John Grady Cole is a sixteen year old boy running away from home in an attempt to start a new life. With the person he was closest to dead, and his mother selling the ranch he grew up on, John Grady leaves San Angelo with no regrets. This idea of detachment is reinforced throughout the book, but mostly in the latter half; it’s clear that John Grady feels no attachment to Texas or his family anymore, as he says, “I have no country” (p.299). He no longer has a sense of being; no sense of individualism. It's this sense of detachment McCarthy gives to further John Grady's character development. As All the Pretty Horses unravels, through the actions of Blevins and Perez, we see that book revolves around the maturation of John Grady.
The crossing of the Rio Grande river is one of the first instances we truly see a change in John Grady's character. John Grady and ...view middle of the document...
Even though he and Rawlins knew something about Blevins just didn't add up, John Grady continued to defend Blevins, and why? Because John Grady continually follows his "cowboy code," an unwritten code of conduct which includes honesty, loyalty and courage. Although Blevins was nothing but trouble to the boys, John Grady remained loyal to him, thereby furthering his maturity; his coming of age. Through the antics of Blevins, we gain insight into John Grady's character we wouldn't have seen otherwise.
Although we saw a lot of development in John Grady in that single scene, the most insightful was the overall time and events he spent in jail. Before he set off for his journey, John Grady had never been exposed to things such as blood, violence, murder. He soon learns from Perez, the "head of the prisoners," that the second he crossed the border from America to Mexico, he stepped into a new world: a world of evil. "Evil is a true thing in Mexico, maybe it will come visit you." Perez continues to talk to John Grady about how he's going to have to abandon some of his morals to survive. He'll have to do things he wouldn't have ever dreamed of doing before: stealing, killing. Although it seems like John Grady is abandoning the cowboy ethos in this passage, it's the one scene that truly shows John Grady entering manhood. McCarthy outright states that John Grady is now a new person: "As if he were some newfound evangelical."(p.217) Now that he's been exposed to the world around him, Grady, in a sense, appears to be reborn; more alive than ever and ready to find his role in life.
With the conflicting ideals of American and Mexican culture, John Grady is forced to mature at a young age. Throughout the novel, he demonstrates actions of maturity, such as assisting Blevins and adapting to new cultures. The novel concludes with Grady "passing into a darkening land, the world to come." (p. 302) He's left roaming the open land once again, searching for ways to restore meaning to his new found spirit.