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The Main Themes in All The Pretty Horses by Cormac Mccarthy and Catch 22 by Joseph Heller

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The two books I read over the summer were All the Pretty Horses and Catch 22. All the Pretty Horses can be described as a wild love story, centering around John Grady’s quest for completion in his life. Catch 22 on the other hand is a complex war story about pilot John Yossarian. Each book had its own unique set of themes. In Catch 22 one of them was the idea of faith, and how the soldiers tend to lose it. In All the pretty horses a big theme was growing up or the coming of age. These themes both had a big effect on each of their respective stories which in turn had an effect on the central themes of the books.

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In Catch 22, faith would not seem to play a major role of the story. It does not get mentioned many times throughout the book. On top of that the few times it is mentioned, it usually is about how soldiers don’t have faith or as one soldier stated plainly, “God doesn’t exist”. However, this lack of care about faith is what makes it so important in the story. For example, the main character in the book, Yossarian, says himself that only a fool would believe in God. His reasoning for this is that a God wouldn’t leave humans to suffer in times of war or in times of need. He believes that men should make their own morals instead of leaving it up to God. This is a feeling that many of the soldiers Yossarian comes across share with him. The tragedies of war have caused them to lose their faith. A second example would be the chaplain. As his title suggests, he is very religious and follows strict morals. However, throughout his time in the war, his religious morals begin to diminish and he even begins to question his faith. This clear example can be used to describe the books take on faith. War can make a strong believer’s faith weak or convert them to atheism all together. The lack of faith and God in the war tells us that war is not caused or wished by God, but created by humans.

Next is All the Pretty Horses. John Grady Cole is a 16 year old from San Angelo, Texas. Like most teenagers, John is searching for himself. His mother sells there Texas ranch, his grandfather dies, and he believes there is nothing left for him in Texas. So he goes to somewhere he thinks there is something for him, Mexico. This is where the theme of growing up comes into the story. The first and most clear example of this theme is his relationship with Alejandra. Early in the story, John tells us that he had lost his previous girlfriend to an older boy. However he has an actual lasting relationship with Alejandra that even ends up saving his life when he was in jail. This relationship matures John even further. Another example is Johns time in prison. There he is in constant danger and is described as having exhausting days and bloody nights. However, one main event there affects his life the most. This is when he kills the unnamed boy. One day he is attack by a boy who slashes him on the chest. While John is on the floor, the boy goes in to finish John off, but John sees this coming and pulls out his own knife. He stabs the unnamed boy in the heart and he dies. While a morally just killing because it was in self-defense, this event definitely contributes to the development of John’s life and story. These events show the theme of coming of age for John and how his trip in Mexico toughened him and showed him what he was capable of. This theme is much like the popular story of Huckleberry Finn, in which young Huck is forced to grow up and learn to care for himself.

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In conclusion the theme of faith in Catch 22, and theme of growing up in All the Pretty Horses are very important to each book. They both present important ideas that further the main development of each story. In Catch 22 faith shows how characters are changed for the worse throughout the war. In All the Pretty Horses, coming of age is represented in many of the events John experiences through the story, and further his personal development. Without these themes, the stories wouldn’t have been as complete and meaningful as they were. They have made me realize sometimes we are going to have to go through hard learning experiences, hopefully not as an extreme as murder, but hard nonetheless. We should learn and grow from the experiences. Also when times get tough, we shouldn’t just blame God and drop our faith, but trust in God to help us.

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The Main Themes In All the Pretty Horses By Cormac McCarthy and Catch 22 By Joseph Heller. (2019, August 27). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 5, 2023, from
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