Cities of the Plain: The End of the All-American Cowboys

Yaşayan V.

Journal of American Studies of Turkey, no.55, pp.207-242, 2021 (Peer-Reviewed Journal)

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Publication Date: 2021
  • Journal Name: Journal of American Studies of Turkey
  • Journal Indexes: Index Islamicus, MLA - Modern Language Association Database, TR DİZİN (ULAKBİM)
  • Page Numbers: pp.207-242
  • Hacettepe University Affiliated: Yes


This article analyzes Cormac McCarthy’s Cities of the Plain (1998), the last installment of The Border Trilogy, and scrutinizes his portraits of cowboy masculinity. Not only does the article consider the way McCarthy deals with wounded masculinity and the adult Western genre in the novel, but it also discusses how the protagonists, John Grady and Billy, end their illusions concerning their cowboy masculinity, as each comes to terms with the fact that the cowboy lifestyle is based on a myth, and that there are no more frontiers in the world for would-be cowboys to ride. McCarthy’s cowboy protagonists must negotiate a West that is no longer the province of the cowboy in the millennium, but rather the site of twentieth-century military installations, large corporate ranches, and frightening modern-day bureaucracies. The key to survival in this vexed post-West world turns out to be not adherence to the old regional myths and conventions— no matter how attractive that might seem—but instead, a turn towards healthier masculinities. While the cowboys’ epic journeys may evoke a noble and masculine western tradition, as McCarthy illustrates, they are doomed to fail because of the upheaval and displacement of the community and culture in which such masculinities thrived.