Notes as I read Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian
Nature is sentient. The landscape alive with hostile, insidious intent towards man. The land is bloodily bound to the ideas of fate and destiny, were the life and death of men are the price and the penance. “yet if he gave thanks to any good at all it was ill timed for the country had not done with him.”(p204)
“As if the very sediment of things contained yet some residue of sentience.” (p247) The Judge, and to a lesser degree Glanton and his gang, are at war with it. They have a will to dominate it.
The Kid’s Weakness
Kid has an unexpected brotherhood with Tate and the lame horse. Surprisingly he doesn’t abandon him. Is this the weakness that the Judge will see in the Kid? Is this empathy for others the reason the Judge will try to kill the kid? These displays of empathy, show he is not a part of the Judge’s project.
Cosmic imagery is Shakespearean channeled through Melville. The language of the novel is a melting pot of the King James Bible, Milton, Shakespeare and Moby Dick.
“The stars burned with a lidless fixity and they drew nearer in the night until toward dawn he was stumbling among the whinstones of the uttermost ridge to heaven, a barren range of rock so enfolded in that gaudy house that stars lay awash at his feet and migratory spalls of burning matter crossed constantly about him on their chartless reckonings.” (p213) The Kid seems to ascend into heaven, weak, frozen, hallucinating.
The landscape is malicious and primeval, a bloody theatre where man’s fate is played out. “A pale green meteor..”
The Judge’s superhuman feat of lifting the meteorite displays his mastery of this malicious universe. This display gives him mastery over these cosmic forces. “That great slag wandered for what millennia… unreckonable corner of the universe…”
Fate / Destiny
Gaston on fate (243) “men’s destinies”. He believes in destiny, yet usurps his own destiny by choosing his own.
Judge: the order you see in creation is only what you put there.
Destiny as a dark gravity pulling at men’s orbits.
”As if in the transit of those riders were a thing so profoundly terrible as to register event to the uttermost granulation of reality.”(p247)
Nature and man conjoined: “… a man and a rock become endowed with unguessed kinships”
“Destinies… bound and indentured.”
“Events have moved on and left man behind. Left man looking at million year old stars no longer there. Or celebrating the ascension of a leader already deposed, the coronation of a king already dead.” (p312) Man is remote from reality.
The Kid tells all to the old woman in the desert, wishes to conduct her to a place of safety, but when he touches her, he realises she is just an old husk who has been dead for many years. A confession to the dead. A wish to procure safety on the dead. Is the kid so remote from the living that he feels closer to the dead?
Massacre at the Mexican bar – the novel in essence
McCarthy set piece on destiny.
Seemingly chance events, build up of small things, McCarthy details the build up of small things happening simultaneously. This focussing on small, seemingly unrelated events creates the tense atmosphere leading up to the massacre. But non of the events are random or happenstance. It is in the nature of things. The nature of dogs behaviour. The funeral procession. Farm workers on a lunch break at the bar. It just happens the they all coincide at one geographic place, the bar, at one specific time. The dark gravity of destiny has pulled all the disparate factors here. McC builds the component parts like cogs in a machine, each component playing its part, all turning and intersecting and interacting. The cold machinery of destiny. It results in a massacre of innocents. All the mexicans are slaughtered. There are no repercussions for the perpetrators. They are not punished by authorities nor wracked with guilt. There is no moral indictment. The massacre just is, in and of itself.
The perpetrators become the witnesses to it. There is a stress on witnessing. Otherwise these events are lost in time, unrecorded. Is there a cold solace in bearing witness? Is that man’s ultimate purpose in this cold godless universe?
“Everybody don’t have to have a reason to be someplace.”(p328)
“But order is not set aside because of their indifference.”
There is an order to the universe. Fate. Destiny. The cogs of the universe turn on. With or without man. The Judge calls it all a ceremony, a dance, a ritual. And all true rituals need blood.
“War is god” Life and death, the wager itself.