NYT on Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses

Posted on: March 19, 2009

This post is response to the NYU article on Cormac McCarthy’s writing style.


Cormac McCarthy

Cormac McCarthy

1. What authors or genres of writing are cited as influencing McCarthy’s writing style?
On the first line of this article, it says McCarthy ‘has practiced the Joycean virtues of silence, exile and cunning more faithfully than any other contemporary author…”. Faulkner is also cited several times as an author who influenced McCarthy’s writing style a lot. Although it doesn’t directly state this, it seems that McCarthy was also influenced by Larry McMurtry and Mark Twain.

2. How does McCarthy treat human characters in his story as opposed to landscape and animals like horses?
Human characters in McCarthy’s story appear to be very small and trivial compared to the massive landscape that surrounds the humans. According to the article, ‘human thought and activity seem almost completely inconsequential when projected upon the vast alien landscapes where they occur.’ This means that rather than focusing on the characters only, McCarthy looks at them as a small part of a big world. He is disinterested toward the human beings, and although main characters like John Grady behaves in a way to achieve his integrity, they still seems unimportant compared to the whole scenery of the world. Contrary to human beings, animals like horses are treated better in McCarthy’s novels. Horses especially are described as important, virtuous and strong. Here is a quote from his novel that supports this idea: “…that the order in horse’s heart was more durable for it was more durable for it was written in a place where no rain could erase it.” Similar to the affection toward animals, McCarthy also describes the landscapes in ‘breathtakingly beautiful’ way.

3. What type of dialogue does the article state McCarthy uses?
The article describes McCarthy’s prose as extraordinary quality. It says that his sentences are long, complex and descriptive. I noticed that this is true when I was reading the book; his prose is very detailed with the descriptions of the scenery and actions. The article also mentions that his dialogues are realistic. McCarthy uses profanity and inaccurate grammar to portray realistic conversation between the characters, and the readers find that the dialogues sound like real people talking.

4. What is notable about his diction (word choice)?
McCarthy uses odd words that some of them look like newly invented words (neologisms). Instead of using contemporary wording style, he uses dictions and phrasing from evolutionary history of English, which resembles ‘flux of remarkable possibilities’ of Elizabethan language.


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  • Alice: Very insightful. I shall take your advice :]
  • Mr WordPress: Hi, this is a comment.To delete a comment, just log in, and view the posts' comments, there you will have the option to edit or delete them.


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