NovelGuide: All the Pretty Horses: Part 3
John Grady and Rawlins are escorted across country by the Mexican guards. Rawlins is angry with John Grady. He blames John Grady’s rash affair with Alejandra for prompting Don Hector to have them arrested. He thinks that if John Grady had told the guards to awaken Don Hector, then Don Hector might have saved them. But John Grady says that he did ask the guards to do this. They had only laughed and remarked that Don Hector had “been awake for a long time,” meaning that he knew about John Grady’s affair. They wonder whether Don Hector betrayed them to the Mexican police. John Grady tells Rawlins that he had no choice in pursuing Alejandra: “some things just aint reasonable.” He asks Rawlins for his loyalty, saying that if their situations were reversed, he would stay loyal to Rawlins.
They reach the village of Encantada, where John Grady and Rawlins helped Blevins recapture his stolen horse. John Grady and Rawlins are put into a cell with another man, who turns out to be Blevins. John Grady and Rawlins know that the police would not have hunted them just for taking Blevins’s horse. An old man who is also in the cell tells them that Blevins has killed three men. Rawlins says that his worst fears about Blevins were justified, and that he will get them all killed. Blevins says that only one of the men died.He reveals that he was not content at merely getting his horse back after it had been stolen. He returned to the village of Encantada to take back his gun from a man’s belt, and then shot the man. He was arrested and thrown into jail. Rawlins and John Grady feel sure that the police will execute him. Rawlins says he has difficulty walking (implying that he has been tortured).
The captain of police takes Rawlins into his room for interrogation and tortures him. Then he questions John Grady. He does not torture him, though he believes that he is lying. John Grady believes that the police intend to kill Blevins, and that they want to make a deal with them in return for their silence.
Three days later John Grady, Rawlins, and Blevins are put into a truck and driven, with some guards, a charro (cowboy), and the captain of police, into the countryside. The truck pulls up in the yard of an abandoned farm. A guard takes Blevins out of the truck. He and the captain escort him behind some trees and shoot him dead. Then the truck resumes its journey. John Grady and Rawlins are taken to Saltillo, where they are put into the prison. The captain tells them that the charro paid him money to execute Blevins, who had killed a relative of the charro’s. The captain evidently thinks that John Grady and Rawlins have money, as he advises them to pay their way out.
The conditions in the prison are grim and the food inadequate. John Grady and Rawlins spend the first day fighting the other prisoners to stay alive. Rawlins thinks the prisoners will kill them.
John Grady and Rawlins are summoned by a wealthy and privileged prisoner called Emilio Pérez. Believing, like the captain of police, that they are rich, he tells them that they will never get out unless they pay him. They do not have any money and refuse. The next morning, Rawlins is attacked by a man with a knife and is taken to the hospital. John Grady hears nothing more about his friend and goes to visit Pérez in an attempt to find out what happened to him. Pérez philosophizes in a threatening way about evil, telling John Grady that “Evil is a true thing in Mexico. It goes about on its own legs. Maybe it will come to visit you. Maybe it already has.” Pérez again advises John Grady to pay him money, but John Grady refuses.
John Grady uses the last of the money that Blevins gave him before he was executed to buy a knife from a prisoner to protect himself from the inevitable attack. Sure enough, during dinner one day, an assassin tries to kill John Grady with a knife. He manages to wound John Grady in the chest. John Grady manages to kill the assassin. He collapses, bleeding heavily, and is scooped up by one of Pérez’s men and taken to his house.
John Grady’s wound heals, though he is badly scarred. One day, he is brought before the prison warden, who gives him some money and releases him and Rawlins into the street. John Grady tells Rawlins that it was Alfonsa who paid for their release. Rawlins says that he could have run away from the hospital where he was held, but would not leave John Grady.
John Grady and Rawlins discuss their plans. Rawlins, haunted by the memory of Blevins’s death, intends to go home to Texas, while John Grady intends to return to Don Hector’s ranch to see Alejandra. He also intends to get their horses back. Rawlins tries to dissuade John Grady from putting himself in danger once again, but John Grady’s mind is made up.
The chapter ends with Rawlins boarding a bus home and John Grady hitching a ride towards Don Hector’s ranch.
Analysis of Part III
Part III marks the descent of John Grady and Rawlins’s romantic dream of the cowboy life into a terrible reality.
Blevins’s betrayal of John Grady and Rawlins is emphasized in religious imagery that leaves the reader in no doubt of the evil he has perpetrated, albeit unwittingly. When John Grady and Rawlins first see him in the prison cell, his face is described as being illuminated by the light from the judas-hole (Judas being Jesus Christ’s betrayer in the Bible). Blevins’s being symbolically cast in the role of Judas symbolically casts John Grady, the innocent who remained loyal to him in spite of his lack of deserving ability, in the role of Jesus Christ.
What is more, Blevins’s withdrawing leg is described as being like a serpent (the serpent being the Christian symbol of the devil). The prescient Rawlins says, “We’re dead … We’re dead men. I knew it’d come to that. From the first time I seen him.” Rawlins is referring to the danger of physical death, to which he feels Blevins’s foolishness has exposed them. But his words have a symbolic resonance. Blevins is like the devil, Satan, who brought death into the world after the Fall of Man.
It would be too simplistic and reductionist to draw an exact equivalence between Blevins and Judas or the devil. Blevins is too insubstantial a character to carry such symbolic weight, as John Grady notes as the boy is taken behind the trees to be executed.Similarly, John Grady is not portrayed as equivalent to Jesus Christ. But the symbolic hint is there.
John Grady’s dream about horses after he is jailed, described in poetic language, provides a vision of all that he lacks right now: beauty, freedom, absence of fear, and harmony. It gives a glimpse into John Grady’s romantic soul, which focuses on the ideal rather than the grim reality, and emphasizes the theme of romanticism versus reality that pervades the novel. It also provides a welcome temporary escape from the appalling situation that the men now find themselves in, reminding the reader of the ability of the human spirit to transcend suffering.
The captain of police and Pérez both fit the model of the loquacious but morally dubious character. They talk and philosophize, justifying to themselves their evil actions while John Grady remains his usual taciturn but morally upright self.
While on the surface, John Grady and Rawlins’s trip to Mexico has brought them only tragedy and suffering, John Grady has emerged with his integrity intact. Unlike Rawlins, he is not tormented by the possibility of having made better or wiser choices. For him, there is no choice; there is only the right thing to do, and he follows it without deviation. Consistent with John Grady’s internalized moral code, when Rawlins tries to comfort him after he has killed the assassin with the argument that “He’d of done it to you,” John Grady refuses this moral justification, while knowing that he had to kill the man: “You dont need to try and make it right. It is what it is.”
While any practical or sensible person (such as Rawlins) would reject out of hand the idea of going back to Don Hector’s ranch, the place where all their troubles began, John Grady again feels he has no choice. He cannot leave unfinished business behind simply because it is expedient and safer to do so: he must reclaim their horses and see Alejandra.
On his journey back to Don Hector’s ranch, John Grady is described as “some newfound evangelical being.” The suggestion is that he has been transformed by his violent experiences in the prison of Saltillo. Catholic theology says that the communion wine becomes the blood of Christ, to be consumed by the communicants. It then transforms them in a miraculous way. Similarly, in All the Pretty Horses, bloodshed is a transforming experience for John Grady. In this coming-of-age novel, he finds maturity through his terrible suffering in the prison and is on his way to try to reclaim his prize: Alejandra.