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.


  1. I thought that it was interesting to see how McCarthy carried on the idea of the Judge. I think that the quote from The Road help
    to show the Judge for who he really was or was trying to become. It shows the power that the Judge was feeling as well as the power
    that would go with the Judge's book. It helps to explain what the Judge was trying to accomplish.

  2. I have to agree completely with how we do not see anything last in much of McCarthy's texts. I especially noticed it in The Road and No Country for Old Men; the hope seemed short lived. In No Country to Old Men, it is easy to hope that Moss and his wife end up with the money and at times it seems very possible. Moss's death does defeat that that hope. In The Road, readers are following this journey with the characters to find a piece of the world not covered in ash - hopefully at the coast. When we finally reach the coast with the characters, all hope or thought that there might be something better out there is lost. This even more confirmed when the father's illness finally takes his life.
    McCarthy finally puts some hope into his stories, that are fully recognizatble and it is short lived.

  3. I completely think The Road was different from the other McCarthy books. I liked this one better because I do not think it was as gory or sickening as maybe Blood Meridian or Child Of God even though we have a scene of cannibalism and the baby scene. :( I was anxious to see what was going to happen next. I do believe "hope" can finally be seen and I feel this last book carries the "fire" for our class. This might sound weird but I feel that the "fire" talked about in the road is "hope". We have to take what life gives us, make the best of it, and move on. I feel this as "passing the torch".