McCarthy’s Trying to Make us Feel Uncomfortable

OK, so it seems like we’re all pretty confused with a few things
1. What is Cormac McCarthy’s purpose in including the excessive scenes of violence
2. Who is the narrator of the book?
3. What is the deal with the inconsistency in writing styles?

After reading and thinking during today’s discussion, I’m pretty convinced that there is a direct connection between the three of these questions.

Starting from the beginning, my initial reaction to the first page of the book was ‘Oh please tell me the rest of the book isn’t written like this’. It was so hard for me to follow the choppy sentences and ambiguous references. But shortly after I realized that the text deviates between descriptions that simply state “The kid rose. Toadvine stood up and waited. They could hear the flames crackling inside the room. The kid tapped” (McCarthy, 13) to elaborate descriptions such as “the facade of the building bore an array of saints in their niches and they had been shot up in the American troops trying their rifles, the figures shorn of ears and noses and darkly mottled with leadmarks oxidized upon the stone” (McCarthy, 28). That sentence alone was longer than the four sentences combined in my earlier example.

Why does McCarthy switch his style of writing so drastically?

During McCarthy’s descriptions of the violence the Kid encounters, such as the massacre described on page 56, the whole page only consists of three complete sentences and one of them takes up half the page alone. Why does McCarthy draw so much attention to these scenes of violence, that we decided dictate the events of the book, as established during class (credit to Brenna). I guess so far I’ve only rephrased everyone else’s questions, but I think these questions are an intended product of McCarthy’s writing style. As a reader, McCarthy’s dark, violent nature he creates in the book should be easily recognizable from the first page that describes how the kid “broods already a taste for mindless violence” (McCarthy, 3) as Lindsey mentioned. Even the title is indicative of violence.. BLOOD Meridian.

So I guess my point in all of this is that everyone seems to be complaining about how uncomfortable and excessive the violence is in Cormac McCarthy’s book, but I argue that we should forget our own personal preference to whether or not descriptive massacres make as feel uncomfortable or not. Hopefully you’re not ‘numb’ to these descriptions like Lindsey describes the Kid to be, but maybe it was McCarthy’s actual intent to generate these exact feelings within the reader, possibly to even actually detach the reader from the Kid. Wouldn’t you think that McCarthy would give ‘the Kid’ a name if he intended the audience to sympathize with him? I don’t know if I’m veering in the wrong direction but I have a feeling that McCarthy uses all of his techniques of changing his writing style, including extreme violence, and making the identity of the narrator ambiguous to CREATE discomfort and unfamiliarity so the reader can approach the text through a new lens.

We talked briefly at the end of class about the word Pastiche. I think McCarthy purposefully applies this to his text to force the reader to view the actions of the Kid from a distance, to force the reader to question his actions and really watch his every move. I predict that if the reader takes this hint from McCarthy, he/she will be able to notice subtle changes in the Kid over the extent of the book. I’m not feeling a very obvious 180 degree change in the kid by the conclusion. By following the Kid’s actions closely, and noticing any subtle change, the growth or potential transformation of the Kid will be much more meaningful. Everyone knows that feeling of success when you solve a riddle. Well I believe that’s exactly what McCarthy’s setting up for us, a confusing riddle. I bet he would apologize for making us feel uncomfortable as we try to solve it, but I think feeling uncomfortable will pay off with something much more in the end. I’m just not sure what that is yet, and I think that’s how McCarthy wants it.

This entry was posted in Blood Meridian, Student Generated and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to McCarthy’s Trying to Make us Feel Uncomfortable

  1. Kaitlin says:

    I completely agree with your idea of a reader’s detachment from the Kid. It’s as if McCarthy wants us to be separate, and so we aren’t given any insight into him as a person. Simply the actions that he performs. This is especially relevant, as you mentioned, to the fact that he is referred to as “the Kid.” When authors want us as readers to connect with a character on a personal level, they give them a name, a story. Something that we can connect to as a fellow human being. But with the Kid, all we know of his past is that his mother died and he ran away at 14. We have no idea why “he already has a taste for mindless violence,” or even why he runs away. He just does.

    And I think I understand what you’re saying about approaching the text from a new light. That McCarthy is forcing us as readers to forget any preconceptions about the book, about that time in history, and read the book for what it is. Do you think that by making the reader uncomfortable, McCarthy aims for the reader to pay more attention to the text itself? Because I think as humans, we aim to connect with the characters, and we’ll be searching for that throughout the entire novel, whether we realize we are or not. This in turn means that we’ll look more closely at what McCarthy is really trying to say. And like Erin said, I think that this unfamiliarity is also tied into that meaning, a meaning that will be revealed (hopefully) as the text goes on.

    • Erin Rice says:

      I also completely agree with your response to my blog post. But what exactly do you think McCarthy is trying to get us to focus on by detaching us from the text? Could it be that his writing style is suggesting that we should follow the story of the characters leaving their actions unquestioned? By creating a detachment from the audience to the characters in the text could he be making some type of social commentary about violence in our community? I think these questions are ones we should keep in mind as we continue to read and as the story of the Kid, and possibly his identity unfolds.

  2. Annalise Burnett says:

    I would argue that the deliberate detachment from the Kid is a move on McCarthy’s part to accentuate the mindlessness of the violence and the lack of justice behind it. Often times, when we can relate to a character, or even understand their personality and thought process, we begin to make excuses for them, and it is the natural inclination of a reader to “like” the main character. I think McCarthy’s goal in completely cutting us off from the Kid, (most deliberately by not allowing us to know his name), is so that we cannot make excuses for him. We don’t know what he is thinking, so we can’t sympathize with him, attempt to understand what he is thinking, or even have any remote detection of his emotions. Because of this complete detachment, everything the Kid does is portrayed as a reaction. The violence is always sudden and often seemingly inexplicable and unprovoked. I believe that this is McCarthy’s intention, so as to drive home the point that NONE OF THIS IS OKAY. We as a class discussed how shocking and gratuitous the violence seemed, and often left US feeling the emotions that the characters lacked. We thought to ourselves, “do they not care that this is life?” “Are they not disturbed by these grotesque displays of violence?” These feelings ignited within us were stronger BECAUSE of the lack of character feeling. We did not think, “oh, well the Kid was really feeling angry that day,” or “it makes sense because he’s so unhappy with his life” because we don’t KNOW these things.

  3. Ivana Surjancev says:

    Annalise, I also agree that the descriptions of violence are meant to repulse us. Though this also gives a detachment from The Kid because we know he is numb to this violence while we are shocked. I do feel that the author is trying to tell his audience that violence is bad, but like Erin, I wonder if The Kid will change over time. If he does change with time, this story becomes a moral tale. If he doesn’t, what should we make of the story then? Will it still be able to carry the moral implications that will show and teach the audience that it is wrong to have such mindless violence? I think part of the bigger riddle is not just looking to see if the kid changes over time, but to see if the descriptions of violence change over time. Based off of these descriptions, I think we will be able to figure out McCarthy’s main purpose in writing this book.

Comments are closed.