Thursday, August 20, 2009

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.


  1. I had a tough time with that as well. I wasn't crazy about the lack of a name for the kid in Blood Meridian, so I actually began thinking of him as sort of a cross between Billy the Kid and a mobster nicknamed “The Kid”. I have to confess that I wasn’t that bothered by the lack of names in The Road though. I think leaving the boy and the man unnamed was important to convey the idea that their identities could expose them to danger, much like the conversation that the man and “Ely” had in the middle of the novel. I also think that we assign certain characteristics to particular names (especially when we know someone with that name), but everyone has a different association based on their own personal experiences. Leaving the characters unnamed allows us to see the characteristics of the man and the boy that McCarthy wanted us to associate with them, instead of some preconceived notion of what the name signified to us. It also helped me make the story more personal, because I could easily recognize the man and the boy in a father and son that I know. That made the novel far more powerful for me.

  2. I think that McCarthy did not name the father and the boy so that the reader could identify with the characters more. I think that by not naming them each reader could think, "wow, this could happen to anyone, even me".

  3. For me, I think knowing the characters names definitely makes it more personal; however I still was able to connect with the main characters in McCarthy's novels. Since, his characters were so descriptive, I felt like I was in their situation in the book. I have a vivid imagery of what each character looks like and of the settings in which McCarthy displays in great detail. This allows me to connect with the characters on a personal level.