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The Godmother of All the Pretty Horses
In analysis of the character, Duena Alfonsa, in the novel All the Pretty Horses by Cormac
McCarthy, facets of her character are clearly revealed. From her physical deformity to
her feelings of her father keeping her exiled in her own country, seventy-two year old
Alfonsa is filled with a lifetime of complex situations. Her character was consistent and
motivational in wisdom and provided greatness in her role in the novel. She is a
grandaunt and godmother of Alejandra, a young teenager still in school. The Duena, one
could say, is the "Godfather" of the novel. She literally "goes to the mattresses" in
protecting her grandniece from a man.

After seventy-two years of life, Alfonsa speaks of her life's experiences at an elevated
level of knowledge. She is formal, polite, and full of assuredness. McCarthy describes
Alfonsa's appearance as an "elegance chilling" (McCarthy 227). Her knowledge came from
reading books. McCarthy writes of Alfonsa, "By the time I was sixteen I had read many
books and I had become a freethinker" (McCarthy 232).

Alfonsa's complexity included her physical deformity. She describes the loss of her last
two fingers of her left hand in a shooting accident when she was seventeen years old where
the barrel of the gun exploded while she was shooting for live pigeons. This placed her
with several perspectives. Two of her perspectives in becoming deformed were, first, it
lead her to the feelings of scars having a strange power reminding people of their real
past. Second, it made her feel conscience of her hand as she "learned to affect a
handkerchief in her life in such a way as to cover her deformity". Alfonsa's deformity
even affected her to the point of her "awaiting age and death" (McCarthy 234).

Alfonsa had strong convictions toward women being suppressed as she was growing up in a
time before and after the Mexican revolutionary war. Her father sending her to Europe had
made its contributions to her "revolutionary spirit." Women at that time lived their
lives in the constant shadows of men. The women were consumed by family life, marriage,
the Catholic church, and lived silently behind their dominant male counterparts. There
were many inequalities women and other ethnic, economic, political, or religious
minorities suffered under the regime of Porferio Diaz. Mexican women at that time knew
they were essential in a number of ways and rose up becoming strong advocates for causes
they believed in (Jandura 1). Alfonsa's character speaks of "Dictator Diaz" in a
conversation with the main character by the name of John Grady (McCarthy 236).

On several occasions, Alfonsa touches on the subject of women's reputation and how
valuable it is living in a Mexican society. With her intelligence and whit, she guides and
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