news, but he told him any way in order to protect Viola. Josh grows into a hero because of this, and he learns through this that the honorable thing isn’t always the easy thing.

Another similarity that Josh and John Grady share is a parent/child conflict which makes them grow stronger as an individual. Josh’s mother is very drunk one night and Josh must overcome her treatment of him in order to care for her mental health, “After five or six blows, I realized, in a detached and clear-headed way, that I wasn’t angry any more, just bored. So I finally brought my hands around in front of me and grabbed her wrists and held them… I said, as slowly and clearly as I could, ‘I’m sorry, Mother.’” (pgs. 116-117) Josh behaves as an adult in a trying time and shows maturity beyond his years, this use of restraint makes him grow as a hero in the novel. John Grady also has to deal with disappointment and a parent/child conflict in novel, one dealing with his mother selling his beloved ranch, “Why couldnt you lease me the ranch… I’d give you all the money. You could do whatever you wanted.” His mother replies, “You’re sixteen years old, you cant run a ranch.” (pg. 15) John is not only turned out from the house he loves, but is also forced to leave the last connection he has with his deceased grandfather; his trek is proof that he can rise from disappointment and grows into a young man, proving his worth as a hero.

Throughout both novels, Josh and John Grady use a magical weapon in order to cope with situations or wields them as a special gift. John Grady’s special gift is his ability to handle horses: “He’d ride sometimes clear to the upper end of the laguna before the horse would even stop trembling and he spoke constantly to it in spanish in phrases almost biblical repeating again and again the strictures of a yet untabled law.” (pg. 128) John Grady can handle a horse and almost can feel the horses thoughts, he uses this gift to bond to the horse and many times his gift saves him from eminent danger, the use of the gift makes him the hero. Josh also has a magical weapon that he wields; it is his sarcasm and sense of humor. In this quote Josh find humor in his suave-ness, “ ‘May I kiss you good-by, Josh?’ said Amalie. Josh replies, ‘Okay. Sure.’ Always the continental lover. I knock the ladies over with my epigrams.” (pg. 19) He finds humor in his own lame response to Amalie’s request; this sense of humor allows him to be more relatable in his relationships (his father) and allows him to cope with future situations, his sarcasm also makes him a distinguished and relatable character to the reader, furthering his role in the novel as the hero.

Through the use of the unhealable wound, the hunting group of companions, the parent/ child conflict, and the use of a magical weapon archetypes, both Josh Arnold and John Grady Cole grow and develop into the heroes in their respective novels.

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Coming of Age in Red Sky at Morning and All the Pretty Horses. (2018, Jun 13). GradesFixer. Retrieved August 16, 2022, from
“Coming of Age in Red Sky at Morning and All the Pretty Horses.” GradesFixer, 13 Jun. 2018,
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