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 DueƱa, 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?


  1. Interesting... The breath reminds me of the one thing we can control. The only thing we have a say in is our own breath our own life. You can chose to carry on or like the mother you can chose to end it. The breath takes us back to free will.

  2. I agree. I believe free will was a major theme in The Road. Each character had the free will to choose which path in The Road they would take. The path of sucide, to fight to carry on the fire, or survival at any cost.

  3. Just throwing this out there, but another link could be humans and animalistic traits; lack of humanity that diffs us. In each book (not so easy to point out in All the Pretty Horses), certain characters seem to be animalistic. Murders, brutality, cannabilism, all show how these characters seem to be some enjoyment from pure physical drives ranging from hatred in Blood Meridian, to sexual appetite in Child of God.

  4. First, disclaimer! I have so much allergy medicine in my system right now that I am barely functional, so please pardon any crazy rambling that might follow!

    The more I read about the breath of life passed from god to man, the more familiar it sounded, and I tried to figure out where I had heard it before. Surprise, surprise, it was in the Bible, in the Genesis account of creation.

    Genesis 1:30 - And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food." And it was so
    And Genesis 2:7 - then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.

    While this is completely jumping from Sarah’s topic, I do think there’s a connection between a lot of McCarthy’s language, and the Bible. I just don’t think that Revelation was necessarily the best example of this. McCarthy is very Old Testament, whether it is in his fire and brimstone settings, or in the lyrical, poetic ways he describes things that reminds me of the Psalms.