Saturday, August 8, 2009

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.


  1. While I can't agree with Paul about loving Blood Meridian (I had to force myself to finish it) I do see some of the points that he's pointed out in this post.

    I disagree, however, about the Kid being a manifestation of man in his innocence. I think we are not told what he is thinking because like in All the Pretty Horses, McCarthy is using indirect characterization to allow the reader to form their own opinion of what each character is like. There are actually huge sections where the Kid is not even mentioned.
    I do not see the Kid as the picture of innocence is because of his inability to read of write. This is something that would not have been uncommon in the 1840's. He is brutal, primal, and knowingly immoral. He puts little store in God and knows what he's doing is wrong, as can be discerned in his discussion with the hermit on pages 18 and 19.
    "Lost ye way in the dark, said the old man. He stirred the fire, standing slender tusks of bone up out of the ashes.
    The kid didn't answer.
    The old man swung his head back and forth. The way of the transgressor is hard. God made this world, but he didn't make it to suit everbody, did he?
    I don't believe he much had me in mind."

    I do see the judge as Satan, although not an allusion, but the physical embodiment. He does not age, he is the tempter in the desert (despite the fact that nothing about the Kid is even vaguely Christlike). He wants to be overlord or "suzerain" (p. 198) of the earth and all within it. Everywhere he goes death and destruction follow. He is evil incarnate.

  2. This is solid discussion, of the kind I envisioned when I set up the blog. I don't know that I agree that the kid is not an innocent. (Is that a triple negative? Bonus points for me). I was struck by his general absence through the majority of the middle of the novel, and took this to allude to the notion that the silence of decent people allows evil to thrive. It allows us to construct distance between the events of the text and the kid perhaps. It's a rorschach test--do we envision the kid's lusty participation in the events he's not mentioned in, or do we imagine him with a sort of dutiful revulsion at the events that swirl around him?
    I think I agree with both Paul and Rebecca in their response to the novel. Like Rebecca, I found myself forcing myself to finish--there were times where I couldn't read any more horror (and I mean horror in the literal sense--the book made me repeatedly anxious and sad this time through, even though and perhaps because I had read it before). Having said that, I do find myself tremendously impressed that a text can have that effect on me; there are moments that are sublime in their perfect encapsulation of the worst in human beings. The judge's character, like Milton's Satan from Paradise Lost, is at once abhorrent and charismatic--he manages to be appealing and revolting at once.

  3. I do no believe that the kid was innocent. The only time that he shows compassion is when a member of his gang was in need. I do not really feel that he was helping the people in need because he was a caring person, I feel that he felt an obligation to help them because they were in the same gang. I think this was part of the kid's moral code.

    McCarthy does not give much backgroung info on the kid. We do not know his past. We do not know why he ran away. Was he abused in some way? McCarthy does not describe the kid in a way to make me believe that he had any type of horrible events in his life. If McCarthy gave any indication of this, it would be easier to feel bad for the kid or to try to think of him as an innocent child who ended up in a bad place. The kid knows what he is doing and his choices lead me to belive that he is not just an innocent child.

    The way McCarthy calls him the kid carries a negavie tone. Kid is something you call a young person when you do not have good feelings toward them, like "he is just such a bad kid". If McCarthy wanted us to have positive feelings about him, I would think that he would have named him or at least referred to him as the child.

  4. Isn't the kid following a western convention of implying youth like "Billy the Kid"? If you consider Billy the Kid for a minute, he's also an outlaw, but the hero of his own story. In fact, of all the people that played a role in the story of his life, his is the only name that has lived on in modern memory. I think McCarthy's not naming the kid was so that either the reader could see the kid as representing his/her interest in the story or because the kid really wasn't the main character, so keeping his identity generic would imply that he was not the protagonist.

  5. "With darkness one soul rose wondrously from among the new slain dead and stole away in the moonlight....stinking like some reeking issue of the incarnate of war herself."

    He obviously knows what he has become but this book is written with a very post-modern attitude. His father quoted from forgotten poets and the kid runs away at age 14. We do not know anything about his upbringing other than his father (the schoolmaster) liked to drink. "He lies in drink, he quotes from poets whose names are now lost". I think he is the product of his own undaunted actions in a violent, vicious world.

    Example: In the wild bunch there are many moments when people make their hand into a gun than act like they are shooting someone. The children even in the film do this because violence is so prevalent through out that you cant escape it. This is the same concept in Blood Meridian for the kid because he has no family by which he can remember. This makes the kid seem more shaped by things of the world around him. When McCarthy describes the kid he says that all the kids history could been seen by his appearance, meaning that he has most likely had a hard life up to this point.

    "He watches, pale and unwashed. He can't read nor write and in him broods already a taste for mindless violence. All history present in that visage, the child the father of man". So in fact, McCarthy does refer to him as "the child" on the first page. "kid" does not have a negative tone whatsoever, it has a tone of innocence and youthfulness. This is a historical based book, McCarthy does not want us to have positive thoughts about the kid, however he wants us to realize the significance of the times.