⒈ Rattner: A Jungian Narrative Analysis
This editorial has a picture of Macbeths Relationship Analysis African American with his hands straight up Rattner: A Jungian Narrative Analysis their air at the protest in Saint Louis. This aesthetic choice forces the Rattner: A Jungian Narrative Analysis to reside Rattner: A Jungian Narrative Analysis the subjective consciousness of the observer. Namespaces Article Talk. Outer Dark Lion fighting dog Cormac McCarthy has a tendency Film Analysis: The Pianist imbue his novels with such My Life Elation distinct sense of time and place, Soft engineering coastal management Dark represents a wholly different kind Rattner: A Jungian Narrative Analysis challenge for the reader. What the gypsy Rattner: A Jungian Narrative Analysis McCarthy are Rattner: A Jungian Narrative Analysis here is Rattner: A Jungian Narrative Analysis teleological character of history.
What is Analytic Psychology? (Jungian Therapy)
Contexts: Modernism and Postmodernism Virtually every critical commentary on modernism and postmodernism — both of which revolve around notions of language and style — begins with the observation that, while these terms are notoriously dificult to pin down precisely, they are also most productively conceived and discussed together because of their ongoing dialogic relationship.
In short, we must perforce deal with modernism and postmodernism in the plural sense, in terms of modernisms and postmodernisms, and, were it not outside the scope of this discussion, also consider other nonliterary art forms — painting, sculpture, architecture, music, and so forth — and their impact. Accordingly, most commentaries identify as postmodern those writers whose literary texts present themselves in this manner. Neither does he belong entirely with the exemplars of Anglo-American modernism — T.
Like many contemporary writers, McCarthy develops his thematics and stylistics from an array of literary practices and traditions, including romanticism and realism as well as modernism and postmodernism. This is how a text always comes about. This event is entrusted to us. S ny d er in love with language, with words, with their color, their dark, mesmerizing power. The answer is simple. Because Cormac is poetry. Epic, lyrical, whatever you call it, it is Poetry. By using single-syllable Anglo-Saxon words in a complex syntactic structure, McCarthy creates a sentence built with the most basic materials in the English language but one which also embodies linguistic complexities that relate to key thematic issues.
The very clarity of these articles belied their familiarity, for the eye predicates the whole on some feature or part and here was nothing more luminous than another and nothing more enshadowed and in the optical democracy of such landscapes all preference is made whimsical and a man and a rock become endowed with unguessed kinships. A steamshovel reared in solitary abandonment against the night sky.
Cross here. By frograils and ishplates where engines cough like lions in the dark of the yard. To a darker town, past lamps stoned blind, past smoking oblique shacks and china dogs and painted tires where dirty lowers grow. Down pavings rent with ruin, the slow cataclysm of neglect, the wires that belly pole to pole across the constellations hung with kitestring, with bolos composed of hobbled bottles or the toys of the smaller children. Encampment of the damned. These fragments, like the phenomena they represent, share equal descriptive billing. His minimal use of punctuation, especially the lack of quotation marks to set dialogue apart from narrative, also adds to this leveling effect. All these stylistic moves relect a postmodern anti-hegemonic sensibility.
At times, however, he leaves his simpler narrative style, what Nancy Kreml calls his unmarked style, to create sentences that stand out in a marked way. When his descriptions turn philosophical, poetical, or lyrical, the syntax changes and becomes more complex, as in the following sentence from the end of All the Pretty Horses: There were few cattle in that country because it was barren country indeed yet he came at evening upon a solitary bull rolling in the dust against the bloodred sunset like an animal in sacriicial torment. The length and complexity of the sentences literally, almost physically, constrain the reader to ind meaning. This marked style empowers the narrator or speaker with a certain hegemonic authority over the discourse, although counter-discourse and the transitory nature of language itself tend to undercut that power as well, underscoring the necessity of close reading to unpack the subtleties of these exchanges.
He ills out his word-hoard by appropriating words from local dialects, different languages, specialty terms, and archaic language. Tap them and they ring true. He knows all the registers of storytelling, from truncated plain talk to unpunctuated ruminative rap, nighthawk cattle songs to country-western ballads to Mexican folk corridos, inventive cursing to low poker humor, sexual come-ons to scatological broken lyrics. His is not parlor, academic, or clerical diction, but a working register of common idioms. The words themselves, like the syntax, constrain the reader to spend more time and effort on interpreting the text and thereby to feel the weight of meaning more heavily. In their concordance, for example, Christopher Forbis, Wes Morgan, and John Sepich report that McCarthy uses 30, different words in all of his novels, with 13, occurring only once.
Happily, his writing always rewards our most diligent efforts. See Roland Barthes, SZ, trans. Richard Miller, pref. Harari Ithaca: Cornell University Press, , p. For discussions of disappearance in McCarthy, see Dianne C. Edwin T. Arnold and Dianne C. Luce Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, , pp. Phillip A. Steven R. Ibid, Simply put, Jameson explores the global capitalist economy, with an emphasis on its power of commodiication, and traces its effects on architecture and art, which relect a postmodern relocation of the repositories of such traditional notions as individuality, knowledge, emotion, and spatial relationships.
Claude Levesque and Christie McDonald, trans. Here Derrida makes speciic reference to Nietzsche, which we have replaced with [the sender] to keep the application more generic in this discussion. See also commentary by translators Isabelle Reinharez pp. Harlow, England: Pearson, , p. TOK 7. BM — Holloway, p. Trotignon, p. Reinharez, p. BM , , , , , 65, Christopher Forbis, Wesley G. Like other iction in the American southern gothic genre, these novels combine a horror-drenched and heavily allegorical aesthetic style with historically rooted commentary on social ills, such as issues of race, class, urbanization, and industrialization, to bring into focus repressed social anxieties.
One element of the gothic aesthetic, the grotesque, forms a particularly important part of these Appalachian novels. The grotesque, often used to illuminate notions of evil and the abject, transforms ordinary objects into something bizarre — otherworldly, transcendent, demoniac — to reveal the sublimated and the mysterious. The Orchard Keeper, in other words, is not a novel about the erosion of morals or civilized behavior with the onslaught of civilization, but a novel that illuminates how the patina of social laws embodied, perhaps, by the law-abiding yet fundamentally evil Legwater and Constable Gifford cover over the more insidious forms of evil that infect everything from individuals to the ecological balance of the natural world.
This italicized prologue describes an old tree being cut down. Cooper are glimpses of heroic behavior throughout the novel — such as when John Wesley leaps into a river to rescue his hound dog and when he attempts to repay the bounty he earned for killing a hawk16 — but they are few and relatively insigniicant in comparison to the larger narrative events. It is only in this image of decay that their substantive presence throughout the novel is felt; the capacity for courage and moral behavior, like evil, infuses living humans through the particulate matter of these decayed heroes. Because both good and evil are human potentialities, the novel suggests that a sensitive conscience is necessary in order for an individual to recognize evil and counteract it with acts that defend the dignity and autonomy of the natural world and other humans.
The link between conscience and a grotesque biblical image of mutilation relects a common characteristic of the southern grotesque, where physical deformity externalizes emotional distress or moral ambivalence. When Ownby is arrested, the police leave the dog behind. Cooper nothing, his failure to act foreshadowed by his dreams of failed healings that commence the novel. Rather than acting as judges and juries, they act merely as intensiiers of evil. Not every character in the novel, however, participates allegorically in the exempliication and perpetuation of evil. Rinthy, doll-like and wraithlike,32 is an almost-insubstantial character, yet she provides the sole source of light, metaphorically and literally, in the novel.
Rinthy ultimately provides the only possible antidote to abjection in the novel. Child of God makes explicit use of carnivalesque and grotesque imagery to draw attention to the concept of evil and, paradoxically, the necessity of empathy in the face of evil. Because the narrator excoriates Ballard while commanding the audience to empathize with him, the narrator implies that empathy is not necessarily equivalent to sympathy. This complicated call for empathy sheds light on the problematic symbolism of the grotesque in this novel. Perhaps one of the most traditionally gothic elements in the novel is the cave system in the eastern Tennessee Appalachians into which Ballard crawls and which ultimately entomb his moldering victims.
In gothic iction, caves often house monsters and their monstrosities, psychological manifestations of horror and hysteria linked, as they are, to wombs. In Child of God, the association of caves with the maternal womb is made explicit,42 and what is birthed from these caves is pure horror. Although many critics ind Gnostic and Platonic resonances in the cave imagery,43 that imagery also employs traditional Roman Catholic symbolism. Cooper imaginatively lift souls up from the pit like Christ winnowing hell. Ballard is also given symbols of biblical authority. When Ballard is leeing the law, his crimes discovered, he falls into a river but does not drown. The reader is encouraged to recognize what is at stake here: as much as he is allegorical, Ballard is also real.
In the orthodox Christian tradition, Jesus is the divine everyman who unites in his person all spiritual virtues and all human attributes to demonstrate a pattern for righteous behavior to other humans. The parodic descriptions in this novel present Ballard as an evil everyman who unites in his person the most extreme forms of avarice, prejudice, and carnal desire with the image of God. There can be no salvation, the novel suggests, from evil, but only from blindness to it, whether the evil be in the external world or staring back from the mirror. If Child of God is about the worst crimes of which human beings are capable, Suttree provides a contrast through its depictions of the best qualities of which human beings are capable, such as friendship, mercy, and forgiveness.
The insubstantial healings and resurrections practiced in the novel are absurd and transitory, but they are nevertheless transcendent. This view of the world runs counter to the oficial narrative of civilized life. In these novels, the sacred story is incomplete without the scatological and the profane. Holiness and horror coexist. There is furthermore no simplistic antidote to human evil, only the profound realization of its existence.
At the same time, however, realizing that all individuals are alienated, lonely, and corrupted by this pernicious reality permits the reader to experience the elusive grace found in empathy, in creating bonds of understanding and compassion, however impermanent. For a deinition of the grotesque in gothic art, and the southern grotesque more speciically, see Wolfgang Kayser, The Grotesque in Art and Literature, trans. S Dianne C. TOK TOK 94, Luce, p. OD OD , Cooper Luce, pp. Christine Chollier Presses Universitaires de Reims, , pp. See, for example, John COG, 94, COG, , Exodus COG Di Renzo, p.
Genesis These include, but are hardly limited to, the nature of selfhood and subjectivity, the relation of self to other, the nature and possibility of evil, the place and use of ethics in a seemingly chaotic and malignant world, and the relation of violence to ontology. McCarthy shows a genuine interest in philosophical traditions that have come before him, including knowledge of relatively obscure Christian philosophers such as Jacob Boehme, as well as Platonism, Neo-Platonism, absurdism, and existential humanism. But he approaches these traditions as would a novelist. In other words, McCarthy is less interested in proving a philosophical argument than in allowing philosophical ideas to communicate and circulate in a way that makes them subject to considerations of narrative progression and development.
Because of a series of shifts in thought that begin with empiricism Hume in particular and reach full bloom in twentieth-century poststructuralism, the ground that had for centuries seemed solid and acceptable as a given began to seem to philosophers far from stable. How can we maintain or retain a sense of humanity and community with others while faced with the challenges posed to Western thought and rationality? His characters in these early books are less engaged in relection and indeed are often conveyed in a way that suggests for them very little sense of an interior life.
It is a community that is built on death, but not on the acknowledgment of the identiication with the dying, and in that sense there is no attempt to see oneself in the others that surround one, or to empathize. Here, there is an acknowledgment of the severity of death and the empathy his main characters feel for others. In All the Pretty Horses, for instance, John Grady Cole does have a real conscience, and as a result has a different type of consciousness of what it means to be human. Right and wrong are issues here in a way they are not in the earlier books. When ighting the cuchillero, even after being wounded, John Grady seems desperate to meet his eyes, searching for a sign of human recognition and connection. This is why he remains thoughtfully haunted by the man long after his death: he has acknowledged his own humanity in the other man.
Instead, there is a kind of vacillation over the dilemma of the relationship of self to other throughout, with McCarthy trying to ind a balance, but inding the question deserving of repeated rephrasing and inquiry. Most extreme of these three books is Outer Dark. The incestuous brother and sister have had a child that Culla has told Rinthy died at birth and which he has abandoned in the woods. When, regretting his decision, he traces his way back to where he left the child, he inds it gone. When his sister discovers his deception and betrayal, the community of two that they have formed together on the margin of society collapses.
Both travel separate roads, and once their communal connection has been lost it will not be reestablished. With the majority of the violence of the novel conducted by this group rather than the main characters, they seem more of a limit point, a pure evil for Culla to measure his own acts of emotional and actual violence against, and in that sense the problem explored here is less an ontological problem i. I, however, would argue that McCarthy deliberately leaves the exploration of this ethical question of evil truncated.
Although he allows Culla to meet the grim triune and see them kill and begin to eat his child, he cuts away from the scene before either showing how Culla participates in the act or how he manages to escape with his life. So, an ethical inquiry is cut short by an epistemological gap. More than any other novel Outer Dark presents its characters as placeless and in motion, and unable to ind rest. The resistance to depict what a character is thinking or feeling is on the one hand a philosophical problem and a question of epistemology: how can I, as a subject, really know what someone other than myself is thinking or feeling? As a result in many of his early novels the characters almost seem not to have an interior life at all, seem all surface, their exchanges and interactions fairly oblique.
By the Border Trilogy, however, McCarthy has igured out a way to give a sense of an interior life without claiming to reveal an unrevealable interiority. Instead, he allows the characters to articulate to others verbally what they are thinking, as John Grady does when he expresses his doubts and reservations to a judge. The inal paragraph of The Road, for instance, abandons both the characters that it has followed and the restraint of the narration as a whole to offer a paean to a lost pre-disaster life. Because McCarthy shifts the feel of the narration away from what we have been used to with this narrator, this moving passage can be read as the words and opinions of the author.
It can also be read, however, as the words of the narrator — though why he would suddenly shift his mode is hard to say. In addition, it can also be read as a continuation of the words of the woman speaking to the boy in the previous paragraph, which concludes the plotted novel. They express doubts and reservations themselves, but the truth of what they are saying is not meant to be doubted.
The same is true of the signiicant speeches of his main characters in the Border Trilogy: we take them at their word, what they say is an honest expression of themselves. More than any contemporary novelist, McCarthy shies away from unreliable narrative, and it is this that gives his work, despite the sparseness of the interior life of his characters, a sense of humanistic fullness. Even Child of God, which alternates between third person narration and irst person accounts about necrophiliac Lester Ballard from townsfolk, has irst person accounts that read less as unreliable narration meant to complicate the narrative or cause us to question it, and more as irst-person journalistic accounts.
In the primary chapters, the main character Lester Ballard, a man inhabiting the fringes of civilization, begins to drift farther and farther away from it. Eventually chance brings him into contact with the dead body of a woman with which he chooses to have intercourse. The townspeople offer ample speculation for why Ballard is the way he is, without either they or the book arriving at much of a conclusion. McCarthy offers nothing that would allow us to categorize Lester Ballard and ile him and his crimes neatly away. In fact, the book points to the failure of both epistemology and science to offer answers, and suggests that human nature exceeds either logical or rational explanation.
For Sartre, when you enter into a love relationship you want to possess the other person. Not as a body, not as an object, but wholly and fully, as a subject. The frustration of love is that every time you think you have possessed the other person fully, you realize that you have only had their body. This is coupled with the notion that if you are to be an object yourself for your lover — something perhaps unavoidable — then you feel you should be not only an object but the object, their whole world. A dead body is not a subject and so can be possessed only physically.
And yet, as it turns out, the dilemma cannot be so easily sidestepped. We want to have the illusion of possessing our lover fully whether she is alive or not, and because we cannot possess another consciousness fully anyway, the illusion of wholly possessing a body without a consciousness, a dead body, poses a similar problem to that of possessing a living body. The only difference is that a dead body is less responsive and decays quicker. So Ballard inds himself buying clothes for his dead lover, as he might well do for a living lover. Or it might even be argued, as Dianne C. This might be seen as simply afirming what Plato suggests — the cave allegory is, after all, just that: an allegory meant to be a representation of life on earth, and so as long as Ballard is alive he will be in the cave.
The central character of Suttree is Cornelius Suttree, a man who has given up a life of privilege to inhabit a houseboat on the Tennessee River. As in Child of God, McCarthy focuses not on the center of the community but on its edges. As a kind of adopted member of this community, Suttree inds himself a consultant for the others. Among this marginal community is Gene Harrogate, who Suttree meets in a prison workhouse.
Saving Harrogate becomes a sort of pet project for Suttree, despite his own better judgment. As I have mentioned elsewhere, Suttree seems at times a double-barreled response, both to another river novel, Huckleberry Finn, and to the Kerouacian road novel. The connection is certainly there, yet stylistically, tonally, and in terms of individual details, the two writers are profoundly different. In fact, it is as if McCarthy has taken absurd philosophy and rendered it American. But this, of course, leads to a different kind of alienation, one in which we might detect the roots of hippy and beat culture. It is not that McCarthy is interested in developing a coherent philosophical statement or in expounding any single philosophy, but instead that he has a toolbox of philosophical ideas that he allows his characters to apply to the problems of living within an imperfect world.
From broader philosophical issues that intrigue philosophers of many stripes — the relationship of self to others, for instance — to speciic notions of the world promulgated by speciic philosophical and philosophico-religious schools, McCarthy is interested in thinking not abstractly, but in how philosophies come to inform individual situations of an embodied consciousness within an imperfect world. Luce and Edwin T.
Arnold, eds. Also Dianne C. Barnes, trans. New York: Washington Square Press, , p. Sartre, p. El Paso: Texas Western Press, , pp. Vereen M. When his next novel, All the Pretty Horses , became a surprise bestseller, McCarthy was no longer obscure and no longer a southern writer. No Country for Old Men , a contemporary Western with cars rather than horses, relects on the previous four novels and arguably sums up the themes irst advanced in Blood Meridian. Although McCarthy can be called a writer of Westerns, his work confronts the essential questions that emerge from having been born human, questions of the utmost philosophical and theological importance, and does so in prose language that aspires to the status of poetry.
Turning to the Western gave McCarthy a stage for expanding the scope of his aesthetic vision and a space vast enough to enact the extraordinary originality of his prose. Along with portraying Americans pursuing their destinies on a mythic American western landscape, McCarthy compresses into his cowboy stories an engagement with Western literature, philosophy, and theology that reaches practically to the origins of European thought. Augustine, Charles Darwin, and Nietzsche. His Westerns are loosely in the picaresque tradition like Don Quixote or Huckleberry Finn and at times they are dialogues not unlike what Plato composed. In fact, one of his most important achievements is to inhabit the Western form to interrogate what happened when the Europeans discovered and invaded the New World.
His grandfather has just died and Cole knows he will not inherit the family ranch. He has been denied his inheritance, his patrimony. His life too will be short and redeemed only in the sense that it will be staked and eventually lost through his willingness to risk his blood in warlike confrontation with others. In a sense, they lead him toward his end. In perhaps the most memorable scene in the novel, a group of American soldiers led by the aptly named Captain White are slaughtered by a band of Comanches. In this scene, however, the clouds of dust bring actual warriors adorned with vestments of generations slain. As the Spanish populated the New World in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, their ships often carried two books: the Bible and Don Quixote.
With the Bible they brought God and Jesus to the heathen and with Don Quixote they brought a conception of selfhood unprecedented in human history. Blood Meridian is careful to acknowledge the diversity of past Indian experience — from warrior tribes to agricultural ones — and that they shared no point of commonality other than that they lived on the American continent before the Europeans arrived. You cannot know or understand what the world of the Indians was before the Europeans arrived. Yet, their existence cannot be — or still is not — eradicated, and the actions of his heroes, doomed as they are, at best replicate what has gone on before. It is important to note that McCarthy does not quite oppose the Europeans against the Indians, as would happen in a conventional Western.
To be sure, the judge and his gang kill Indians as well as Mexicans and Americans and their violent misdeeds transgress against the warrior culture whose passing John Grady Cole laments. Blood Meridian is most explicitly concerned with connecting the American present and future to the Indian or Ancient past, but this theme is evident in the other western novels. In Blood Meridian the kid tries to repent for his violence by promising to take an old Indian woman to safety. Their quests kill rather than redeem them but this fate reinforces their afinity with their Indian forebears.
These Westerns are not revisionist histories in the way that term is normally understood. They accept violence as a condition of being alive and they are not simply and easily critiquing a cartoonish version of an exceptionalist American history. The judge, the most violent character in American literature, is also the most learned and civilized. The scalphunters are hired to kill Indians by the agents of civilization. Conventional Westerns generally have a clear and simplistic moral framework: good guys versus bad guys. Consequently, he goes to jail where he is forced to kill a man to survive. The murderer goes free, though, and the horse is judged to belong to John Grady.
Nor does he believe that he did right to kill another to survive. Yet, the narrative does not exempt Cole from his transgressions against his Mexican hosts. Near the end of the novel the kid will try to resist the judge, but by then it is too late. His pitiful and unconvincing repudiation of the judge cannot prevent the judge later from killing him. If an individual does not know the meaning of ones actions or where those acts lead, then one cannot easily assess the morality of those acts.
In these novels, seemingly good characters suffer and seemingly evil characters thrive. Chigurh uses a coin toss to determine whether someone lives or dies. In the irst instance, the person wants to know what is being bet before he calls the coin. Without knowing what is at stake, he reasons, he cannot call the coin. The question that this episode raises is to what extent either of the players is responsible for what happens.
Since the man called the coin correctly, Chigurh did not need to act and we cannot know what was truly put to the test. At irst she refuses. She insists that whether Chigurh kills her or not is a choice that Chigurh is making, not how she calls the coin. She accuses Chigurh of pretending to be God. Chigurh, however, suggests there is a context broader than the immediate one that seems to be determining her fate.
The same is true of Carla and Chigurh themselves. Most of the time we do not know the effects of our actions — even when we think we do, we do not. In this instance, Carla knows exactly what the consequence of one of her acts will be. To call the coin and decide her fate is terrifying. She wants to believe that God will decide her fate, not Chigurh, but his argument is that her fate is always being decided and this is but another instance of that inevitable process.
Chigurh tells Carla what Alfonsa told Cole: there is no might have been and there never was. Thus, when Carla calls heads and the coin comes up tails, Chigurh suggests that it is for the best. She had believed that Moss was fated to be her husband so it is logical that she should believe that Chigurh is her only possible end. If we say that Chigurh is a maniac, that does not change the fact that his actions are part of the chain of events by which the world is recreated daily.
To Carla Jean, Chigurh presents himself as merely an instrument in a story greater than either of them, but he can also be seen as the ordering agent who inalizes the fates of the characters. He does not make the world, but he is the force through which the human world is continually made, un-made, and made again. In Blood Meridian, the judge explicitly tries to assume the role of world-maker a role that can, in fact, only belong to McCarthy.
The judge collects and takes notes on fossils to include within a book that he is keeping. His seemingly far-fetched goal is to compress the material artifacts of the world into a book that only he can write. Thus, as he makes his way across the western territory of the United States, he copies what he inds and then he destroys it so no one after him can see what he has seen. More than the power conferred by knowledge the judge seeks to possess whatever power makes knowledge possible. As the master of the world, he can do anything. He can micturate on a rock, and from the combination of his own waste with the rock create gunpowder with which to kill others. He can quote ancient laws and he can claim to possess the secrets of the earth. He can carry in one hand a parasol made of animal bone and rile in the other while he literally promenades across the desert killing everything that crosses his way.
In Blood Meridian, nothing stops him — not civilization, nature, nor the kid who sets himself up against the judge at the end of the book. Arguably, he is usurping the power of the Creator; through his acts of destruction he assumes a knowledge that is unique and lays claim to possessing the origin of the world he explores. In one telling scene, the judge highlights the implications of his discoveries.
Just as the judge blithely destroys the unique artifacts of natural history that cross his path as he ventures westward, so does he destroy virtually every living human Indian, Mexican, or American that gets in the way of his solipsistic pursuit of knowledge. In Blood Meridian, as well as the other novels being considered, it often seems that the only knowledge that matters is the difference that separates the living and the dead and the only way to truly experience the power of this knowledge is through killing someone else.
Lawrence noted that the typical hero implied by much of American iction is a cold, stoical killer. When the judge examines the pattern of a fossil, he hopes to discern the logic left by the world that he encounters. None of his countless acts of murder or blasphemy are arrested by God or any other force. Of the group that travels with him, he is the only survivor, one who is it enough to dance happily when last seen by the reader. One may be tempted to interpret the judge as a ictional incarnation of evil.
At issue is how the world is known and ordered and further how this ordering is made manifest through either works of God or humans. ATPH — Many forms of cruelty and deviation, from the ordinary to the most extravagant, are represented. War scenes, however, insofar as they explicitly involve the protagonists in recognizable historical conlicts, are not part of the tales told in the Border Trilogy or even in The Road, even though the latter comes closest to describing a world we assume to have been ravaged by a major, possibly man-made, conlagration. Europe is far away, a mere cultural token of high social standing for the Maderos who studied there, and it was a sanctuary for Alfonsa herself, when the Mexican revolution broke out. It is a place preserved from war, not a military theater of operations.
The war in the Paciic is only obliquely referred to in the Winslow, Arizona bar where Billy confronts a drunken soldier and a barman who seems to fear a Japanese invasion. This must lead any careful observer to reconsider the whole epoch, not just in military terms but in relation to more subtle and covert battles fought over ideologies, symbols, and myths. Both the Border Trilogy and The Road were written in the post-Cold War period, which means that all possible correspondences between the iction and the time of writing are informed by retrospection and perspicacity.
With the Border Trilogy, published between and , McCarthy must also have been inluenced by the resurgence of democratic idealism and liberalism of the Clinton years, and on hindsight perceived the vanity of wild anticommunism, the arms race, and the rhetoric of American supremacy which colored world politics for more than four decades. During the Cold War, armed aggressions or military interventions were never excluded, on condition they would not lead the world to World War III. The Cold War, then, was essentially a war of words, a contest between two entrenched and radically opposite ideologies that sporadically materialized into local military scufles or ominous diplomatic tensions.
Martin J. For the most part, however, Cold War is a matter of symbolic action, action intended to forward the accomplishment of strategic goals — social, political, economic, military, or diplomatic. In The Crossing, all is telling, says the church caretaker in Huisachepic. This discourse of war, at least on the American side, sought to defend universal human values while at the same time establishing the conditions of United States supremacy over the whole planet. Clausewitz saw war not just as military action but as a political and social phenomenon involving individuals as well as nations. Therefore, war need not rest exclusively on the existence or performance of armies, and, because it claims to avoid direct confrontation, the Cold War extends the scope and signiicance of war to incorporate strategies of coercion that involve the entire social body and determine the standards of interpersonal or international relationships.
Combat troops need not be used. Confrontations abound in the Border Trilogy, even though they may be described indirectly to the reader as reports, hearsay, tales, or personal recollections. This government move is an apt metaphor for the rapacious and imperialistic instinct of a militarized superpower whose decisions cannot or should not be opposed.
All wars, including the Cold War, have coerced peoples into submission or exile and westerners like John Grady Cole must move on to survive, caught up as they are in the meshes of conlicts which, for all their remoteness, reach the ranch only through the kitchen radio. For the cowboy, this new nomadism signals a change of worlds, a homelessness which challenges his very identity and entices him to reconstruct the sense of community that had vanished with the ranch. In The Crossing, Billy Parham is similarly encouraged to join the army, not out of patriotic conviction or love of ighting, but to fully recover his national identity. It is a national identity that he had nearly lost in his Mexican peregrinations, along with the familiar presence of his brother Boyd.
Something from an older time. To a world scene that privileged free exchanges and democratic values, the Cold War substituted divisions and exclusions, hermetic borders and exacerbated nationalisms. But Mexican-American relations, for all their apparent peacefulness, thinly veil some implacable antagonisms which can be solved only by deadly violence. The neighbor has suddenly turned into an enemy. Principles of law and moral values have suddenly been lost. During his crossexamination of the captives the captain warns that truths in Encantada and Saltillo might not be the same: You have the opportunity to tell the truth here. In three days you will go to Saltillo and then you will no have this opportunity. It will be gone. Then the truth will be in other hands.
You see. We can make the truth here. Or we can lose it. But when you leave here it will be too late. Too late for truth. As with the Cold War, the struggle for power leaves no other choice than to dominate or disappear. Here there are no longer hemispheric zones of inluence nor a profusion of tales standing for the ideological discourses of Cold War expansionism. Their enemies lurk everywhere, unidentiiable. Neither does The Road where each encounter may turn into deadly confrontation. One character, though, seems to personify Cold War rogues better than many others, one who stands for the perfect enemy: Eduardo, the pimp in Cities of the Plain. Nor anything in it. The war changed everything.
It aint the same no more. It never will be. Geopolitical or ideological affairs were beyond the reach of the common man. Only those who, in Yalta or Potsdam, shared the spoils of war could hope to master the future. For the rest of the world, it was business as usual. The money he counts is the product of the shameless exploitation of dependent employees, poor girls no better off in their own walled-in brothel than the inmates at the Encantada prison. On the surface, the story of John Grady and Magdalena may look like any other tragically impossible love affair.
Whatever the motives, the confrontation is bound to go to the end and leave the two enemies to ight over a nonexistent possession, because the girl is already dead. Magdalena fears him and John Grady knows he cannot be circumvented. The only inal alternative is the elimination of the enemy. And we will devour you, my friend. You and your pale empire. Yet the lesson of this whole story is that enemies are closer to us than we think.
So that the man who has done you great injury or injustice makes himself a guest in your house forever. It involves symbols that relate it to history itself, much as do several of the adventitious tales that are scattered through The Border Trilogy. Like other chance meetings to be found in the Border Trilogy and The Road, this one has a visible narrative function. Is identity, then, some quality we bestow on things or human beings or a quality that immanently rests with the thing itself? This is what history is about: giving meaning to objects that otherwise have none. The answer could have poisoned the whole retrieval operation because the possibility of a choice was left open. In fact, some higher power decided that it would not be so because the other plane was lost on a similar rescue attempt in the haphazard lood of the local Rio Papigochic.
This second catastrophic story shows that the same causes may produce opposite effects, regardless of human agency. What the gypsy and McCarthy are questioning here is the teleological character of history. But the Papigochic tale demonstrates that history cannot account for the unexpected. Schlesinger, Jr. In the case of the U-2 plane and Francis Gary Powers, the United States government, NASA, the State Department, the president himself, and inally the Soviets, came up with a series of different accounts of the incident in which truth was carefully drowned.
The question of borders is implicit in the uselessness of maps, which are codiied and supposedly reliable representations of space. This partakes of a world vision which excludes hermetically sealed borders of the kind which were established during the Cold War period, in contravention to the idealistic, universalist views of Americans who believed World War II was a war of liberation, won over the apostles of alienation. In fact, the Cold War signiied the end of heroic universalism.
As revolutionary nations, both countries share a desire for liberty, which makes them mutually attractive. Mexicans and Americans, however, do not cross borders for the same reasons. Nomadism is for deserts, where political divisions hardly apply. Mexico is no longer a blank map and to cross into this country requires at least an ethical leap. There are moral lessons to be learned beyond borders: that you cannot just covet a girl above your own condition, that you cannot just drive animals freely back and forth across the frontier, that you cannot dispossess a man from what he believes is his property.
Borderlines are not just spatial divisions, they separate two historical universes that irremediably cement the linearity of time. There are repeated indications, in the Border Trilogy, that the succession of events escapes human manipulation. Such is also the case for Magdalena who, on her way to her inal rendezvous, says premonitory good-byes to the world around. Beyond human agency, catastrophic events also direct the low of time. In The Crossing, the Bavispe church will never be reconstructed and the blind man who lost his eyes in Durango will never recover his sight.
Conditions have appeared that force humankind to rewrite their own history. The Cold War implied similar revisions: it came into existence concomitantly with the advent of the nuclear age; and once the bomb had been tested, international relations would never again be the same. Historian C. The fact is that many of the precepts, principles, and values derived from past experience in wars can be tragically misleading in the new age. Traditions that associate the new type of war with honor, valor, and glory are no longer quite relevant.
The world, here, has suffered a terrible conlagration and one is led to wonder, despite the desolate coldness of the landscape, whether the journey of father and son does not illustrate the ultimate failure of the Cold War. There are no more borders to deine territories or nations; only the thin line of the road materializes a delusive security. The Road tells the story of two human beings trying to adjust to an environment from which all the usual markers — geographical, temporal, and social — have been erased. Ironically, McCarthy paints a tragically parodic version of the post-Cold War world that seems at once remindful of some past and a weird hinting that we, like the world, must never stop moving, the difference being that we never know what direction this world is taking.
But, for all the gloom displayed in The Road, there is always an obvious prevalence of simple strategies to make for a perpetual extension of our wanderings through an alien universe. Moving on is vital, whatever the costs, despite dangers coming from all sides and the unpredictable future. Christine Chollier Presses Universitaires de Reims, , 95— BT 7. BT Signiicantly the child needs constant reassurance about their righteousness. He said. And we always will be. We always will be. Arthur M. Hawthorne, Melville, and Poe are acknowledged masters of this form of iction, which has been discussed as a genre apart from the novel, especially the realistic novel of social concern and conlict.
Link argues that what emerged in the works of Jack London, Stephen Crane, Frank Norris, and Theodore Dreiser is a blend of the romantic aesthetic with naturalist concepts of biological and social determinism, atavism, and the plot of decline. Gil es A short, contained novel, Outer Dark especially recalls the gothic romances of Hawthorne and Poe. By contrast, sin has entered the world of Outer Dark before the novel opens, and much of the narrative recounts the doomed attempt of the male protagonist, Culla Holme, to lee from its very real consequences. The novel opens with Culla being forcefully awakened from a dream by his sister, Rinthy. Whereas Young Goodman Brown is merely tempted by the idea of some unnamed sin, Culla and Rinthy have violated one of the most universal of taboos.
In both cases, however, the penalty is the loss of their innocence. Ironically, at the end of the novel and after a series of horriic incidents, Culla, the much greater sinner, receives a promise of redemption from an actual prophet. The bulk of the text describes a dual quest undertaken separately by Culla and Rinthy. After Rinthy gives birth, the result of their incestuous act, Culla tells Rinthy that the newborn child is dead and that he is going to bury it. Instead, the baby is discovered and kidnapped by a tinker who has earlier tried to sell Culla some crude pornographic drawings. There seem to be three reasons for this. Such cowardice will characterize Culla throughout the text.
Moreover, there are hints in the text that Culla forced intercourse on Rinthy. While common aspects of the gothic romance, such symbolism and emphasis on the grotesque are also related to the naturalistic overtones of Outer Dark. In this context, it is useful to recall some comments from one of the classic American practitioners of literary naturalism, Frank Norris. From a socioeconomic perspective, Culla and Rinthy most deinitely come from the lowest class.
As in his novel Child of God, McCarthy depicts in Outer Dark central characters who inhabit a profoundly impoverished and isolated landscape. The Appalachia of these two novels seems to exist virtually outside any known space and time. As in the iction of Norris and the classic naturalists, a form of determinism underlies Outer Dark. Instead, he combines a number of external and internal forces into a multilayered determinism. As is typical of the texts of both the contemporary northern urban and rural southern groups of writers, the determinism in Outer Dark, as well as in Child of God, is rooted in psychological, social, and economic forces.
Paradoxically, while more complex and subtle than the biological and economic forces that overwhelm McTeague and Maggie Johnson, it is not as total in its controlling power. Neither Culla nor Rinthy are ultimately destroyed, although their child is, and in the most grotesque of ways. As in most McCarthy, violence is pervasive in these two Appalachian novels and becomes a key aspect of the determinism in both. He is hounded by guilt throughout the novel; and, throughout his quest, he encounters individuals who seem to possess some mysterious knowledge of his sin with Rinthy and who make more or less direct references to it. A sacred obligation. Afore God. Consciously, he is seeking Rinthy, but subconsciously, he is in light from his guilt and the family that he has destroyed.
He has violated in the most fundamental way his obligations to Rinthy and to their child. The next judgment of Culla occurs in a scene that mingles horror with black comedy and echoes a passage from the New Testament book of Mark. After stepping aside to give the drovers and their herd room, Culla engages in some wildly comic conversation with one of them about the nature of hogs only to witness the drover being driven by the stampeding herd off the cliff and into the river, where he drowns. The landscape through which Culla travels seems at times to exist entirely within his consciousness, to be a recreation of the dark forest which Young Goodman Brown explores. Given that McCarthy deliberately keeps the setting of the novel ambiguous, thereby giving it a certain universal and mythic quality, it would be dificult to argue for a social protest reading of Outer Dark.
Still, the complete power that the two squires hold over Culla and one assumes everyone who is as impoverished as he suggests a largely elided Marxist dimension in the text. After Culla spends an entire day chopping up a fallen tree with an ax, the squire pays him ifty cents and offers him dinner. In this transaction, Culla is completely at the mercy of the squire. The second squire arbitrarily decides what to charge Culla with and what sentence to give him. I give ye pretty light for a stranger anyways. Poverty is not the only aspect of the environmental determinism that controls Culla and to a lesser degree Rinthy as well.
Isolation, lack of any education, and religious indifference are also central elements of it. The tinker seems to be their irst visitor in some time, and he kidnaps the baby that Culla has abandoned. Truly, no one in the novel seems to know either of them; they encounter only strangers during their separate travels, although the strangers whom Rinthy meets demonstrate some kindness and generosity. Still, Rinthy is more troubled than Culla by their isolation. The reader learns very little about their background except that they have only lived in the Chicken River area for about four months.
Moreover, their condition seems to be just slightly worse than that of the people they encounter on their travels with the exception of the two squires. The world in which Outer Dark is set is impoverished in more ways than one. It also is largely bereft of any redeeming spirituality. Rinthy gives birth on a Sunday; and, when Culla goes to a store to get some food for her, he is denied entrance. One feels that she does so in spite of and not because of her religion. Word and lesh. There are two references in the text to a meanness that seems inherent in the world of Outer Dark. Their crimes are so brutal, so random and unmotivated that they seem to be, at least on one level, agents of an unknowable supernatural force; and most critics have viewed them from transcendental, even mythic, perspectives.
As such, he is not simply like Satan, but one of his avatars. Initially, they appear only in italicized sections separate from the main narrative of the text, the irst of which opens the novel. While the reader of course cannot know their identity when they irst appear, McCarthy introduces them with some ominous symbolism. Even the unnamed food they eat will take on ominous overtones. The murderous violence that they embody is only implicit in this opening scene, but it becomes more overt with each of their subsequent appearances.
McCarthy perhaps uses it to signal that the triune parody the idealistic depictions of urban and rural workers commissioned by the Works Progress Administration WPA during the Great Depression they are, after all, stealing from a repressive landowner , but the timelessness of the narrative makes it impossible to assume that for certain. They next appear simultaneously within the main narrative of the novel and in an accompanying italicized section.
They follow or precede Culla wherever he goes until, in two climactic scenes, he inally encounters them. That the trio exists both outside and inside the main narrative signals their role as being simultaneously human and beyond human — in fact, beyond human comprehension. Their crimes increasingly demonstrate this duality. At one point, they rob some graves, stealing the clothing from the dead and arranging the nude bodies in sexually suggestive positions. Gil es human beings who commit unthinkable acts. This purpose constitutes one of the naturalistic ingredients in his iction. He irst comes upon them after almost drowning in the wreck of a ferry boat. The leader welcomes them to their ire. While Culla escapes ultimate punishment for his sins, the unnamed child is grotesquely sacriiced in his place.
In addition to determinism, one other characteristic of naturalism is evident in the novel. Moreover, they are observed by human, nonhuman, and often harshly judgmental strangers throughout their travels. Nina Baym. New York: W. Norton, , pp. Gil es William C. Howard, pp. War discloses who is godlike and who is but a man, who is a slave and who is a free man. War is god. There is nothing peculiar in this. The initial reviews were relatively scant and at best ambivalent. Not surprisingly, critics were disturbed by the staggering portrayal of violence. While both reviewers were tepid in their overall judgment, both equally concede a vexing irony that they cannot rest with comfortably: Cormac McCarthy writes a novel of incomparable beauty derived from the raw matter of incomparable horror.
Modern readers are often skeptical of the classical and neoclassical dictum that authors must write with a moral imperative. Philosophers and critics ranging from Aristotle to Horace, from Samuel Johnson to Alexander Pope, have argued that literature should possess a moral content and be directed toward an ethical mission. Modern aesthetic values, however, tend to question these assertions for various reasons, grounded in the concern that literature not function at the bidding of particular ideological systems.
But Blood Meridian invites us to consider the ethical content inherent in any artwork that genuinely engages the world. Perhaps if literature is powerful and moving enough, a personal transformation in the reading process functions at the deepest psychological level. If we entertain this notion, perhaps we must channeling Melville in Moby-Dick drag McCarthy to the bar. Might we not echo Samuel Johnson in his admonition of Shakespeare and say that McCarthy writes without a moral purpose?
And is it not reasonable to expect that his selection of material invites or even demands an ethical vision? The volume, organized by alphabetical entries, offers analysis of novels, stories, plays, characters, motifs, allusions, and themes, as well as commentary on corresponding events, places, and people. Many entries also include a selected bibliography for further reading. This volume contains two appendices. The second appendix offers topical suggestions for further inquiry and study.
It is hoped that readers will take into account the suggestions for further reading and the works listed in the lengthy bibliography. Early in his career, owing a great debt to William Faulkner he even had the same editor as that Mississippi writer , he was perceived as a distinctly regionalist writer, couching his compelling, insular gothics in the hills and hollows of Appalachia. His style also crystallized into a heightened language that came off as both timeless and antiquarian, and that seemed to draw on and ultimately sublimate Melville, the Bible, and Ernest Hemingway. Now far from just being a Southern or Western regionalist, he had fashioned his own novelistic world.
As Richard B. Thus he sets out, caring for the injured wolf and towing her along on this improbable journey. Even in the relatively recent No Country for Old Men , a merciless and automaton-like assassin named Anton Chigurh drives the plot headlong. Violence and death have, in fact, become his idiom as he engages in a distinct brand of heightened if savage realism. Like Joseph Conrad before him, McCarthy unfurls the great paradox of civilization — i. The acts of mutilation in Blood Meridian are at stark odds with the high-minded, celestial ideals of Manifest Destiny or the myth of the frontier though McCarthy does not seek to espouse causes or moralize.
And nowhere is he more in command than in his rendering of natural landscapes and the physical world. The architect of such a distinct and idiosyncratic literary style has also found a rare balance with commercial success. All the Pretty Horses forced the reclusive author from the shadows of literary acclaim and became a bestseller upon its release in To date, all of his interviews can be counted on one hand. His reticence to be in the public eye has made him that much more compelling to many readers. For years, only bare-bones fragments of his biography were known: He was born in Rhode Island in , moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, at age four, served in the Air Force, and soon after began his long, steady ascent to a career as a successful author, the path littered with awards, grants, marriages, and accolades.
And all along, he insisted on his need for privacy, avoided public appearances and remained deeply absorbed in the work of writing, not in the construction of the public persona of Cormac McCarthy. When Winfrey questioned him about his lack of public interviews, he politely explained that talking about writing seemed kind of silly when one could actually spend that time engaged in the actual act of writing. Nevertheless, in his ten great novels, he has given the rest of us much to talk about, and much to admire; thus the reason for this particular book you are holding. The aim of this work is not necessarily to wrestle down or tame the quite essential and intended narrative complexities and ambiguities. A critical companion to these novels should celebrate the language, the gifts, and the mystery at the heart of these books in a manner that most can appreciate at some level.
He was third in a line of six children, and as eldest son was named Charles, after his father. He was preceded by sisters Jackie and Bobbie, while siblings Bill, Maryellen, and Dennis came after him. Cormac McCarthy did not live in Rhode Island for very long, however. At the age of four, the family moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, where his father had taken a job as legal counsel for the Tennessee Valley Authority.
McCarthy was raised as a Roman Catholic in the South, something that certainly set him apart from the majority, and he was educated in a parochial high school. As a child, he took a keen interest in the natural world that surrounded his home, another preoccupation that would come to dominate his novels, as he would become notable for distinct and uncanny descriptions of natural environments. McCarthy entered the University of Tennessee during the academic year, but then left college to join the United States Air Force in , serving a four-year stint. He was stationed in Alaska for a couple of years, where he had a radio show. After the Air Force, he returned to the University of Tennessee in , and while he would never achieve a degree, it was during this second attempt at college that he began to take up writing with serious intent.
He became hooked after a professor tasked him with editing a textbook of eighteenth-century essays. This foundation, established by celebrated poet James Ingram Merrill — son of the founder of Merrill Lynch — awarded money to writers and artists. The couple had a son, Cullen, and settled in Sevier County, Tennessee. The marriage was brief, however, and McCarthy set out on a peripatetic existence, drifting to Asheville, North Carolina, and later New Orleans, living in humble abodes and scratching out a hand-to-mouth existence. McCarthy had blindly submitted the manuscript to the only book publishing company of which he had known. But some saw the debut as too fraught with, and hampered by, tones of his famous Southern predecessor Faulkner. One such award, a travel fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, allowed him to head by ocean liner to Ireland, reportedly to research his family history for a possible book.
While on board he met an English woman named Anne DeLisle, who was working as a singer and dancer on the ship. The two married in England in , and on the back of a Rockefeller Foundation grant they traveled around Europe and settled for a time on the island of Ibiza, about 80 kilometers off the coast of Spain, in the Mediterranean Sea. The island was a relatively bohemian artistic settlement at the time. He centered the novel around an incestuous union between a brother and sister, a union that results in a baby. There is a dreamlike and archaic atmosphere to the haunting narrative of Outer Dark, as well as an arduous journey motif and a cast of malevolent characters. DeLisle claimed years later that they lived in virtual poverty. It is a vivid, grotesque, and even darkly humorous book.
The boy is hanged for the crime. It was also considered to be a tangentially autobiographical work, making it a rarity in the McCarthy canon. While residing in the U. He also mastered Spanish, which would often crop up in the dialogue of his future books. The fellowship was a clear indication that, despite his meager sales and reclusiveness, McCarthy was gaining great respect in high literary circles. Among the writers recommending him for the award were Nobel Prize winner Saul Bellow and acclaimed Southern novelist and historian Shelby Foote. He gave no interviews, avoided public appearances, and steered wide of traditional milieus such as literary circles and university lecturing gigs.
The work was most likely written in the early s, as it references the year The screenplay is a deep, dialogue-driven meditation on the nature of whales, particularly how they communicate, with a locale that shifts from Florida, to Ireland, to Sri Lanka. In Whales and Men, according to Edwin T. Blood Meridian was a vast, epic, bloody, and phantasmagoric narrative about a motley band of scalp hunters running amok in the American Southwest and Mexico during and But Blood Meridian only gathered critical steam in the following decades; at the time of its release, it received little recognition and only sold a few thousand copies.
But they were combined with a more accessible narrative upheld by recognizable romance and adventure tropes. McCarthy, then nearly 60 years old, was still living in El Paso at the time, in a modest stone house near a shopping center. He only relented after his publisher had implored him to submit to the publicity in order to help promote the new book and the pending Vintage reissues of his older novels. The portrait that Woodward painted of McCarthy certainly seemed a stark contrast to his complex and dark novels: A compact unit, shy of six feet even in cowboy boots, McCarthy walks with a bounce, like someone who is also a good dancer. McCarthy did, though, admit to becoming acquainted with novelist Edward Abbey before his death in At the time of the New York Times piece, McCarthy was immersed in composing The Crossing , the second border book and a novel that would stand out as the most weighty, complex, and multifaceted volume of the trilogy.
But the mere summary of these journeys barely hints at the thematic scope and the countless people Billy meets along the way, as well as the vivid imagery and deep musings that are interwoven in the narrative. In the early s, Cormac McCarthy had begun making regular trips to Santa Fe to visit the Santa Fe Institute, a place that would eventually become a sort of home base for him. Housed in an old convent in the hills outside of Santa Fe, it became a haven for thinkers from varying disciplines to come together and ponder the complexities of existence. McCarthy has made no bones about preferring the company of scientists to that of other writers or artistic types. When you say something, it needs to be right. Richard B.
Standing out from the crowd is a red Ford F diesel pickup with Texas plates. Equipped with a Banks PowerPack that boosts the 7. The owner of the truck, the novelist Cormac McCarthy, would also seem not to belong here. Well into his sixties, McCarthy also became a father again. Woodward in He had conceived the piece years earlier, and it was published by Ecco Press in In , an intention to mount a production of the play in Washington, D. McCarthy was not directly involved in the production but did make a rare appearance to witness the staging of the play, which, according to critic and close McCarthy follower Edwin T. Arnold, appeared in a much abbreviated form. They are both wearing sports coats and jeans, and the resemblance between the two is obvious.
When the lights dim, McCarthy, his wife Jennifer, and Dennis sit near the back of the room, inconspicuous members blending into the anonymous audience, waiting for the play to begin The play intercuts two dramatic sections; in one Ben delivers stirring monologues that pay tribute to Papaw. The camera even focused directly on him in his seat son John at his side when producer Scott Rudin thanked him from the stage. During the press run-up to the movie, McCarthy again showed willingness for publicity: In October of Time magazine ran a short article that was basically an informal conversation between the Coen brothers and Cormac McCarthy. The post-apocalyptic tale describes a man and his son undertaking a relentless journey across a charred landscape that has been obliterated by some unnamed and cataclysmic catastrophe.
The narrative itself is stripped-down and stark especially when compared to the Border Trilogy , but won McCarthy his biggest accolade yet, the Pulitzer Prize ; it was also a national bestseller. TV mogul Oprah Winfrey even picked The Road as a choice for her book club, and in perhaps the strangest twist in the story 15 A Brief Biography of the publicity-shy writer, McCarthy agreed to be interviewed by the talk-show host on her program in June Passionate sounds like a pretty fancy word. I like what I do When Winfrey inquired about the inspiration behind The Road, McCarthy explained that he and his young son John, to whom he dedicated the book, were staying in a hotel in El Paso when the idea came to him. In early May of , McCarthy received another in a long line of honors.
As of this writing, in the summer of , Cormac McCarthy is said to be at work on a new novel — set in New Orleans and with the working title The Passenger —and allegedly has two other books underway as well. Throughout the novel, Ab remains locked in an obsessive, pitched, and violent struggle with the Knoxville police force, a war of attrition that eventually leads to his death in a police beating. In this biblical story, the three Jews were condemned to death for refusing to worship a golden idol of King Nebuchadnezzar, but they emerged unscathed from the furnace because of the intervention of God. Will we be extremists for hate or will we be extremists for love?
Will we be extremists for the preservation of justice or will we be extremists for the cause of justice? That same white man was murdered and Ab was wrongly imprisoned for the crime and forced to endure severe beatings in jail. In particular, McCarthy noted how he preferred the company of scientists to that of other writers. The plans for the wolf may have never materialized, but the association makes sense, as both writers are indelibly associated with the landscape of the Southwest and have been recognized as rugged individualists driven by their own respective visions and not afraid to work outside of the structures and orders of mainstream society.
In fact, Abbey may have been the more extreme — or at the least the more vocal — of the two. Abbey was not only a novelist but a staunch wilderness defender who often espoused extreme measures. After serving in the Army, Abbey headed west in , where he studied English and philosophy at the University of New Mexico. Soon after, he set out to become a writer, supporting himself through whatever jobs he could pick up. For nearly 20 years on and off, he worked for the U. Forest Service and the National Park Service. Abbey would go on to pen 19 books, including his most well-known, the novel The Monkey Wrench Gang, about radical environmentalists planning the destruction of Glen Canyon Dam in Arizona.
He had even harsher words for larger industries. Edward Abbey died on March 14, , from a circulatory ailment at his home in Oracle, Arizona. Despite its mass popularity, however, the novel was still critically lauded and scored both a National Book Award and a National Book Critics Circle Award. This differentiates it not only from Blood Meridian but also from the next book in the trilogy, The Crossing.
And even as the novel presents images of the romanticized Western, it sets up a pattern of questioning that very romance. We get a clue to this early on as John Grady Cole stares at a painting in the dining room of the family ranch, which is destined to be sold off to big oil interests. But it tastes pretty good to a cowboy. Drinking cactus juice in old Mexico, he said. She was so pale in the lake she seemed to be burning. The Mexican Revolution, an armed struggle on horseback, had ceased only two decades before, and its reverberations are still all over the Mexico that Cole encounters.
The Crossing will actually take us backward, into a time just before and during that war. The old is giving way to the new, but the past still resonates. We witness this in the opening passage, with Cole attending the funeral of his grandfather, the last ancestral vestige of the family ranching tradition. His mother is destined to inherit the ranch and, like many others in west Texas, sell it off to big oil interests, signaling the death of an old way of life.
The narrative intertwines violence and romantic love, like twisting gyres. The girl leads him to a small, open plaza. As in the corridos. Just the blood on the stones. I wanted to show you. The death of Jimmy Blevins, the mysterious man-child companion of Cole and Rawlins who gets them into so much trouble, is represented in a similarly unvarnished, unromantic fashion. He is led off and unceremoniously shot behind a stand of trees, like a sick animal.
Without proselytizing, McCarthy seems to be stripping away any gloss to reveal only the act, both the inevitability and the mindlessness of it. Alfonsa tells how, as a teenager, she had deeply fallen in love with Gustavo, the younger brother of Francisco Madero, the genteel, educated Mexican president whose assassination in led to the bloodiest epoch in the Mexican Revolution. Gustavo, like his brother a politician and revolutionary, was captured by Federalist forces and released to an angry mob, where, as many historical sources report, he was tortured and killed. But McCarthy uses his descriptive powers to imagine the gory details that histories politely step over.
He collapsed at the feet of the statue of Morelos. He was pronounced dead. A drunk in the crowd pushed forward and shot him again anyway. They kicked his dead body and spat upon it. Violence is also a generational rite of passage for John Grady Cole, much like it was for his great-uncles and his own father. His consummation comes when he is forced to defend himself against assassination in a Mexican prison. For Cole and Rawlins, Mexico had started out as a blank space on the map p. In the U. Nevertheless, one motivating force that drives John Grady Cole throughout All the Pretty Horses is his overwhelming and peculiarly obstinate sense of justice — and this ultimately prevents the novel from pitching into outright pessimism.
Thus, we see Cole, in some sort of baptismal image, crossing the Rio Grande nude and on horseback, having fully emerged from his ordeal in Mexico. But while the traditional history of the American colonial enterprise has a rhetorical power to justify bloodshed in the name of nation and even religion, All the Pretty Horses traces the more arbitrary reasons for violence. In more blunt terms, it was simply a matter of ego. Our last image of Billy in The Crossing is of him sitting in the middle of a highway weeping. Cole is cast in a similarly pessimistic light.
I know it is. This scene recalls the ride along the old Comanche trail at the beginning of the book, where the ghosts of the old warriors are palpable. The bloodred dust blew down out of the sun p. This unsettling conclusion reminds us just how distinctive, powerful, and unusual a reading experience the Border Trilogy truly is and is illustrative of the relentless dark weight of the books. Beyond thematic concerns, however, we cannot forget the remarkable language of Cormac McCarthy. At many points in the book, the reader also experiences the hallmark omniscient voice that occasionally breaks into a McCarthy narrative in a stentorian basso profondo: [T]he captain inhabited another space and it was a space of his own election and outside the common world of men.
A space privileged to men of the irreclaimable act which while it contained all the lesser worlds within it contained no access to them. This is the booming, antiquarian voice that we will hear even more prominently in The Crossing. This is the uncanny language that has roots in William Faulkner but that McCarthy has fashioned in his own image over the decades.
McCarthy seems to be pulling the language apart at its roots. Edwin T. Arnold and Dianne C. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, Bell, Madison Smartt. Brewton, Vince. Busby, Mark. Rick Wallach. Sugg, Katherine. Tatum, Stephen. New York: Continuum Books, Tidmore, Kurt. Wegner, John. With his historically fraught, diligently researched books about the U. Indeed, with its potent descriptions of savagery and exacting body counts Blood Meridian taps into areas that few other novels about the West have dared broach. The narrative broadly ranges about the contested lands that would eventually form the American Southwest and northern Mexico, a cultural stew of indigenous tribes, Anglos of various European descents, the occasional African American, and Spanish-speaking peoples.
Further complicating this civilizational portrait is the nature of their vocation, which contractually binds them to furnish Apache scalps to the governors of the Mexican states of Chihuahua and Sonora. The rationale for using U. Notorious bounty scalp hunters of the period included the Northern Ireland—born James Kirker and infamous James Johnson, who is credited with sparking the scalp industry boom. Many Americans, for example, had no problem trading for loot that was plundered in raids of Mexico. This of course changed as Americans evolved into permanent and populous settlers in the s after the war-ending Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and the Gadsden Purchase vastly extended the young American republic into regions that Mexico once claimed.
Many historical accounts point out that in their zeal to collect bounties scalp hunters descended upon any and all with black hair: Mexicans, other indigenous people, etc. The latter passages of Blood Meridian leap ahead to the winter of Another commonality that McCarthy shares with the most trenchant Western historical scholarship is the idea of the U. That the newly established border in the s — which took years to map out — passed through the heart of active native communities presents yet another conundrum to the idea of demarcation. For Cormac McCarthy, liminality becomes the very milieu of the Border Trilogy that came upon the heels of Blood Meridian, and an important force in his reimagining of the Western.
For the American cowboy protagonists John Grady Cole and Billy Parham, living in the middle of the twentieth century, the multicultural history of the borderlands has bold resonance; they move easily between Spanish and English dialogues, and in Mexico they consistently rub up against the after effects of the Mexican Revolution — , absorbing the tales and violent lessons of that epoch. In that country, they experience intimate encounters with people of all stripes: rural poor, aristocrats, artisans, gypsies, workers, bureaucrats, felons, Mennonites, Mormons, serranos mountain people.
Though the trilogy leaves behind the s for a more modern milieu the s and s , the past is always a stalwart presence. His family ranch was built in , and his grandfather was the only of eight male siblings to escape an early death. National identity is not so constant in these liminal border spaces, however. Political scientist Benedict Anderson, in the book Imagined Communities , mapped out national identity as a mere invention, and this is an attitude that resounds in the Border Trilogy as well. I dont know where it is. The slippery nature of national identity in the borderlands is hinted at before John Grady and Rawlins even enter Mexico. From Blood Meridian to All the Pretty Horses, the reader is swept through momentous changes that impact the societies of the region.
The Crossing also references atomic testing in the open spaces of New Mexico. Free trade between the U. Since World War II, the United States government has also stimulated the American Southwest by deep military investments in installations and industry throughout the region. No Country for Old Men , which is set in the Texas border country in , offers new, terrible testimony to this. An alarmingly large percentage of the illegal drugs that enter the United States are still smuggled across the border, but here we see U.
And has the region truly come so far since the days of the Glanton Gang and other bands of bounty scalpers? McCarthy 34 The American Southwest has consistently used the borderlands to point out the continuity of violence in human civilizations. Therefore, the author surely would not express the same shock as U. Senator John F. Bell suggests, however, that this malevolence is of a whole new breed, one unforeseen by history. Their kind. I dont know what to do about them even. The men who drew them hunters like himself. New York: Penguin Press, Limerick, Patricia Nelson. New York: W. At other times, McCarthy portrays a striking intimacy between animals and men. In Cities of the Plain , they certainly occupy a high moral and ethical ground. A good horse has justice in his heart.
McCarthy also explores a metaphysical kinship between horses and men. But in a world in which mechanized, modern warfare is encroaching, and in a geographical region where the cowboy lifestyle is headed toward obsolescence, the horses in the Border Trilogy also come to embody an old and vanishing way of life. Even as the novels take us down deep avenues of philosophical and theological exploration, animals often provide a ballast for the characters — a sense of certainty in an uncertain world. In this way, as Wallis R. Since McCarthy is also frequently preoccupied with existences that are headed toward extinction, it must be noted that the vanishing wolf— as a threat to cattle — has been pushed toward extinction by the ranching enterprise, just as the ranching way of life is also giving way.
All the Pretty Horses and The Crossing are not alone in their deliberation on animals; this is a motif that McCarthy began working with quite early on. Yet the panther of The Orchard Keeper also seems weakened by its proximity to and dependence upon humans: It sleeps in an outhouse and smells of it , feeds on prey lodged in man-made traps, and is attacked unawares by an owl. A panther, a. The 37 Apocalyptic Themes feline is a potent symbol in the novel, though, and the wild and vital being of the panther is contrasted with a blighted and sickly litter of kittens, which represent domestication. The domestic cat also shows up as a mystical being in the novel, an animal that the souls of the dead sometimes inhabit, according to local lore.
Animals in the Fiction of Cormac McCarthy. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, This is why his books, particularly his works concerning the Southwest and Mexico, are littered with apocalyptic themes and images — until, of course, he delivers the death of all civilizations in the post-apocalyptic rendering The Road Consider, then, that to American Indians it is as if the unthinkable has already happened, and relatively recently. Many Native American cultures were annihilated more thoroughly than even a nuclear disaster might destroy ours [Wong, p. As a hired expunger of Indians, he is engaged in annihilation with the other members of the Glanton Gang. But Judge 38 Apocalyptic Themes Holden is the only character in the novel that carries a full awareness of the dimensions, scope, and continuity of the enterprise — of the link between the three-million-year-old scalping, the Glanton Gang, and the devastation of which Erdrich speaks.
Most readers of McCarthy understand that he takes an egalitarian view of violence and posits it as a condition of humanity, not race or culture. Such is his view of the overall human condition. The Border Trilogy stays in the same locale as Blood Meridian but takes us away from the genocide of the s and into the twentieth century. The author nonetheless continues to mark out genocidal moments on the human continuum. Also, the bloody specter of massacres during the Mexican Revolution, which took place decades before, casts a weighty pall over the three books. Beyond direct allusions to events, McCarthy consistently delivers up foreboding and suggestive apocalyptic imagery. They appeared to be dressed in robes Indeed, readers can trace an apocalyptic imagistic strain from McCarthy from the s into the new millennium, despite certain authorial shifts in style, intent, and geographical locale.
While it is this tendency to dwell in apocalyptic themes that often gets Cormac McCarthy labeled a nihilist, it is undoubtedly also part and parcel of the soaring aesthetic vision for which the writer has come to be lauded. And if one can trace a streak of nihilism in McCarthy, he comes off as a pragmatic sort of nihilist. First, the obvious: As a serial killer who performs sex acts on corpses that he keeps stashed away in his cave, he plumbs depths of depravity that are even alarming for McCarthy.
But in this unique and idiosyncratic novel, the author also casts Ballard as a child of God, just like everyone else. The early pages are invested in detailing his star-crossed relationship with the human world in which he lives — and how his pathetic attempts to reach out for human contact only deepen his misery and isolation. And upon his 40 Bellow, Saul release from jail, the community powers-that-be seem to preordain his descent. But the most surprising aspect of Lester Ballard emerges during his descent into malevolence; as the plot thickens we witness a deep soulfulness arising out of his character that was not present in the grotesque hick of the early pages. Lester then begins to cry, consumed by the heightened realization that his life is moving against the grain of all thriving, living things.
Bellow has been awarded both the Pulitzer and Nobel prizes for his writing, as well as the National Medal of Arts. In addition, he is the sole writer to have won the National Book Award three times and the only writer to have been nominated six times. As a child Bellow had moved there from Quebec, where he was born. In both, one witnesses the tensions and dualities of the grotesque precisely embodied in one single character. What did we ultimately know about Blevins? Not much, really; he remains a cipher who meets a terrible end, his true name and origin a mystery. And his fate in All the Pretty Horses is to be consumed like so many others in the mindless savagery that McCarthy meditates upon without moralizing.
And while McCarthy does obviously take license with history, his book is based on an actual account, My Confession: Recollections of a Rogue, by Samuel Chamberlain, onetime member of the real-life Glanton Gang. That gang, led by John Glanton, a veteran of the Mexican-American War, was initially hired by the Mexican state of Chihuahua to eliminate Apache in the region, the scalps serving as gruesome receipts for what was then substantial payment.
Certainly Blood Meridian is fraught with tones of Melville, particularly in the uncanny character of Judge Holden, whose high oratory and inscrutability calls to mind Ahab. In turning away from the American South of his early novels and toward the Southwest, Blood Meridian can be seen as a prequel to the Border Trilogy. Therefore, McCarthy has often been accused of writing revisionist Westerns, an assertion that rings only partially true.
Of course, there is also the very liminality of the borderlands civilization itself, caught between two very different cultures but somewhat of a hybridization of both. In the nascent period taken up in Blood Meridian there is actually a hybridization of many cultures — European, African American, Native American, Mexican — an idea expressed in the multicultural makeup of the Glanton Gang itself. But again, while many academic critics seek to outline a strain of revisionist history in McCarthy, it is important to note that there is nothing as transparent as proselytizing or some form of postcolonial activism in his work.
Beyond the soaring rhetoric of Judge Holden, McCarthy achieves his own ends through a relentless brand of objectivity, rendering the brutal details of violence in a frank, uniquely vivid, and seemingly dispassionate manner. In addition, the narrative takes a distinctly unsentimental view of the indigenous people of the region, separating it even more from many postcolonial renderings.
McCarthy presents a violent humanity as a whole — across races, creeds, and cultures. And then there is the over-the-top savagery they unleash against the small army company, atrocities that seem both prelude and parallel to the kind of acts later committed by the Glanton Gang: passing their blades about the skulls of the living and the dead alike and snatching aloft the bloody wigs and hacking and chopping at the naked bodies, ripping off limbs, heads, gutting the strange white torsos and holding up great handfuls of viscera, genitals, some of the savages so slathered up with the gore they might have rolled in it like dogs and some who fell upon the dying and sodomized them with loud cries to their fellows [p.
Dana A. He also regarded the giant, hairless, brilliant, and terrible judge — whose numerous atrocities include molesting and murdering children — as immortal. A side note: There is no indication in Blood Meridian that the judge is actually albino. Whatever his antecedents he was something wholly other than their sum Whoever would seek out his history Judge Holden also inhabits Blood Meridian as a partially supernatural entity. Just him and his legs crossed, smiling as we rode up. The judge also seems ageless; when he murders the kid at the end of the novel, the kid is in his 40s, but the judge seems to have not changed or diminished in strength one iota and claims he is immortal.
If human, he would be an old man at this point. In his weighty rhetoric, Holden also offers a way to read Blood Meridian. Yet he is a murderer and child molester, and a man who will commit arbitrary and unspeakable acts of brutality simply to preoccupy himself. But McCarthy suggests that in these savage qualities is a validation and embodiment of civilizational history, going back longer than recorded time, as the newspaper snippet from that precedes chapter 1 indicates.
These meditations on historical violence and the succession and extinctions of civilizations are something that would preoccupy McCarthy in the decades to come, in the three books of the upcoming Border Trilogy, for example — in which memories of the bloody Mexican Revolution are cast like a pall across the pages — or in his Pulitzer Prize—winning The Road , in which he presents a post-apocalyptic world devoid of the markings of humanity. At the time of its release, in , Blood Meridian was reviewed and lauded by few. Nevertheless, the novel would gather critical momentum as the years passed and as more readers discovered — and fully embraced — the work of Cormac McCarthy.
Many interpretations take the approach that the man is using a post-hole digger to erect fences, the steel of the tool striking rocks and creating sparks. The gatherers in the work crew are clearing away the bones and therefore all evidence of the past or what has transpired. The latter is an existence that the Border Trilogy will explore and ride to extinction as well, as modernization, military interests, and the oil industry impinge upon the ranches and plains.
The epilogue is in fact the perfect setup for the next novel, All the Pretty Horses, where McCarthy takes us years into the future, to We land on a long-standing family ranch, originally built in , that is about to be sold off to big oil interests, leaving the teenage John Grady Cole riding those fenced-in plains as his heritage fades into oblivion. It is a ritual played out in the brief moment between existences, the extinction of one, the ascension of another. Blood Meridian section in How to Read and Why. New York: Scribner, , pp. Chamberlain, Samuel. My Confession: Recollections of a Rogue. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, Donoghue, Denis.
Josyph, Peter. Luce, Dianne. Critic Edwin T. Immediately after Suttree Cormac McCarthy turned his gaze away from Tennessee and toward the literal Southwestern borderlands. This was a geographic milieu that proved to be his muse, and it is both the literal and the symbolic qualities of the border region that McCarthy explores in his work, particularly in the Border Trilogy. One borderland that McCarthy explores in his Southwestern works is the boundary between storytelling and history.
When John Grady Cole in All the Pretty Horses or Billy Parham in The Crossing enters Mexico, each is moving into a whole different realm, one fraught with different concerns still reeling in the wake of the Mexican Revolution, for example and not as modernized as the United States they have left behind. Indeed, they often seem to be going back in time when they cross over the border. Nevertheless, the separation between the two cultures is not always clear, as the borderlands themselves are a place of hybridization, a place where the two cultures seem, at times, to have melded. Early in All the Pretty Horses, John Grady rides a trail upon which he can sense the spirits of the Native American cultures that once made this same passage, even as his own traditional way of life — as a cattle rancher — is poised to slip into the void.
It is these successive layers of dead and dying civilizations with which McCarthy is concerned, and he often catches those civilizations on the border — very much present but also receding into extinction. There are other borders that the books seem to be blurring: The line between life and death, past and present, waking and dream worlds. But it is not only the father who champions this perspective. Yes I am, he said. With all cultural and societal forms pitched off into the void, every person is a blank slate. Encountering traces of other people, the boy asks who they could be. Who is anybody? But the boy is a different kind of— and ultimately more genuine —tabula rasa than the man.
Recite a litany. The boy, however, was born after the devastation of humanity. He sobbed. What about the little boy? It had a beginning, a middle, and an end. Who has not heard such a tale? But while both are similarly minded bounty hunters in the American Southwest, separated by a century and a half in historical context and by two decades in the bookpublishing world , in many ways the No Country for Old Men assassin is a more stoic and Spartan version of the judge.
Chigurh also acts according to his own strict underlying code. Chigurh is more than just a highly principled killer, however — his psychosis is such that he sees himself as an agent of destiny, as one carrying out the will of the universe. There is a zeal, purity, and unwavering consistency in the way that he conducts himself and carries out his murderous tenets. I have only one way to live. Much like Judge Holden, Chigurh has unique and compelling aspects that push him beyond the quotidian novelistic killer.
Indeed, Chigurh sometimes becomes a student, appreciator, and intimate of his 54 Child of God quarry. Chigurh also pores over photograph albums and even sleeps in her bed. In the book, Lester Ballard, an Appalachian Mountain—dwelling killer in Sevier County, Tennessee, preys on young women, living with the corpses of his victims in a cave and engaging in acts of necrophilia with them. She ascended dangling Surely this is the stuff of which a million B-grade horror movies are made or the literary terrain of Stephen King or Thomas Harris The Silence of the Lambs. But when Cormac McCarthy applies his unique sensibilities and literary predilections to a subject, understandings of genre often collapse.
He grounds the novel in a father and son relationship that cuts to the core of the fears and anxieties of any parent. What makes everything stand out is the utter plausibility of it. Although written much earlier than those novels — and though it is much less dense and probing than later McCarthy works — we see that same impulse in Child of God. His use of a grotesque, caricatured style early on adds a peculiar sense of levity. This is a stirring contrast to the light in which McCarthy presents Lester later in the novel; here the elegiac, melancholy tone compellingly humanizes the killer and, as Edwin T. Nevertheless, the grossly comic slant is often pushed into unsettling regions, for example, when the dumpkeeper catches his daughter fornicating with a boy.
Next thing he knew his overalls were about his knees and he was mounting her. Daddy quit, she said. A conventional horror novel might spend early moments building tension or foreshadowing; Child of God comes out of the blocks with toilet descriptions, incest, and grotesque hillbilly caricatures. There is no build-up of narrative tension or sense of what is to come. In fact, his entry into necrophilia is represented as a chance happening. Toward the end of the novel the reader witnesses levels of emotional depth and selfawareness in Lester that were unimaginable at the outset.
And Lester, just another child of God, is not a deviation from the larger human order. As old Mr. His head was sawed open and his brains removed. His muscles were stripped from his bones His entrails were hauled forth and delineated. Nevertheless, Lester, despite his corporal self having been disposed of, is actually incorporated into the social order and community of Sevier County, completing the journey of the bildungsroman. The irony is that his atrocities have made him more a part of the social order than he ever was back when he was a harmless peeping tom. He is now simply catalogued among other town eccentrics in these front-porch tales.
Upon release of the book, the New York Times reviewer, like many, was taken aback by the thematic material of Child of God and put off by its handling. Sullivan, Nell. Winchell, Mark Royden. Reinventing the South. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, Cities of the Plain has a narrower scope than the preceding books. The title itself is an unsettling biblical reference to Sodom and Gomorrah. Just as the Native Americans headed toward obsolescence, and just as the Mexicans were pushed out of the land that constitutes the American Southwest, so too is the vaquero— the cowboy — fading as a once prominent presence of these 59 Cities of the Plain plains. The ranch land is soon to be bought by the government. But beyond its thematic link with the other two volumes in the trilogy, Cities of the Plain also works on two other levels.
On one hand, it is a wistful, softer-focus story of kindness between people and of tragic personal relationships. Several cowboys in the novel live with one foot in the past, missing loved ones who have died, including Billy, who lost his brother Boyd in The Crossing. From Billy, we get no sense of the travails, monstrous grief, or accumulated, esoteric wisdom that was poured in his ear in the multitudinous quests of The Crossing. Instead, now older at 28, he swaggers into the house of ill-repute in the opening lines and launches into wisecracking, teasing the younger John Grady, and making bawdy comments regarding the qualities of the assembled prostitutes.
But he is a hero of an old and familiar trope cast into a new and increasingly unfamiliar world. When he does step in, it is to protect John Grady, who in his obstinacy and unyielding sense of purpose reminds him of his brother Boyd. He has become a player in the myth of the West, despite being the keeper of a rich personal history of the borderlands. Cities of the Plain explores these individual and personal myths as well.
Billy, as an old man in the epilogue, has a different vantage point on the life he has lived, a distant perspective, much like the many nights on the range when the characters observe those glittering cities of the plain from an objective distance. Toward the end of the novel, Billy awakes on his concrete bed beneath the overpass and thinks of his dead sister and of the death of his brother Boyd in Mexico. Billy, it seems, had been an inhabitant — a prisoner perhaps — of his own personal mythology. How they will be in that world. In the trilogy, there is something that is uncapturable — that cannot be contained by the histories, corridos, or stories we tell ourselves: destiny. What makes the trilogy ultimately such an enigmatic and inconclusive reading experience, however, is that McCarthy forces his characters to deliberate on the very sort of deep ontological notions that he presents as unfathomable.
Can you see it? Moment by moment. Until it vanishes to appear no more How are they separate? It is we who assemble them into the story which is us. But who is this stranger? Is he an embodiment of McCarthy himself, as creator of the stories? What is the difference between the two? The epilogue pushes us toward the unfathomable, toward a realization that always seems just out of view, beyond our understanding. Destiny is absolute, and a group of schoolchildren bear witness to this: They could not take their eyes from him. This man and his burden passed on forever out of that nameless crossroads and the woman stepped once more into the street and the children followed and all continued on to their appointed places which as some believe were chosen long ago even to the beginning of the world [p.
It is the relationships, both current and past, that ground the more esoteric elements of Cities of the Plain. And at a whole other level — separate from yet parallel to the great philosophical stirrings — this is a story about kindness between people and the loneliness of old cowboys. In the previous two volumes, the reader constantly witnessed the charity of the Mexican people, as both John Grady and Billy, as complete strangers, were summoned to numerous tables to eat and given numerous places to sleep. But I was never turned away. Interestingly, the demise of both was precipitated by their love for a woman. But the most striking passage to take up that theme involves the old cowboy Mr.
After one such episode, John Grady has compassionately led him back to the house and helped him get into his clothes. The old man was still sitting at the table in his hat. When the woman of the family, Betty, checks on Billy, she comments that he still misses his brother. The ropy veins that bound them to his heart. In that image we are reminded once and for all what Billy is: he is a cowboy and this is a cowboy story though a unique one. I dont know why you put up with me. Well, Mr. Parham, I know who you are. And I do know why. You go to sleep now. Yes mam [p. Billy is an old cowboy, an archetype of an old way of life, and that means something to her and it means something to readers.
You can go to Mongolia and they know about [American] cowboys But many reviewers also appreciated the stirring elements of the 64 Cole, John Grady novel and its relationship to the overall endeavor of the trilogy. Academic Edwin T. Arnold raises a point worth ending on — that, while not as emotionally devastating as The Crossing or as immediately gripping as All the Pretty Horses, Cities of the Plain has a softer, more ruminative focus that is as beguiling and effective by degrees. And a close look at the three Border Trilogy volumes sideby-side reveals that each of the books is distinctly different in perspective and style, despite the many connections that bind them. Perhaps the last word on the entire trilogy is that it amounts to some cowboy story.
Dirda, Michael. Mosle, Sara. Here, laid out for the reader, are the two prime drives in Cole: his ardent-heartedness — seen most clearly in his love for both Alejandra and Magdalena — and his simpatico orientation toward horses. He even runs among horses in his dreams. The sung ballads — composed of four-line verses and relatively simple song structures — typically narrate the legends of Mexican heroes, bandits, and outlaws. These ballads have primarily been the medium of the working classes, who use them as an outlet for cultural galvanization and to express cultural pride. Martha I. Scholars have often used the corridos as an important historical context through which to view Mexican working-class attitudes over the years ibid. These songs can be traced back to the romantic Spanish ballads of the conquistadores in basic form and theme, though they have been distinctly shaped by their Mexican heritage in more recent times.
It is this class of corrido that primarily concerns Cormac McCarthy. Boyd becomes pure myth and legend, his existence in Mexico having been absorbed into the corridos, which turn him into a folk hero. The story itself had shape, form, and life, long before it subsumed Boyd into its structures. The corrido is so enduring, in fact, that it still absorbs and broadcasts distinct takes on the issues of the day.
If one visits the media-sharing website YouTube, corridos about Barack Obama and even Michael Jackson upon the occasion of his death can be located as of this writing, in late July In the s and into the new millennium, the popularity of the narcocorrido grew considerably, with many popular Mexican groups taking up the form. But it is also capable of engaging deep and thorny philosophical themes that question the very nature of existence while still having an astounding emotional impact. There is, of course, the literal border between the U. A scene that is emblematic of this liminality comes when Billy returns to America in book 2, after his ill-ended quest to return a pregnant she-wolf that he had trapped to the Mexican mountains.
At the border he meets an amiable guard named Gilchrist. In mythology, Charon required coin payment before ferrying the dead to the other side, thus the Greek burial custom of placing a coin in the mouth of the dead. Billy pays the coin back when he reenters Mexico with his brother Boyd, both righting the direction of the Charon myth and foreshadowing the death of his younger brother Boyd during that venture to Mexico. Just before returning to the U.
Is this a vision? But the sighting also comes like a dispatch from the land of the dead. Much later in the book, Billy encounters a blind man who, as a captured rebel in the revolution, had literally had his eyeballs sucked from their sockets by a monstrously cruel German captain of the Mexican federal army. He is, as he describes, adrift in a state that is neither life nor death but somewhere in between. There are many more encounters in the novel that seem to involve some kind of transitional realm or borderlands between life and death.
The next time Billy sees his brother, he will be simply skeletal remains. In The Crossing the line between death and life is blurred: The dead resonate in the living world and are pervasive, and the lines of communication to them are open. A dead man cools on a slab in his best suit while townspeople engage in a celebra70 The Crossing tory wedding processional. This is the paradoxical dreamlike canvas and landscape across which the quest hero, Billy Parham, travels, not in a linear fashion or in pursuit of one goal, but back and forth across the border for various reasons.
When confronted by the sight of the actual injured wolf, he gets it in his mind to free her across the border; thus this improbable journey begins, with Billy abandoning his brother and parents without word, caring for the wounded wolf, and dragging it in tow behind his horse in a captivatingly obsessive and awkwardly beautiful display of compassion. In true McCarthy fashion, there is no psychological or emotional elaboration as to why he does this; nevertheless, McCarthy renders the growing intimacy between the teenager and wild animal in gorgeous detail. He even embodies the very duality of the borderlands — a land interpenetrated by both American and Mexican culture — having descended from a Mexican maternal grandmother and having an easy facility for moving between the English and Spanish tongues.
McCarthy also pits the young, itinerant vaquero cowboy Billy Parham as a classic quest hero in the lineage of Odysseus, but as a s and s borderlands version of the mythical hero. Nevertheless, Billy and his experiences do not contain the clear-cut heroic nature of Odysseus or his trials. Taken up with a grim but unyielding sense of purpose, they inevitably consummate in death and sorrow, and he is left adrift in these dreamlike Southwestern borderlands. The novel points to violence and war as timeless, pervasive, and endlessly repeating historical motifs. The novel expresses this in its mythological resonance: The Odyssey is one of the ultimate canonized war tales. In addition, in the U. In the borderlands we see the slow, inevitable turn of this cycle, the bloody aftermath of the Mexican Revolution and the newly confronted deaths and mourning of World War II.
The U. All of these unsettling metaphors suggest the legacy of bloodshed that established the border and its environs, as well as the continually uneasy co-habitation and co-dependence that characterizes the region.Moss, Llewelyn Llewelyn Moss Rattner: A Jungian Narrative Analysis the unfortunate Texas everyman who kickstarts the action of No Country for Rattner: A Jungian Narrative Analysis Men what will life be like in 100 years he comes Rattner: A Jungian Narrative Analysis a drug deal gone bad in the remote borderlands and steals more than two million dollars in Rattner: A Jungian Narrative Analysis money. It aint the same Rattner: A Jungian Narrative Analysis more. If the father Rattner: A Jungian Narrative Analysis the philosophical passion in life or boomerang toy library to lead the child out, his love of wisdom would prevail and Rattner: A Jungian Narrative Analysis him overcome.