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Summary of Border Trilogy Part 2: Hold the Line

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In The Crossing, Cormac McCarthy fulfills the promise of All the Pretty Horses and at the same time give us a work that is darker and more visionary, a novel with the unstoppable momentum of a classic western and the elegaic power of a lost American myth. In the late 1930s, sixteen-year-old Billy Parham captures a she-wolf that has been marauding his family's ranch. But instead of killing it, he decides to take it back to the mountains of Mexico. With that crossing, he begins an arduous and often dreamlike journey into a country where men meet ghosts and violence strikes as suddenly as heat-lightning--a world where there is no order "save that which death has put there."

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After the showdown in court with Bowie High School, Border Patrol brings in a fresh face to head its dysfunctional El Paso Sector: Silvestre Reyes. The first Mexican-American to ever hold the position, Reyes knows something needs to change and has an idea how to do it. One Saturday night at midnight, with the element of surprise on his side, Reyes unveils ... Operation Blockade. It wins widespread support for the Border Patrol in El Paso, but sparks major protests across the Rio Grande. Soon after, he gets a phone call that catapults his little experiment onto the national stage, where it works so well that it diverts migrant crossing patterns along the entire U.S.-Mexico Border. Years later, in the Arizona desert, anthropologist Jason de León realizes that in order to accurately gauge how many migrants die crossing the desert, he must first understand how human bodies decompose in such an extreme environment. He sets up a macabre experiment, and what he finds is more drastic than anything he could have expected. This episode was reported by Latif Nasser and Tracie Hunte, and was produced by Matt Kielty, Bethel Habte and Latif Nasser.

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Cormac McCarthy’s Border Trilogy shows an immense patience with the subject matter, opening with a grity Western novel in All the Pretty Horses, delving into solitude in The Crossing, and constructing the trilogy’s final chapter, Cities of the Plain, as both a resolution for its characters and an epiphany for the reader (Sullivan, Walter, 2011). In the first two novels, McCarthy gracefully builds the characters of John Grady Cole and Billy Parham before allowing them to deconstruct their identities through reinterpretation brought on by becoming travelers. McCarthy’s prose style fits this topic beautifully; with the narrator hardly present, the reader simply observes how the two protagonists rebuild themselves through their own words and actions. The trilogy also paints the image of the border in three different ways: first as an artificial boundary in The Crossing, then as an area void of humanity in All the Pretty Horses, and finally, as an indistinguishable entity in Cities of the Plain. What drives this transformation is the movement of people—distance, unsurprisingly, causes separation (Trop v. Dulles).

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Thus, well more people died but they’ve kept coming. The second and third podcast in this trilogy focus on how much higher the heath toll is in the desert than we imagine and what that means for families in Central America whose loved ones have disappeared on their trip. Warning: the second and third podcasts can get pretty graphic but overall this is a super interesting story and something that all Americans should be aware of.

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Sickels, Robert C., and Marc Oxoby. “In Search of a Further Frontier: Cormac McCarthy’s Border Trilogy.” Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction
43.4 (2002): 347-59. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 7 Apr. 2011.

Sullivan, Walter. “The Last Cowboy Song: Cormac McCarthy’s Border Trilogy.” The Sewanee Review 108.2 (2000): 292-97. JSTOR. Web. 14 Mar.
2011.

Trop v. Dulles. 356 US 86. Supreme Court of the US. 31 Mar. 1958. Supreme Court Collection. Legal information Inst., Cornell U. Law School, n.d. Web. 6 Apr. 2011.

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