Monday, August 24, 2009

Rev it up!

I know we did not really talk about Revelations all that much, but I couldn't help but notice the significance in McCarthy's novels compared to the good and evil displayed in the book of Revelations. In western conventions we usually always see the difference between good and evil; however, in some of McCarthy's novels it was hard to decipher between the two, for instance in Blood Meridian between the kid and the judge. At first I thought the kid was respectable untill he helped murder a guy in which we can compare him to the the deceitful Judge.

I think a good example of Revelations can be seen in No Country For Old Men because good and evil compete throughout the novel as compared to Revelations. Chigurh is compared to Satin, Bell and Llewelyn could be the angels in the bible. However, the end is non-comparable because good always triumphs over evil and at the end of the novel I didn't feel Chigurh got what he deserved or payed for his crimes like the evil in the book of Revelations.

I think in all of McCarthy's books we see a torrence between right and wrong/good and evil and this idea just influences me to learn more about the theory behind McCarthy's liturature.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Take a Deep Breath...

One of the things that struck me on Thursday during our discussion of The Road was when this passage was brought up after the boy had joined the family of four: “She would talk to him sometimes about God. He tried to talk to God but the best thing was to talk to his father and he did talk to him and he didn’t forget. The woman said that was all right. She said the breath of God was his breath yet though it pass from man to man through all of time” (286).

When I was working on my paper, I noticed that breath comes up in a few other places in the novel as well. The man’s wife tells him in a reflection “a person who had no one would be well advised to cobble together some passable ghost. Breathe it into being and coax it along with words of love” (57), and it shows up again on pg. 74, “all of this like some ancient anointing. So be it. Evoke the forms. Where you’ve nothing else construct ceremonies out of the air and breathe upon them”. In all of these passages, the idea exists that breath is the creator that provides life. This concept is all throughout the novel as we watch the man explain the former world to the child, his own breath keeping these once tangible things alive in the future where even he will cease to exist.

This is similar to McCarthy’s blood theme in All The Pretty Horses. Blood played an important role in linking everything in the novel. Bloodlines of Alejandra, the Dueña, and the horses are carefully explained to establish the idea of lineage. I think the link that runs through Blood Meridian is evil, but cannot come up with what the links might be for Child of God or No Country for Old Men. Anyone have an idea?

McCarthy's Violence

4). Even though characters' paths are perhaps the predictable, the world is a violently unpredicatable place. McCarthy writes violence better than any author I know of, as it is thematically justified, philosophically interesting, gorgeously rendered and most of all: violent. There's a suddeness and horror in the violence in his work that makes a lot of other fiction read like the Hardy Boys.

In a world where violent media is being scrutinized, I find it particularly interesting that such a renowed and popular author is able to get away with what may be some of the most violent literature that has ever been wrote. Other types of media, including video games, movies, and television are almost always being chastized for violent content that doesnt even begin to touch the violence that McCarthy depicts in the five novels that we read during this class period. In class we discussed our opinions as to why we think McCarthy is able to get away with the violence that he depicts in his novels. The best idea I could come up with is the fact that since McCarthy writes in his signature prose style, most people seem to overlook the violence.

For some reason, this idea did not sit well with me, but i can't think of any other reason why McCarthy would be able to get away with it... does anyone else have ideas?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Everything's Ephemeral

When we discussed entropy in class yesterday, citing the quote on (my edition’s) page 75:
“He’d had this feeling before, beyond the numbness and the dull despair. The world shrinking down about a raw core of parsible entities. The names of things slowly following those things into oblivion. Colors. The names of birds. Things to eat. Finally the names of things one believed to be true. More fragile than he would have thought. How much was gone already? The sacred idiom shorn of its referents and so of its reality. Drawing down like something trying to preserve heat. In time to wink out forever.”
I immediately thought of the scenes in Blood Meridian where the judge would draw or write about an object and then destroy it because that made his definition of it the true one, the only one that people could possibly turn to. This, in turn, made me think of the passage (sorry, don’t know which page because I returned the book to the library) where the judge is talking about man’s meridian, and how he (man) reaches this peak and then everything is in decline, and I realized how much entropy, or at least ephemerality, is a common theme throughout McCarthy. McCarthy is making the point that very little is more ephemeral than human life, but everything is transitory in these novels, not just human life.
In Child of God, Lester is killing people off left and right. He also loses his family home. He cannot maintain a relationship with anyone.
In All the Pretty Horses John Grady Cole has to leave his family ranch. His grandfather was the last male born to his family line so the Grady family is dying out. His opportunity in Mexico is snatched away from him. His love to Alejandra ends in disappointment, and plenty of people are dying in this book, too.
In Blood Meridian whole societies are decimated and pretty much everyone except the judge dies. However, they’re all horrible, so it didn’t bother me so much that they did.
In No Country for Old Men, human life is definitely ephemeral as we watch most of the people Chigurh comes into contact with die. Bell’s ideology is ephemeral, though, too, and we start to see the idea that society is going through entropy and degenerating. This book, though, is where I felt that McCarthy started including some hope for the human race with Bell’s dream about his father carrying fire. After reading The Road, that doesn’t seem like a coincidence to me.
The Road is obviously about the entropy of society, the earth, and the human race. There’s still that glimmer of hope, though, which started showing up in No Country for Old Men, that there might be something else that will carry humanity through, in the end.
I think that in the McCarthy novels that we have read, there is a definite reflection on how fleeting life and society are. We don’t see anything last. It’s here one day and then gone the next.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Can't think of a good title.

I noticed something odd on page 282 of The Road. Right after the father dies, the boy walks onto the road and sees the man that he eventually joins with. The first thing the man ever says to the boy is, "Wheres the man you were with?" I thought this was strange because the man should have not known the boy was with his father. What I came up with is that the man and his family he says he has, must have been following the father and the boy. This would explain the other boy the boy sees on page 84 because the man later says he has a boy and a girl the same age as him.

McCarthy needs to borrow my baby name book

One thing I have noticed in a couple of of his writings, particularly Blood Meridian and The Road, is that McCarthy does not use names for his main characters. In Blood Meridian, there was the boy. The narrator followed his story but we knew very little about him past his actions. We were given some physical descriptions, about the scarring on his face and what not but never could we place him with an identity. In The Road, both the main characters are known as the son or boy, and the father ( also known as papa from the son) but both, again, never given a name. We are given details about their physique; such as how skinny the boy is and what their struggles have done to them. Damage to feet, or the color of their skin from lack of sun and the amount of ash.

This leaves me to question how McCarthy forms identity when the characters names are never known. To me, knowing someone or more about them starts with knowing their name; introductions and what not. I suppose it could be seen that he leaves the characters nameless to have the reader focus more on the actions or trying to decipher what they could possibly be thinking. In The Road it is easier to gather more emotion because instead of the text being written completely in third person narration, we seem to get to some of the father's thoughts concerning the well being of his son. I just noticed that when leaving someone nameless the writing has a very large amount of pronouns and while reading this book, most paragraphs started with he. Again, McCarthy's style of writing baffles me. I am hoping that after today's discussion I will have a little more understanding of it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Home Stretch

As we move through the home stretch, I'd like you to take a little while to consider the relationships between the texts we've read this month. Several of you said that you thought NCOM was different and surprising after the earlier novels. This might reflect aesthetic maturity or an attempt at commercial appeal or something altogether different. I'm curious to know if you see any thematic, linguistic, aesthetic or even philosophic similarities in McCarthy's oeuvre. Some thoughts to get you started:
1). Like Faulkner, McCarthy likes portmanteau words and onomatopoeia. I think this indicates that he's very specific about the meanings of the things he writes--if an existing word doesn't capture his meaning exactly, he makes one up out of existing words or sounds.

2). There's a strong sense of fate and inevitability in McCarthy's world. John Grady Cole cannot help but go back after Alejandra and neither can Blevins (and both times, Rawlins knows that it will happen and how it will turn out). Lester's crimes seem inevitable. The kid cannot escape the judge, no matter what he tries--even the bible.

3). The characters tend to be static in the service of fate or destiny. Rather than changing themselves, events and cicumstances act on them, a la naturalism. Or cosmic irony. The narrative point of view tends to stand at a remove from the characters, and this makes the characters difficult to identify with in ways that complement their actions.

4). Even though characters' paths are perhaps the predictable, the world is a violently unpredicatable place. McCarthy writes violence better than any author I know of, as it is thematically justified, philosophically interesting, gorgeously rendered and most of all: violent. There's a suddeness and horror in the violence in his work that makes a lot of other fiction read like the Hardy Boys.

5). Like Hemingway anad Peckinpaugh, McCarthy seems to have a notion about how heroes or even humans should conduct themselves. I felt pretty secure with understanding this until Chigurh critiqued Wells' code as inadequate. Perhaps The Road will make this clearer.

That's enough for today, and this is your blog anyhow. Tell me about the things you saw as consistent or inconsistent across the works we've read.

Similaries in Cormac McCarthy's Texts

Just to help Amber's point from yesterday in class, chainsaws are used in murders here in ohio.. just not since 1990. "Cult member Gregory Winship, 29, has admitted running a chain saw to muffle the sound of the shots that killed the Averys, whom authorities speculate had fallen from favor and might have been planning to defect. " (This is from an article from People magazine:,,20118284,00.html) Basically the news is used for awareness, although I do believe they focus too much on murders than they need to, especially if they are not close to the region.

While I was reading No Country for Old Men, I found that the ending was exactly what I thought it would be in the sense that the good never triumphs. The bad or evil seem to always come out on top. I wanted Moss to get the money to his wife, kill Chirgur, then go back to her where they could live happily ever after. At times it is not impossible to think that Moss could come up on top with how clever he was when it came to hiding the money or finding escape routes, etc. However, McCarthy does not write like that. To better explain my point, in Child of God, Lester is murdering all these girls but never gets caught - it is never proved that the murders were committed by him. I, as the reader, wanted the sheriff to do is job in trying to find the missing girls and catch Lester before he continued to kill more much earlier on. Instead, he is put into a mental institution more or less where he is fed, kept warm, living better than he did when he was wondering around the wilderness. In All the Pretty Horses evil does not really triumph the good, but John Grady does not get the girl or the perfect cowboy job. I wanted him and Alejandra to run away and get married, maybe even find someway to run a horse ranch, but no, John Grady ends up heartbroken and with nothing at the end wondering where he is off to next. Blood Meridian, well that's an easy one. The judge is truly evil. I wanted the boy to shoot him or kill him, something. I also wanted the boy to find the right path or what not after his time in jail when he seemed to come into some realization about the wrong the judge and the gang did. It did not end like that. The judge is happily naked and dancing, after murdering and doing who knows that to the kid (conclusion that the reader can make). Basically, Cormac McCarthy does no want any aspect of the ending to be happy or what the reader would like or expect to happen. For those of you who are reading The Road right now, it will be easy to find the same trend; it will not have the ending that you want or hope for.

I found that by thinking this way while reading No Country for Old Men, that I was not as disappointed with the outcome. It makes the texts all seem very predictable, and I have come to find it a constant. It makes me curious to whether or not his other works, such as The Crossing or Cities of the Plain, will follow this same kind of pattern.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Similarities and Differences Among McCarthy's Novels

I feel that the books we have read so far including Child Of God, All The Pretty Horses, Blood Meridian, and No Country For Old Men are all very similar in many ways, for instance the geographic settings, the abundance of brutal deaths, and the common protagonist readers most enjoy. I think No Country For Old Men is written a little different then the other books. I have been reading Cormac McCarthy's work for four weeks now and I have begun to understand his literary work and I think No Country For Old Men, even though an easy read, is still very confusing. At the beginning of the book I had a hard time understanding who the characters were and what their roles were in the novel. The italicized print in the first few chapters threw me off at first because I didn't know who was narrating these sections, whether it was in 3rd person or just another character talking. The italicized literature is also different from McCarthy's previous books we have read. I think in this book we can clearly see who the good and evil characters were; however, in the previous books it seemed most of all the characters were evil in some way. I also think since this book is an easy read, it is not detailed like the other books. The weather conditions, the setting, and the murders/slayings are all very much detailed in Blood Meridian, All The Pretty Horses, and Child Of God. As a reader I am horrified because I actually feel like I am seeing what the character in the book is seeing and I feel what they are feeling; In my opinion, I feel this is what makes a good book.I also noticed that the narrator uses "he" instead of using "I" or "we" which is often used in Blood Meridian and McCarthy's other novels; therefore, it was harder to get involved in the book. I didn't feel I was apart of the characters or the scenes. Overall, I love reading McCarthy's books, even though they are gruesome at times, I feel his work leads to great discussion topics in class.

Chance, Probability, and Gambling in No Country for Old Men

I noticed while reading No Country For Old Men that there was a continual reference to gambling with life. When trying to find critical essays for my paper, I noticed several book reviews that mentioned the gambling aspect, but only in reference to Chigurh. I found this interesting because while Chigurh is the one who decides life or death on the toss of a coin, Bell is the first one to mention it.

On page 4 Bell is talking about the killer he sent to the gas chamber and says "I won't push my chips forward and stand up and go out to meet him. . .And I think a man would have to put his soul at hazard." Meeting with another such killer would be a gamble, one that he's not willing to risk losing himself for.

There's then the scene on pages 55-57 where Chigurh decides to let the man go on the flip of the coin. If he's called the flip correctly, he'll live. If he doesn't, he'll die. His entire life comes down to the random 50/50 probability of a coin toss. In this case he lives when he calls heads, the reverse of the scene with Carla Jean whom Chigurh gives the same opportunity (258). When Carla Jean calls heads, she gets tails. Chigurh has a very philosophical reply to her accusation that it's all his decision.

259 - "I had no say in the matter. Every moment in your life is a turning and every one a choosing. Somewhere you made a choice. All followed to this. The accounting is scrupulous. The shape is drawn. No line can be erased. I had no belief in your ability to move a coin to your bidding. How could you? A person's path through the world seldom changes and even more seldom will it change abruptly. And the shape of your path was visible from the beginning."

Everything, every small decision is like that coin toss. A path opens up or closes because of a choice. All of life is a risk and a gamble. . .

Sunday, August 16, 2009

No Country as a Film

i saw the movie No Country for Old Men when it first came out in theatres back in 2009, and i never realized how similar it is to the book by Cormac McCarthy until now. The dialouge in the movie is the exact same as it was in the book, and even the sheriffs long drawn out speeches appear in the book as the do in the movies. Its pretty easy to tell that McCarthy was writing this book so that it was extrememly easy to turn into a screen play.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Nudity in the movies

Some people may believe that today's movies showcase the most nudity. But that isn't always true. I am sure that some of you were more than a bit surprised to see all of the topless women in The Wild Bunch. However, during the 1960s, the restrictions on movie content had lessened. Following is a brief history of movie rating system. In 1915, the federal government ruled that movies were merely a business and that they did not fall under the First Amendment. For fear of federal regulations, the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors Association (later known as the MPAA) adopted the Production Code on March 31, 1930. The Code followed three general principles: 1) No picture shall be produced that will lower the moral standards of those who see it. Hence the sympathy of the audience should never be thrown to the side of crime, wrongdoing, evil or sin, 2) Correct standards of life, subject only to the requirements of drama and entertainment, shall be presented, and 3) Law, natural or human, shall not be ridiculed, nor shall sympathy be created for its violation. The Code wasn't enforced until 1934 due to a lack of enforcement agency. The code was not created or enforced by any government agency. In fact, the movie executives created the code in the hope of preventing government regulations and censorship. In the 1950s, the Code adopted more guidelines and became stricter. As a result, many movies were released without the Code's certificate of approval. This weakened the enforcement of the Production Code and it was abandoned in 1968 by the movie rating system. The movie rating system began with 4 ratings: G, M, R, and X. These ratings eventually evolved into the current movie rating system. With the use of the rating system, the restrictions placed upon movies had lessened. Instead, movies were categorized in order to suggest appropriate viewing audiences. The Wild Bunch was given the rating of R for its nudity and violence for its original 1969 release and for the more current release of the director's cut. Although the movies have undergone different restrictions over the years, nudity is not new to the audience. I will say, however, that I was surprised to see such a graphic shot of a nursing mother. The scene did not offend me but it did catch me off guard because I know that a large number of the American population are offended by this site (mainly because I had to deal with this earlier in the year). The site of breastfeeding women has always been a taboo subject and I was pleasantly surprised to see it portrayed so naturally in this movie.

The Wild Bunch

When we were watching the film yesterday, I was surprised by a number of things. One, that I liked it. Second, that it was set around World War I. For whatever reason, when I think of Westerns, in my mind they are always set around the 1880's and the huge westward migration following the civil war. Third, and most important was that the film is set up in such a way that you feel more sympathy for the outlaws than you do for the recognized form of government and law.

I wonder if this was a particular trend during the 1960's. I remember as a child, and I swear this rambling does have a point, the episode of "The Brady Bunch" where Bobby has a case of hero-worship for Jessie James, and it has to be pointed out to him all the horrible things he actually did. Was this the era when we were looking back at the push westward and realized that it wasn't as cut and dried as previous generations had liked to portray it? Not all the Indians were bad, not all the cowboys were good, and not all lawmen were like Will Kane in High Noon. Many, in fact, were ruthless killers just like the people they hunted down. They just had a badge that allowed them to justify their actions. I felt like this was more of a statement of the corruption of governments and capitalism than a commentary on the lawlessness of the west.

I do know that regardless of whether this was a trend, we are made to identify with the outlaws. They are clean, put together, and think before they kill. The bounty hunters (excepting Deke Thornton) are filthy, ignorant, and would kill something as soon as look at it. Pike and Thornton (who incidentally I thought looked alike) are highly intelligent and compassionate, Angel is trying to free his people from corrupt government. They had a code of honor, while the army looks like idiots who make up claims to cover their own butts. I find myself hoping that Thornton and Pike end up teaming up and make off with the money in the end. I don't care what happens to the train executives, the army, or the governments.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Surprised by the Film

As I was watching the film today in class, I kept thinking about how I found myself wondering who were the good guys and who were the bad guys. At the beginning of the film I thought I knew who was on which side, but then I caught myself rooting for the bad? guys. I then decided that there wasn't going to be any really clear line between good and bad since I could relate to both groups. It also seemed as if there were sub groups working against themselves. Can someone please tell me if I am way off track or am I seeing the same thing as the rest of you? Am I the only person that is rooting for both sides at the same time or confused that I feel that way? I can't wait to see what happens at the end of the film. I want to know who is going to win, or is it going to be the same as the books have been? So, far I find myself thinking the same thing that people have been saying in the class discussion about there not being a clear good person or bad person, winner or loser in the story. The one difference I see in myself so far with the film is that I am cheering for everyone instead of no one. Maybe I am just that weird. I hope not.
Was anyone shocked by some of the things in the film? Not that I mean shocked in the way it might sound... I just found that since this film is older, and from a more modest (or so I think, anyways) time period in film, I was surprised that some things were included in the film. The lengthy nude scene where the three women were swimming and "playing" in the wine bin with the guys, for example. The amount of bloodshed and killing also seemed uncharacteristic for that time period.
I was also struck by the amount of Spanish that was used... and the foul mouth on the one guy. He was rude to that woman!

One funny commentary on the film:

I giggled to myself during the very first big shoot out scene, and thought that there should be a disclaimer posted at the end of the film, and then I decided to modify it after the train crashing into itself later on... The disclaimer should say: There were no small children, sickly dogs, or horses harmed during the filming of this movie. However, old people, Christians, and scorpions are fair game.

The Book of Revelation

I was rather excited to hear that we might be reading the Book of Revelation from the Bible as a suplement to the final book "The Road". I have always wanted to read this book of the Bible, but never taken the time to read it all the way through. I think it could give an interesting light to "The Road" as we read it. Both texts could give new perspective to the other and open up additional dialogue about the story in "The Road". I can't wait to see what decision is made. I believe I will read the Book of Revelation regardless. It gives me a reason now to do so. It isn't even that long, so what could it hurt to see where it takes me while I am reading "The Road". I hope everyone else takes the time to read it, too. I am interested to see what it would give us to talk about.

Judge Holden in "Blood Meridian"

Yesterday in class, we discussed quite a bit on how Judge Holden could be seen as the Devil in a biblical sense. I originally was going to write my influence paper concerning this topic but decided to take a more artistic route. With that being said- I found a couple of excerpts that demonstrate this pretty well. One of the 10 commandments is "Thou shall not kill." In society, the killing of children is seen as even more of a sin than killing an adult; this could be because it is taking something from the world that still holds complete innocence, even when reading the book, the murdering of the young children and babies was more disturbing than the killing of the women and other adults ( they both were awful but I am hoping you see my point). The judge on page 164, " the morning the judge was dandling it on one knee while the men saddled their horses. Toadvine saw him with the child as he passed with te saddle but when he came back ten minutes later leading his horse the child was dead and the judge had scalped it." The judge devoured everything he seeked before him. It did not matter the age, or level of innocence. Not only did he kill this child, but he gave the child hope and a sense of comfort before hand- build trust to only use it to his benefit. From the Bible, 1 Peter chapter 5 verse 8 it says, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour."
To go further on whether or not the kid is evil because of his "taste for mindless violence," I do not think he was always evil but instead became more corrupted during the process of the story. Yes, he did get into drunken fights and beat bartenders, but he did not mindlessly kill or get the "high" from it like the judge did. I think after being submergered into that lifestyle he became worse. The judge says something along the lines of "the smallest crumb can devour us." Now, he is probably not talking about the kid and his taste for violence, but I think it draws a good point. The kid is young, he is still in the process of finding who he is and trying to understand the world - most everyone does at that age; while in this time of his life he is introduced into killing and slaughter. He sees it, he does it, and that could have lead to what became of him.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Evolution From "Reader" to "Character"

One of the things I found most interesting in Blood Meridian was how descriptive it was. Almost every scene in the novel is described so thoroughly that you get a clear picture of every character and every scene. The fact that I could “see” the scenes from McCarthy’s perspective instead of painting the pictures myself made it much more difficult for me to remain just a reader; I became a participant in the story as well. This made it difficult for me to read some of the more horrific scenes because I could see them unfold so clearly that it was almost as if I was observing these actions in reality, or at least watching as if there was a movie reel in my head. For me it was as if I had stepped into the middle of an alternate reality.

Because the characters were so fully written, I didn’t find myself feeling as if I was observing from their eyes. It almost seemed like I was a character that observed from WITHIN the novel; my reactions were both physical (I found myself actually gasping at one point) and emotional (sad in places, worried in others). The judge is a good example of this for me. His character is woven so well in the text that like the characters in the novel, I couldn't wait to see what he would do next. I found myself both intrigued by him and then repulsed- at both him for his actions (killing the puppies and the little Indian child) and myself for trying to see him in some redeeming light. I don’t remember any other book that incited this type of reaction. I can’t say that I loved this book, but I did like the feeling of being pulled into the story despite my best attempt at remaining a mere reader. Did anyone else feel this way?

Anyone speak spanish?

While reading All the Pretty Horses, Blood Meridian, and now No Country for Old Men, I noticed that McCarthy includes dialogue written in Spanish. When I first saw this in All the Pretty Horses it kind of threw me off. I would understand some words but usually I didn't know what the character was saying. Eventually I got used to it and just skimmed past it. Did anyone else wonder what the dialogue translated to? I was surprised McCarthy included so much of it because he had to have known that a lot of the people reading the books wouldn't know Spanish. Do you think he did this for a specific reason or did he just want to make the books more realistic?


After finishing Blood Meridian, I can not help but to wonder what motivates McCarthy to use the type of words he does. I am sure that my vocabulary is not as vivid as many, but there were so many words that I had never heard and had to spend time to look up. It just seems almost like he wants you to disect every sentence, like there is really more meaning there than it seams. Sometimes I felt like I was reading a foreign language or trying to decipher the Bible. The very first paragraph is an excellent example of what I am talking about (scullery fire, hewers of wood, drawers of water, he lies in drink). Ok, so hew means to cut, so hewers of wood must be woodcutters (maybe) so why can't he just say woodcutter? I am really ready for class so that this book will make a little more sense to me!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

A new appreciation for Westerns

Yesterday, my husband and I watched the newer version of 3:10 to Yuma. Although we watched the movie purely for entertainment, I couldn't help but notice the conventions of the western within the movie. The one that stood out the most was that the good guys were wearing white hats while the bad guys were wearing black hats. Although there were a number of gunfights throughout the movie, the showdown at the end was very exciting. After the good guy (Christian Bale) was killed in the showdown, I half-expected the bad guy (Russell Crowe) to take the good guy's son home and settle down with the good guy's wife. The audience was able to connect with the bad guy because he wasn't all bad. Although he was an outlaw, he respected the good guy and ended up doing a good thing in the end (he killed the rest of his gang and got on the train for prison). Alhtough, the bad guy didn't turn completely good. After he stepped on the train, he whistled for his horse so that he could escape from prison again.

I also started comparing Christian Bales' character, Dan, to John Grady Cole. Dan volunteered to take an outlaw to the train that would take the outlaw to prison. In the end, he had to make a decision on whether or not to go through with it even after everyone else abandoned him and he was outnumbered. However, Dan chose to continue on his mission and do the right thing. Just as John Grady lived his life by a code, Dan tried living his life by the code. Both men strove to do the right and honorable thing. It was this determination to do what was thought to be right (even if it was foolish) was why the bad guy came to respect Dan.

Morality, Satan, and the Bible (BLOOD MERIDIAN)

I completely loved Blood Meridian which explains why I am still up at 6:30 in the morning (just finished it). The novel contains many inferences to the bible yet not in spiritual notions but in the materialism of the world. The kids experiences are all in a vivid depiction of the physical aspect of his existence. There is barely any recolection of the kids concious thoughts. He can not read or write, therefore he can not obtain the knowledge in which could be freely bestowed upon him. This is ironic because on page 312, the kid is described with a bible in his possesion yet he cant read. The kid's ignorance makes him innocent. "The child's face is curiously untouched behind the scars, the eyes oddly innocent" (page 4). His father is said to have "quoted from poets whos names are now lost". This means the kid He has already forgotten his origin by page 2, which is an allusion to Adam and Eve being forced out of the garden of Eden. They were made to leave by God because of their knowledge of good and evil. This is the notion that Men inherit thier sin by their parents from being conceived. He has a general tendency towords violence. The kid seems caught up in this reality made for him by what his ancestors have left him. He sees no future so he partakes in events that make his mind begin to ponder about the morality of his actions. This is the only moral growth in the novel, where the kid disbands from the Glanton gang because he feels it is wrong. He however is not rewarded because the Judge blaims him for the group being ambushed at the yuma heist. He than claims about the kid, "you alone were mutonious. You alone reserved in your soul some corner of clemency for the heathen". This means the kids soul cant decide to take a side, he is just stewing in his present situation by pending the decision to commit to a decision.

The judge on the other hand is the exact opposite of the kid. He is an allusion to Satan. The judge first enters the novel by interrupting a sermon by persuading the crowd that the revered composing the sermon is a child molester. The revered is shocked and states "This is him, cried the reverend, sobbing. This is him. The Devil. Here he stands". When asked moments later about the outbreak, he states he had "never laid eyes on him before today". Chaos fully embarks in the way the judge gets the best of characters. On page 161, when Dave Brown (the man who owns a necklace made out of human ears) is punctured in the leg by an arrow, the judge mocks Brown when he asks for help. Saying that he will give him "a policy on his life against every mishap save the noose". The judge laughs at the wounded man and the kid feels compassion for his fallen comrade and decides to administer help. After he aids the wounded man, he is confronted by Glanton who says to him "God will not love ye forever....dont you know he would have took you with him". What Glanton is trying to say here is that whenever man is confronted with pain, he feels that chaos exists within the man, and therefore would turn on you in response to the immense pain they are feeling. The novel ends with the judge friviously dancing while stating that "he will never die". This makes for more evidence that the judge is satan in the book because he gets the best of everyone and he enjoys his own brutality, forced upon others.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Predetermination v. Free Will

I presented this badly in class on Thursday, so hopefully this will make more sense.

One of the themes I noticed in the novel was this ongoing debate between predetermination and free will. I don’t know that this argument is unique to Catholicism, but I may have noticed because I have that background. Mexico is a predominantly Catholic country and the Catholic faith is represented throughout the novel. One of the many references to this is on 144, when the hacendado is speaking of the Mass held for his First Communion at the chapel.

One of the first places this theme shows up is when John Grady is playing chess with the Dueña. The chessboard has long been used as a metaphor for life- a higher entity is controlling all the pieces (us) on the board. We have no free will as the pawns, so this is predestination. Free will is represented by the Dueña and John Grady actually manipulating the pieces. As the controllers, each has the freedom to choose the next move (133). Likewise, the Dueña points to this same theme in her rendition of the parable of the coiner (231, 241), representing free will, and the puppet show (231) representing predetermination.

It comes up again when John Grady is speaking to Pérez at the jail. Pérez talks about good and evil, suggesting that these qualities can both exist in the same space: “There can be in a man some evil. But we don’t think it is his own evil” (194). This hints at predetermination, as if man has no choice and evil controls him. When speaking about the prison, however, he gives the free will argument, “but this type of world, you see, this confinement. It gives a false impression. As if things are in control. If these men could be controlled they would not be here” (195).

Both sides of the debate are nicely represented, but no resolution to the argument is reached by the end of the novel. Perhaps this is also represented by the coiner’s coins- these concepts exist as two sides of the same coin, both converse and complimentary.

The Candle

By looking back at the first page I was able to draw a connection between life, John Grady, his grandfather, and the candle. If you look at the candle as an image of life and that the wick burns until it’s gone. You can see that you live until your wick runs out. Once the wick is gone the only thing that remains is the excess wax, which is the lives you created or touched. From the lines “He pressed his thumbprint in the warm wax pooled on the oak veneer. Lastly he looked at the face so caved and drawn among the folds of funeral cloth, the yellowed moustache, the eyelids paper-thin. That was not sleeping. That was not sleeping.”(3) This shows John Grady not only morning the lost of his grandfather, but also wanting to leave his thumbprint on the world like his grandfather had done.

All The Pretty Horses and Blood Wedding

From looking All The Pretty Horses and focusing on Duena Alfonsa especially on pages (132-136) you can see how her life is full of old-world ties and with antiquity and tradition. (132) By looking at this section of the book I was able to draw comparison between Duena Alfonsa and her old-world ties and tradition to that of The Mother in Blood Wedding by Federico Garcia Lorca. What stood out the most were the lines “I want you to be considerate of a young girl’s reputation.” “Here a women’s reputation is all she has.” (136) Duena Alfonsa was the older wise woman looking out for bloodlines/traditions and the best interest of her granddaughter and family. The Mother from Blood Wedding was doing the same, but for her son the Bridegroom. Both of these women seem to be molding characters. They helped to mold the main character and advance their development.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The coiner

I have been attempting to wrap my head around this idea of the coiner on 231-241. Mostly, though, this passage confuses me, because of it's contradictory nature. The philosophical idea that our lives are in the hands of someone who is just randomly (and somewhat blindly) choosing what will happen to us is a frightening thought. It takes away all ideas of self-determination, and it seems to me that this idea also contradicts one of the previous statements leading up to this coiner metaphor on page 230.
"My father had a great sense of the connectedness of things. I'm not sure I share it. He claimed that the responsibility for a decision could never be abandoned to a blind agency but could only be relegated to human decisions more and more remote from their consequences."
This then goes into the story of the coins, but it is hard for me to see how they relate. If one says that life is a random selection that cannot be determined by man (as stated in the coin metaphor) then how do any of the decisions that are made by each individual have any impact on anyone or anything else? Then, and this is the whole mind-blowing butterfly effect thing to me, how is it possible that every little thing we do will have an effect that reaches further and further out like ripples on a pond?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A movie and a lullaby...

I decided to type in "All the Pretty Horses" on google to see what would come up. I found out that a film adaptation was made back in 2000. According to the reviews, the movie alone is supposed to be terrible. That means compared to the book it must be really bad. Has anyone seen it?

Now for the main point...

I found out that "All the Pretty Horses" is an old lullaby that was sung slaves during the pre-Civil War period of America. Here it is...

Hush-a-bye, don't you cry,
Go to sleepy little baby.
When you wake, you shall have,
All the pretty little horses.
Blacks and bays, dapples and greys,
Go to sleepy you little baby,
Hush-a-bye, don't you cry,
Go to sleepy little baby.
Hush-a-bye, don't you cry,
Go to sleepy little baby,
When you wake, you shall have,
All the pretty little horses.
Way down yonder, down in the meadow,
There's a poor wee little lamby.
The bees and the butterflies pickin' at its eyes,
The poor wee thing cried for her mammy.
Hush-a-bye, don't you cry,
Go to sleepy little baby.
When you wake, you shall have,
All the pretty little horses.
The lullaby is about how the slaves were seperated from their familes. Since John Grady leaves his family behind and goes to Mexico, it could explain the title of the book.

Star light, star bright...

Here's some information on the Pleiades star cluster, which I argued in class represented the dumpkeeper's daughters. I really think this is a telling sign in the book.

In African tradition, the Pleiades are considered either maidens that are being pursued by men, or a mother hen with her chickens (fox in a henhouse theory).

In Greek Tradition, the constellation is know as the "seven sisters", "the seven daughters of Atlas and of Pleione. They were the attendants of Artemis, goddess of wildlife and of hunting, who were pursued by the giant hunter Orion, but were rescued by the gods and changed into doves. After their death, or metamorphosis, they were transformed into stars, but are still pursued across the sky by the constellation Orion" ( This one fits with my theory of the girls because Lester is "hunting" his prey, much like Orion.

During the Bronze Age, the Pleiades were associated with mourning and funerals because the star cluster became visible on the Samhain (Halloween, All Souls Day), and in western astrology they represent coping with sorrow.

One third through

I haven't seen anything here on western conventions from most of you--this will come up again when we get to No Country for Old Men. I talked a lot--too much--yesterday, so surely some of you have something else to say about Pretty Horses. Remember that the blog is a good place to float an idea for your CRI papers--this is a solid idea, as it can act as a filter to prevent half-baked things from coming out of your printer. See you soon.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

I am slightly perplexed

While I was reading All the Pretty Horses, there were a couple of references that confused me, and I was wondering if someone else picked up on something that I missed? On page 135 Alfonsa says to John Grady Cole when they are at La Purisima that "Alejandra will be in Mexico with her mother for two weeks. Then she will be here for the summer." I noticed this also in a few other places. I am not sure if this is saying that the ranch is not in Mexico, so I looked repeatedly to try to figure out where else it could be. Did anyone else notice this and come up with an explanation? All I can come up with is that they really are part of Mexico, but they are so remote and removed that they are like their own territory at the ranch. . .

Monday, August 3, 2009

The dumpkeepers girls.

I was thinking about why Lester was able to murder so many people over such a long period of time. That town in the story was supposed to be pretty small so I could not understand why he wasn't questioned about any of the murders until the end of the book. Then I thought about the theory of Lester killing the dumpkeepers daughters that we discussed in class. At first I didn't think this theory was true but then I realized that it could explain why he got away with so many murders. Since we know the dumpkeeper was Lester's friend and his daughters were whores it explains why Lester could murder so many girls without anyone caring. On page 38 when Lester is talking to the dumpkeeper, the dumpkeeper ask Lester if he has seen his daughters because they have been gone for three days. Lester says no then the dumpkeeper just says they are probably out being wild somewhere. I think Lester decided to murder these girls because he knew no one would care. On pages 177-178 when the group of men come to take Lester out of the hospital I one man ask Lester "How many people did you kill?" then says "You killed that Lane girl and burned her and that baby down in the house and you killed them people in them parked cars on the Frog Mountain." I thought this was interesting because the people the man mentioned were all the people that we knew weren't the dumpkeepers daughters. I think this may prove the theory that he murded the dumpkeepers daughters because Lester was only questioned by the townspeople at the end of the book after he had killed other people besides the daughters. This is sort of a theory inside a theory so I may be totally wrong. It was just an interesting thought I had.

Suzie the "hellatious bird dog"

This has been bothering me since I read it. On pge 48, Mccarthy makes a point to write a 2 page section on the sherrif and hunting with Bill Parsons and his bird dog, Suzie.

"He let her out of the trunk and I looked at her and I said: I don't believe Suzie's feelin too good. He looked at her and felt her nose and all. Said she looked all right to him. I told him, said: I just don't believe she's real well today."

It seemed that this chapter was particularly significant and it stuck with me throughout the reading as something that seemed important to the author, or why would he make a point to make this its own section? At the same time, I am not entirely sure why this was significant. I looked all over in the book for some reference to this, some symbolizm and I am just not seeing it.

The above section, made me wonder why the dog was in the trunk. It made me think of the couples in the car. I wondered if the dog was dead, but Parsons didn't act as if Suzie were dead and it goes on to say the dog looked fine and they went hunting, but only got one bird. Then it says:

"...Bill says, You know it's funny you noticin' old Suzie was not feelin good today. The way you spotted it. I said: Well Suzie was sick today." What? Why? What's wrong with her? And how did Fate notice but Parsons didn't? At least Parsons stated earlier that she looked fine, but then goes on to say:

"...yes, she was. I said: Suzie was sick yesterday." Huh? Why was she sick yesterday? What's wrong with her? "Suzie has always been sick. Suzie will always be sick. Suzie is a sick dog." All of a sudden I get the creepy feeling we are not necessarily talking about a dog any more but I have no evidence to back this up and you know that pete likes his evidence.

The passage gives me this sense of foreboding that I can't quite shake and it is driving me crazy. I would really like to hear someone else's opinion on this.