The Novels Essay

The Novels Essay


Institutional Affiliation:

Literature is a reflection of many issues in society, and it also provides an avenue for people to learn different lessons. Toni Morrison’s novel ‘Home’ talks about a war veteran named Frank Money who left home in search of purpose, joined the war in Korea and was later left dejected and traumatized by his actions and experiences at the battlefield. Cormac McCarthy’s story in the book ‘All The Pretty Horses’ shares similar themes to those in ‘Home.’ McCarthy’s novel follows the life of a teenage boy named John Grady Cole who leaves his home in Texas after his family fell apart. He and two companions travel to Mexico in search of a cowboy adventure, but things do not work out as they expected. Cole returns to Texas a year later to find that he did not achieve any of his hopes on setting out for Mexico. The two stories are quite similar in several ways, such as their themes. Many readers can relate to Frank and Cole’s struggles and search for identity in life, and that is what makes the two stories quite interesting despite being from a different time in history. In analyzing ‘Home’ and ‘All The Pretty Horses’, the main points of focus are themes and relevance in current times.

The first themes common to both novels is the search for purpose and identity. Frank Money left his home as he felt his world was too small. He thought that going off to war in Korea would widen his world view. At that time, the army was newly desegregated, and he thought he would take advantage of this to go off to war. The novel tells of the trauma that Frank experienced growing up as a young black man in the South during an era of segregation, and his desire to escape his coldhearted grandmother and racial injustice (Montgomery 2012). In the same way, John Grady Cole leaves his home in Texas after the death of his grandfather. His mother and father get divorced, and he feels that he has no connection to either of them. John’s mother is set upon selling the ranch that has been his home, and there is nothing he can say to convince her otherwise (McCarthy 1993). He is sad to leave all the people he knew, but he hopes to find adventure and fulfilment in Mexico. Unfortunately for both of these characters, nothing works out the way they expected. Frank Money returns from Korea permanently scarred from the war, as he finds himself in a mental institution. John Grady Cole faces many hardships in Mexico such as imprisonment and separation from his lover, and eventually heads back home to Texas.

The theme or romanticism is evident in Morrison’s ‘Home’ as well as McCarthy’s ‘All the Pretty Horses.’ John Grady dreams of the cowboy life that was a major part of Southern Texas and Northern Mexico in the early nineties. The sale of his grandfather’s ranch destroyed Grady’s ideals, and he set off for Mexico with his friend Lacey Rawlins to find their adventure. John Grady’s romanticism also applies to his love for Alejandra, who comes from a wealthy family. Her family would never allow her to be with him, but Grady blindly and naively believes that love conquers all. Frank Money in the novel ‘Home’ holds some romantic ideas that leaving his difficult childhood behind and setting off to a foreign country would give his life meaning and purpose. However, he realizes that war was not all he expected it to be; he had merely traded one horrific reality for another. Both characters become disillusioned because of their unrealistic romanticism. Frank is traumatized by the violence and death he sees in Korea (Ibarrola 2014), while John Grady suffers through his time in Mexico. McCarthy writes about John Grady’s disillusionment on retraining to Texas, “He saw very clearly how all his life led only to this moment and all after led nowhere at all.” (McCarthy 1993)

Violence is another prominent theme in both novels. On their way to Mexico, John Grady’s companion named Blevins had his horse and gun stolen. He stole it back in Encantada, and that marked the beginning of problems from the young men. Blevins later went back for his gun and shot one of the townspeople. He was put in jail, and Grady and Rawlins were later arrested for being conspirators. In prions, the three were constantly beaten up. John Grady killed an assassin who tried to kill him while in prison, and Rawlins suffered a bad knife wound. Frank Money experienced violence of a greater scale during the war in Korea. He himself killed several people during the war, including a young Korean girl (Morrison 2012). Cee is another character in the novel ‘Home’ who experienced violence. She is Frank’s sister, whom he left behind when he went to war. She also ran away from home with a young man who abandoned her. She later took a job with a Confederate man, a doctor who used her a guinea pig in his experiments. In the end, her life was in danger when Frank showed up to save her.

Loyalty and belonging are evident themes in the two stories. Frank remained loyal to his sister even after all the time that had passed when he went to war. Immediately he heard that she was in danger; he did all he could to save her from Dr. Beauregard Scott. Through the novel, Frank and Cee struggled to find a sense of belonging. While many children find this at home with their parents in their early years, Cee and Frank grew up living with their coldhearted grandmother, surrounded by racial violence and discrimination. John Grady is similarly loyal to his childhood home, his grandfather’s ranch. When his mother decides to sell it, he decides that he cannot see it owned by someone else, and resolves to leave for Mexico. Throughout their travels, John Grady remains loyal to his companions, standing by them through their troubles in Mexico such as robbery, imprisonment and beatings (Gleeson-White, 2012).

Although the two novels ‘Home’ and ‘All The Pretty Horses’ are from the 1950s, their themes and ideas remain as relevant as ever in today’s society. John Grady’s restlessness mainly stems from his broken family, and this makes him go off to chase a dream at the age of sixteen. Today, divorce rates are higher than ever, and it has a lot of harmful effects on children. John Grady’s parents never took the time to explain the situation to him, and they did not consider his wellbeing. For example, his mother chose to sell the ranch, which had been their home all along, and this is what provoked John Grady to leave. His adventures in Mexico drove him to a tumultuous life in Mexico that no child should have to endure, and he came back to find that his father died. John Grady’s story should be a lesson to parents to always put their children’s welfare before their own, and listen to what their children have to say. John Grady’s adventures are also a lesson in loyalty and true friendship. The three companions supported each other even in the most difficult times.

Frank Money’s story is also relevant in many ways today. Racism and discrimination are still prevalent today, even if it is to a lesser extent compared to the 1950s. Many people of colour, especially young black men, face problems because of their race and ethnicity. Growing up in an unstable home such as Frank and Cee did also compound matters for such people. Frank and Cee wanted to escape from their grandmother and the evils in their society, and they ended up getting into even more challenging situations. The exploitation of the weak and the poor is another lesson to be learned from Toni Morrison’s ‘Home.’ Dr Beauregard Scott took advantage of Cee’s naiveté to conduct dangerous experiments on her, endangering her life and robbing her of any chances of becoming a mother. Every human being deserves to be treated with dignity no matter their situation in life. Frank’s loyalty to Cee is another valuable lesson. Despite his struggles with his own demons such as PTSD and alcohol abuse (Montgomery 2012), he set aside everything to be there for his sister and encourage her through her situation. Cee and Frank’s story is also one of resilience and hope in the face of adversity.

In conclusion, Toni Morrison’s ‘Home’ and Cormac McCarthy’s ‘All The Pretty Horses’ teach readers some valuable life lessons on issues such as family, friendship, resilience, loyalty, romanticism, among others. The two books share themes such as loyalty and belonging, violence, search for purpose and identity, as well as romanticism. The two books may be from a different era, but the lesson within them are still very relevant for readers today. One of the primary purposes of literature is to teach readers lessons relevant to their daily lives, and the two novels accomplish that by telling relatable stories that everyone can relate to on some level.


Gleeson-White, S. (2007). Playing Cowboys: Genre, Myth, and Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses. Southwestern American Literature, 33(1), 23-39.

Ibarrola, A. (2014). The challenges of recovering from individual and cultural trauma in Toni Morrison’s” Home”. International Journal of English Studies, 14(1), 109-124.

McCarthy, C. (1993). All the pretty horses (No. 1). Vintage.


Morrison, T. (2012) Home. Alfred A. Knopf Inc.

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