Cormac McCarthy’s writing style and content, although fascinating to a range of readers, requires extremely conscious and careful reading because everything in his text seems to have a purpose, or does it? Is McCarthy’s wide range of vocabulary included to vaunt excessively about his knowledge, or does each reference have a purpose contributing to the text as a whole?
Good old Cormac McCarthy set up a trap, and I was definitely caught right in it after reading chapters 14-17 of Blood Meridian. Let’s think back to the first blog post on Blood Meridian Lindsey posted titled “Blood, Gore and Death in Blood Meridian”, I think we can all agree that blood, gore and death dominated our first impression of the book. Is there a purpose for all of the violence, what were the characters’ intent in committing these acts? Here lies the trap that McCarthy developed, he trapped the Kid in violence, and trapped the reader into becoming accustomed to reading about violence.
One of my first assumptions was that McCarthy incorporated this to show that the kid was so immersed in violence, or at least violent thoughts from a young age that he became “numb” to it, as Kristina stated in the earlier post. Well now that we’re three-quarters through the book I can say violence has been a pretty loyal companion to Blood Meridian’s story line since the beginning, but has its consistency made it just part of the story, do we still find ourselves also becoming numb to the violence as well? Chapter 17, although it had a few pretty nasty descriptions of dead animals and a “mummied corpse hung from a crosstree” (McCarthy, 258) was pretty calm and lacking of violence compared to other chapters, such as the description when “the judge took.. a round rock weighing… a hundred pounds and crushed the horse’s skull with a single blow. Blood shot out of its ears it slammed to the ground so hard that one of the forelegs broke under it with a dull snap” (229). I literally flipped to a random page to find this description. It’s just so horribly graphic, yet in chapter 17, the reader gets a slight break from that. I was curious to see what some thought readers of that.
After a not so thorough google search I stumbled upon a bloggers reaction to chapter 17, in which he exclaimed that he thought chapter 17 “was a filler chapter. In reality, nothing happened. All that happens in this chapter is the Judge goes on one of his rants again..” (http://readbloodmeridian.blogspot.com/2010/05/blood-meridian-chapter-17.html). It was pretty clear to me that this guy didn’t embrace his AP English class, but he seemed relatively convinced that the judge solely represented evil and that anything he claims is just reiterating this. What struck me the most was that the author of the blog claimed that Cormac McCarthy inserted chapter 17 as a “filler chapter”, when I actually find it to be one of the most important and revealing chapters in the novel thus far because it reveals Judge Holden’s notion that “War is god”. In chapter 17, Judge Holden philosophizes about “the truth about the world” (256). He claims that “existence has its own order and that no man’s mind can compass that mind itself being but a fact among others” (256). What does he mean by this? He also continues by stating that “it makes no difference what men think of war… war endures.. it endures because young men love it and old men love it in them” (259,260). I find these ideas to be very important insights on how Judge Holden’s view of human nature.
Do you think this lack of violence in chapter 17 (compared to other chapters) is so uncharacteristic that it actually slows the story down? What do you think is so significant about Judge Holden’s notion that “war is god”? What does that mean, how does this further shape his character and demonstrate what McCarthy is trying to convey though the text as a whole?