What is presented here is, then, an examination of McCarthy's novel in light of scholarship significantly wider afield than has so far been applied. Blood Meridian divides into three sections. The first begins with the birth of the kid and ends with his membership in Glanton's gang. This section includes the kid's home life, travels in Texas, experiences with the filibustering expedition, and imprisonment in Chihuahua City. The first section of Blood Meridian , though "historical" in its events and experiences, exists as a vehicle designed to introduce the world of the late s and the Glanton gang.
The information about scalp hunting, below, and the Leonids Chapter 3 provides the reader of Blood Meridian with a perspective on McCarthy's treatment of the period. The filibustering expedition appears to be the novelist's conflation of later and verifiable filibusters. The second section spans the period of the gang's scalp-hunting, ending with their arrival at the Yuma ferry.
The second section of the novel and a majority of the third is often based on information derived from historical sources on the Glanton gang. The third section of the novel covers the time between the arrival of the gang at the Pima villages until the death of the protagonist some twenty-eight years later.
It includes the skirmish with the Yumas, two trips to San Diego for provisions, the massacre, the escape of the survivors and their trip west to San Diego, the accelerated presentation of the kid's years from until , the reappearance of the judge, and the murder of the kid then known in the novel as "the man" by the judge.
The third section's key events are, generally, historically verifiable. Information about the Yuma-ferry massacre and the flight of the survivors is presented in several sections, based on historians' documents, in the next chapter, but particularly in the sections on Glanton and Holden and in Carr's deposition. The final chapter of the novel appears to be largely of McCarthy's dramatic design. The Fort Griffin section, along with the essays, provides clues that mark Griffin as an appropriate place for the novel's end. The identity of these regions [between El Paso and Chihuahua City] with the names of certain stormy characters supports the law of the survival of the fittest.
Smith, "Indians" Cormac McCarthy's gang leader is a historical figure. His name punctuates any number of histories of the mid-nineteenth-century Southwest. He appears, for example, as a character in Jeremiah Clemens's romance Bernard Lile. As recently as he was featured in Life magazine as a character in the serialization of Samuel Chamberlain's long-lost personal narrative of the late s, My Confession.
The story of John Glanton, though, is an unsettling one. He has been seen as a misfit since word of his adventures first spread. But Captain Glanton did what the state of Chihuahua hired him to do, and his life story, as well as the conditions of the time in which he lived, is presented in McCarthy's novel with remarkable fidelity. The conflicts existing in and among the states of Texas, Chihuahua, New Mexico, and Arizona in and involved many peoples: Mexicans, both peon and military; United States Army troops; Texans, both Ranger and civilian; Comanches and Apaches; and Anglo gold-rush travellers on the Gila Trail.
The Comanches had moved eastward into what would be north-central Texas at least a hundred years before the Anglos began their settlements. They had come for the buffalo and for the area's convenient access to trails southward into north-central Mexico Smith, "Comanche Invasion" John Hughes described them as "uncompromising enemies" Annual trips into Chihuahua, and as far south as Zacatecas, provided the Comanches with Mexican horses, livestock, and slaves, all of which could be traded to more northern Indian tribes and to Anglo traders on the Arkansas River:.
Richardson has described as "the most horrendous holocaust ever enacted against a civilized people in the Western World. Eastern tribes moved by the United States government to the Indian Territory sold many of their government-issued rifles to Comanches for five dollars each. Mexican authorities complained about American traffic with these Indians and also saw the Yankee image behind Apache raids.
Smith calls "a taste for European manufactures" "Mexican" The Indians at this time also found swelling numbers of westward-bound caravans of gold seekers: "As the Forty-niners swarmed across the vast vacancies of west Texas, there were hardly enough warriors to go around, but the Indians did the best they could" Sonnichsen, Pass The decade of the forties saw the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua, in its attempt to break the cycle of Indian incursions, hire Anglo aliens to kill the raiders.
James don Santiago Kirker, in particular, brought hundreds of "proofs" of the deaths of Indians and thousands of head of livestock to Chihuahua City during the first half of the decade. Decades later and still scalping, but then in the company of gentler folk, he writes: "some of the party said it looked barbarous; but I kept on scalping, saying that business men always took receipts, and I wanted something to show our success" Ralph Smith quotes the historical Marcus Webster: "For those of posterity who considered scalping a 'grewsome business.
Evidence of an Indian's death depended on a hunter producing a scalp. And an Indian's scalp was dearer to him than is immediately obvious. Of the "two ways in which the Indian soul can be prevented from reaching [its] paradise:". The first is by scalping the head of the dead body.
Scalping is annihilation; the soul ceases to exist. This accounts for. The other method by which an Indian can be cut off from the Happy Hunting Grounds is by strangulation. Should death ensue by strangulation, the soul can never escape, but must always remain with, or hovering near the remains, even after complete decomposition.
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Dodge The scalp is both proof of an Indian's capture, given the stipulation that the scalp must show the crown of the hair and in some cases, for further specificity, the ears , and proof of the Indian's death, given the lengths to which an Indian would go to protect his body from this disfigurement Smith, "Comanche Sun" Chamberlain, travelling with Wild Tom Hitchcock to meet Glanton's gang, recounts the Indian's desire, even over life, to keep his scalp:. The wounded warrior presented a ghastly sight, he tried to call his pony to him, but the affrightened animal stood at a distance, snorting in terror.
The savage then gave a wild startling yell, and by his hands alone, dragged himself to the brink of the deep barranca, then singing his death chant and waving his hand in defiance towards us he plunged into the awful abyss.
Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian Was Almost a Plain Old Western | Literary Hub
Chihuahua paid scalp bounties not only to licensed alien parties, but also to peon guerilla bands, who found that the governmental payment for a single scalp exceeded the amount that a peon who became a gang member "could earn by hard labor in a year" Smith, "Scalp Hunt" Even for Anglos, the money was attractive. Pay in the United States Army at about that time ran between seven and fifteen dollars a month when bonuses were included Chamberlain ; Nevin A group of fifty Indian hunters paid two hundred dollars a scalp would have to bring only four scalps a month into Chihuahua City in order to exceed the army's rate of pay, and for work not much more hazardous than the army's.
Kirker's group was known to have killed as many as two hundred Indians on a single trip, bringing in one hundred and eighty two scalps. This approach yielded sixty times what the men would have earned in other employment. Chihuahua was desperate to have the Comanche invasions stopped. So aliens and peons—even some Indians—were paid by the scalp for their contribution to Chihuahua's protection Richardson As the New York Daily Tribune noted on its front page for August 1, "The Government of Chihuahua has made a bloody contract with an individual named Chevallie, stipulating to give him a bounty of so much per head for every Indian, dead or alive, whom he may secure.
The terms of this atrocious bargain are published in the Mexican papers, which, to their credit be it said, denounce them as inhuman and revolting. The Chihuahuans themselves are disgusted with the treaty. Clarence Wharton writes that he was on his way to California for the gold when, out of money, he took a scalp contract with Chihuahua on May 27, The "inhuman" aspects of the job apparently didn't deter him or John Glanton, who applied for a license on June 27 of the same year Smith, "Poor Mexico" The scalp hunters' problem, though, arose in late and early as the scalp business peaked Smith, "Scalp Hunter" A "depletion" of the number of Indians venturing into Mexico occurred, in part because of Chihuahua's willingness to pay for the scalps of women and children, though at a rate below that for warriors Smith, "Scalp Hunter" 21; "Comanche Sun" The response to Chihuahua's desire to end Indian incursions, signalled to all by the fabulous amounts of money involved, exceeded the state's ability to determine the origins of scalps.
Besides a large Indian population antedating Spanish settlement, Chihuahua was inhabited by mestizos, whose hair was similar to the Indians' in color and texture. The hair of fighting and farming Indians looked about the same. And Glanton's scalpers found this "problem" of identification to be a boon, enriching their coffers with the surreptitious murder of Mexican citizens until their deceptions were discovered by the authorities. He drank deeply and sought the companionship of the most hardened desperados of the frontier; in all Indian fights he was the devil incarnate" Jeremiah Clemens, in Mustang Gray , touches on the question of Texans' regard for Mexicans during the period of the Mexican War, and the aftermath of that war, when he writes that Texans.
To be just, we must judge of actions in connection with the causes from which they flow. No wonder that a man whose house had been burned down, his property pillaged, and his fields laid waste, should seek to spoil the spoiler in his turn. No wonder that a man whose brother had been murdered, should long to smite the murderer. No wonder that a man whose wife had been violated, and then her body mangled with wounds, should be deaf to the cry of mercy when the ravisher is at his feet.
To all this, and more, the Texans had been subjected. They felt it like men—like men they avenged it.
Notes on Blood Meridian: Revised and Expanded Edition
He who would have done less, can claim little kindred with humanity. Glanton's Texan background can be thought to predispose him, in general terms, when taken with the profit motive, to his murders of Mexicans. Early in Chamberlain's narrative, in a scene that precedes his running away from home, he fist-fights with a "rough" after the other fellow used "profane language on the Holy Sabbath": "'I consciously believed,'" Chamberlain defends himself before a Church committee, "'that I had acted as a good Christian should act, and for the interest of the Church!
Fighting the "good fight" was an apparently literal injunction for Chamberlain and, possibly, Glanton: Chamberlain writes, "Nothing remarkable distinguished Glanton in his youth from the other young men of the settlement [except] a deep religious feeling and a strict moral conduct" ; original emphasis. McCarthy would have seen this detail. As noted in the next chapter in the Holden section, Glanton also had "recollections of the Bible teaching his young mind had undergone" Chamberlain The reader wonders if Chamberlain's "church" is not somehow also Glanton's, though Chamberlain was not trained in Glanton's hard Texas Ranger environment.
Neither man has a moral compunction against hunting Indians for their scalps, though Chamberlain shows some sympathy for "harmless" Indians , whereas McCarthy's Glanton does not The Anglos' hatred of Indians was a concomitant of the westward expansion of the United States. From this perspective, "the white man's burden of Winning the West was. The West was quite literally nowhere—or everywhere, which was to say the same thing. Shaw's article. Shaw then goes on to review Eric Fromm's distinction between benign and malignant aggression — benign aggression being only used for survival and is rooted in human instinct, whereas malignant aggression is destructive and is based in human character.
It is Shaw's thesis that McCarthy fully accepts and exemplifies Fromm's malignant aggression, which he sees as part of the human condition, and which we do well to heed, for without this acceptation we risk losing ourselves in intellectual and physical servitude. Shaw goes in for a certain amount of special pleading: the Comanches sodomizing their dying victims; the kid's exceptional aggression and ability, so that the judge could not have killed him that easily; the judge deriving more satisfaction from tormenting than from eliminating.
Since the judge considers the kid has reserved some clemency in his soul, Shaw argues, that the only logical step is that the judge humiliates him by sodomy. This is possible, but unlikely. The judge gives one the impression, not so much of male potency, but of impotence. His mountainous, hairless flesh is more that of a eunuch than a man. Having suggested paedophilia, Shaw then goes back to read other episodes in terms of the judge's paedophilia: the hypothesis thus becomes the premise. And in so arguing, Shaw falls into the same trap of narrative closure for which he has been berating other critics.
The point about Blood Meridian is that we do not know and we cannot know. Various discussions by Leo Daugherty, Barclay Owens, Harold Bloom and others, have resulted from the second epigraph of the three which are used by the author to introduce the novel taken from the "Gnostic" mystic Jacob Boehme.
There is no sorrowing. For sorrow is a thing that is swallowed up in death, and death and dying are the very life of the darkness. These critics agree that there are Gnostic elements present in Blood Meridian, but they disagree on the precise meaning and implication of those elements. One of the most detailed of these arguments is made by Leo Daugherty in his article, " Blood Meridian as Gnostic Tragedy.
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He describes the novel as a "rare coupling of Gnostic 'ideology' with the 'affect' of Hellenic tragedy by means of depicting how power works in the making and erasing of culture, and of what the human condition amounts to when a person opposes that power and thence gets introduced to fate. Daugherty sees Holden as an archon , and the kid as a "failed pneuma. Daugherty contends that the staggering violence of the novel can best be understood through a Gnostic lens. As Daugherty writes, "For [Gnostics], evil was simply everything that is , with the exception of bits of spirit imprisoned here.
And what they saw is what we see in the world of Blood Meridian. Another major theme concerning Blood Meridian involves the subject of theodicy. Theodicy in general refers to the issue of the philosophical or theological attempt to justify the existence of that which is metaphysically or philosophically good in a world which contains so much apparent and manifest evil. James Wood in his essay for The New Yorker entitled "Red Planet" from took a similar position to this in recognizing the issue of the general justification of metaphysical goodness in the presence of evil in the world as a recurrent theme in the novel.
It is his first novel set in the Southwestern United States , a change from the Appalachian settings of his earlier work. In his essay for the Slate Book Review from 5 October entitled "Cormac McCarthy Cuts to the Bone", Noah Shannon summarizes the existing library archives of the first drafts of the novel as dating to the mids. The review includes digital archive images of several of McCarthy's own type-script pages for early versions of the novel. McCarthy conducted considerable research to write the book. Critics have repeatedly demonstrated that even brief and seemingly inconsequential passages of Blood Meridian rely on historical evidence.
The Glanton gang segments are based on Samuel Chamberlain 's account of the group in his memoir My Confession: The Recollections of a Rogue , which he wrote during the latter part of his life. Chamberlain rode with John Joel Glanton and his company between and The novel's antagonist Judge Holden appeared in Chamberlain's account, but his true identity remains a mystery. Chamberlain does not appear in the novel. McCarthy told Oprah Winfrey in an interview that he prefers "simple declarative sentences" and that he uses capital letters, periods, an occasional comma, a colon for setting off a list, but never semicolons.
McCarthy's writing style involves many unusual or archaic words, no quotation marks for dialogue , and no apostrophes to signal most contractions. While Blood Meridian initially received little recognition, it has since been recognized as McCarthy's masterpiece, and one of the greatest works of American literature. American literary critic Harold Bloom praised Blood Meridian as one of the 20th century's finest novels. Aleksandar Hemon has called Blood Meridian "possibly the greatest American novel of the past 25 years. Academics and critics have variously suggested that Blood Meridian is nihilistic or strongly moral ; a satire of the western genre, a savage indictment of Manifest Destiny.
Harold Bloom called it "the ultimate western"; J. Douglas Canfield described it as "a grotesque Bildungsroman in which we are denied access to the protagonist's consciousness almost entirely. However, there is no consensus interpretation; James D. Lilley writes that the work "seems designed to elude interpretation. Both are epic in scope, cosmically resonant, obsessed with open space and with language, exploring vast uncharted distances with a fanatically patient minuteness. Both manifest a sublime visionary power that is matched only by still more ferocious irony.
Both savagely explode the American dream of manifest destiny [ sic ] of racial domination and endless imperial expansion. But if anything, McCarthy writes with a yet more terrible clarity than does Melville. There have been a number of attempts to create a motion picture adaptation of Blood Meridian. However, all have failed during the development or pre-production stages. A common perception is that the story is "unfilmable", due to its unrelenting violence and dark tone. In an interview with Cormac McCarthy by The Wall Street Journal in , McCarthy denied this notion, with his perspective being that it would be "very difficult to do and would require someone with a bountiful imagination and a lot of balls.
But the payoff could be extraordinary. Screenwriter Steve Tesich first adapted Blood Meridian into a screenplay in In the late s, Tommy Lee Jones acquired the film adaptation rights to the story and subsequently rewrote Tesich's screenplay, with the idea of directing and playing a role in it. Following the end of production for Kingdom of Heaven in , screenwriter William Monahan and director Ridley Scott entered discussions with producer Scott Rudin for adapting Blood Meridian with Paramount Pictures financing.
For undisclosed reasons, Rudin denied further production of the film. However, later that day, it was reported that the project dissolved, due to issues concerning the film rights. Lynne Ramsay has expressed an interest in adapting the novel. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Novel by Cormac McCarthy. For other uses, see Blood Meridian disambiguation. This article needs additional citations for verification.
Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. Dewey Decimal. This section needs additional citations for verification. Kitson Ed.
The Significance of The Number 8 In Blood Meridian
Contemporary Literature. University of Wisconsin Press. North Carolina: New York: University of New Mexico Press. Retrieved August 25, Edwin T. Arnold and Dianne C. University Press of Mississippi: Jackson, Mavericks on the Border. University Press of Kentucky. The New Yorker. New York. November 28, Slate Book Review , 5 October Cormac McCarthy. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. London: Profile Book. Archived from the original on Retrieved April 26, Retrieved The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved May 21, Eclipse Magazine. Archived from the original on June 4, Los Angeles Times.
Archived from the original on June 15, Retrieved May 22, Works by Cormac McCarthy.