Books: Blood Meridian (Cormac McCarthy)


So I’d like to write something about this insane novel I just read.

Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian is a staggering literary achievement of a stature of brutality that is unparalleled among any book I’ve ever read. It’s descriptions of violence and hellish landscapes stand uniquely and unobstructed by what most writers, myself included, would describe as an obstacle to the presentation of their ideas: the English language. His prose conjures up ideas of images that are unimaginable in terms of visual imagery. They can never be recreated as a literal picture; they exist solely as a set of words on a page.

The point, I believe, of this novel is to dig into the warring nature of man. The most important moment in the novel comes when Judge Holden, McCarthy’s Satan like figure or a shepherd for man’s brutal proclivities, describes man’s never ending lust for blood and disaster. The entropy of human civilization is a mere fact of life that all must grapple with. The kid, our protagonist though it’s difficult to describe him that way, is McCarthy’s metaphor for man turning away from his violent nature. He engages in violence from a young age, spared totally of innocence and placed into the hell of the western desert, which I believe is a metaphor for true human nature.

By the end of the book the kid, now a man, is a penitent. He grapples with the judge in a final conversation that will take multiple readings to fully understand, but I take it to be the Judge cluing in the kid to his real destiny and that he can never ignore it. The Judge seems to have murdered the kid at the end, showing that he rejects the kid’s repentance and will force his vision upon him.

Another important moment comes when the band of scalpers ride into town to claim their reward for their bloodshed. This money lauded upon them is why they engaged in such crimes against humanity and it should satiate their thirst, were we to believe that man was truly good. But instead they blow their money in one night, engage in more drunken inhuman violence, and ride out again at dawn. Their mission is never ending and ceases to end, much like the forever warring nature of humanity.

What an incredible book. The ultimate American Classic because it so strips bare the true nature of the psyche that is uniquely american. Our glorification of violence, our obsession with guns, our neverending wars of ideology. Will we never be satisfied, much like the outlaws central to Blood Meridian?

This novel will take much more than one simple read through to fully grasp all the meanings, but I wanted to get my takeaways from it down immediately after I’d finished it so I can look back when I read again.



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