Sunday, August 23, 2009

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?


  1. I think that because McCarthy is thought of as an amazing writer, his work is thought of as artistic. It seems that when work is thought of as artistic, anything goes and gets great reviews.

  2. I think this is a really interesting line of inquiry. Part of the answer, in my view, is class-based (as in social class). I think nervous pundits tend to worry about the influence of violent content on a rather limited segment of the culture. That is to say, you're not going to find a lot of educated, affluent people listening to whomever is the violent hip hop flavor of the month (should I say "flava"? I will not). So these are not the people nervous pundits are talking about. Similarly, I don't think nervous pundits are terribly worried about upper middle class suburban white kids who play very violent video games. If you consider the audience the average McCarthy book reaches, I don't think it includes very many of the people who nervous pundits worry about generally. There's caniballism, rape, incest and abundant murder in Shakespeare, too--but I don't think Shakespeare reaches that many potential murderers and rapists and such.

    The nervous pundits may be right--I would argue, for example, that very few graduates of OSU are currently in prison for violent crimes. I don't think that the McCarthy novels will have any influence on the violence or lack of violence in your future behavior. I have never been very sure about the influence of cultural product on behavior. Students tell me all the time that violent video games and music don't make them violent, and I believe this. I also believe that Al Green makes me want to make out, and that Earth, Wind and Fire makes me want to dance. I can believe, in the abstract, that something could make a person (not necessarily me) want to kill something. I don't know what that thing is or who it works on, but I'm pretty sure it's not y'all, and I'm pretty sure it's not McCarthy.

    I think there's another argument, and it's a good one, to be made about the moral consequences of violence in video games and hip hop. In these genres (and there are exceptions, I'm sure--I'm generalizing) indiscriminate violence is not only justified, but rewarded in the context of the product. In video games, if I kill, I win. In hip hop, if I kill, I get money and sex and power. In McCarthy, these things are not the products of violence.

  3. I think another argument that can be made is that unlike other media (tv, movies, videogames, music), books are not advertised in the same manner. We see multiple ads for the former 4 and the main target audience is children. I would be hard pressed to come up with a book (even children's literature like Harry Potter) that has been advertised to the same degree. In order to find a McCarthy novel, you would have to know that it exists (NYT Bestseller list, newspaper book reviews), and the chances of you picking up anything by this author are limited by the sheer number of selections available at your local bookstore or library. The other notable point is that unlike other media types, reading takes work.

  4. I think that most violence derives from the individual itself and the community around it. It seems that video games or books that portray some violence are just a tool of blame for the problems that go on around us. A person shoots someone down on the street and later we find out he or she played grand theft auto.. its easy to make sense of things if we can point blame somewhere.

  5. This makes me think of how we view food. If we eat a steak or any type of meat there is violence that occurs to make the product. Yet we interpret in a much different way or we just block it out.

  6. I think violent video games and movies provoke people negatively. I did some valid research on the topic and found that children who watch violent films are more likely to act out then children who who do not watch violent films. This topic is very important to me since I will soon become an educator. This has been been my Sophomore year so I'm not sure where I found my information; however I just took two Psychology classes and learned about the different theorists who are experests on learned behavior in which at some point everyone is guilty of. I think if you were to research this topic you will find plenty of evidence linking people to violence.

    I do not think McCarthy's books would alter others behavior. I think more so movies and music because your imagination can only go so far when you are reading. I think more intellectual people read books and so you do not find, for instance, Ohio State students going out and killing people; not saying that it will NEVER happen, its just not very likely. On the other hand we see the individuals who are disturbed growing up watching or listening to violent acts.

    I think this also depends on how you were raised. If you were raised by a loving family and did not have a traumatic event happen in your life then maybe violence will not effect you. Yet, if you come from a non-supportive family and consume lots of violence, then I think its safe to say there could be some behavior issues, or worse, violent acts.