***NOTE: This post was written by Annalise, but for some reason I don’t have posting access on the blog so I am posting under Lily’s username*****
Despite the fact that in these chapters of Blood Meridian we receive a brief reprieve from the otherwise constant violence that graced almost every page of the first section, it is by no means eliminated from chapters 7-12. We still are experiencing the same shocking moments of scalper violence, from the old woman in chapter 7, to the innocent babies and children in chapter 12. As McCarthy continues in this manner to expose us as readers to the reality of the violence during this time, the focus turns and we begin to gain more insight into the characters’ unique personalities as well as their emotions and thoughts as they travel with the company.
The Kid is no longer appears to be the protagonist. Instead, we learn much more about the judge in this section. Recall our first encounter with him from chapter 1, when he very publicly and dramatically disrupts mass to falsely accuse the reverend of being an imposter. We now see this dramatic, egotistical persona quickly develop as he emerges clearly as the company’s leader, instilling both fear and awe in the members of the company. Being the only Spanish speaker in the crew, he controls all forms of communication, and tends to leave the others in the dark, such as when the band of entertainers is telling fortunes. When probed about the meaning of the woman’s haunting chants, “The judge smiled” (McCarthy 97). In fact, it’s something he tends to do a lot, just smile. It is his coy way of saying “I’m better than you.” When riddling Webster about having his portrait drawn, “The judge smiled” (147). When telling his confounding story about the harnessmaker, “the judge looked up and smiled” (151). And even when held at gunpoint by Toadvine after killing the child he played with, “The judge smiled” (171). This phrase occurs again and again throughout the novel, always just as the judge is hiding something, tricking someone, or exerting his superiority.
But who is the judge? Who is this man who has so slyly captured the devotion of the crew? It is as if he is supernatural. “Every man in the company claims to have encountered that sootysouled rascal in some other place” (130). “He can write with both hands at a time” (140). “So like an icon was he in his sitting” (153). The expriest praises his actions on the volcano, leaving with the men “behind him like the disciples of a new faith” (136). What is it about the judge that holds all these men in rapture? What is his purpose in travelling with the company collecting scalps? Does he have some sort of ulterior motive? He tells the crew that his motive in making sketches and notes in his book is “to expunge them from the memory of man” (147). Why is the judge playing God?
I question if it is not the judge himself who is the driving force behind the mindless violence of the crew. He seems detached, even maniacal at times. He obliterates the Indians on the volcano. He suggests the way to raise a child is to throw it into a pack of wild dogs, to make it escape wild lions, and to have it run naked through the desert. He saves a child from the ruins of the town that they slaughter, loves and cares for it, then suddenly murders it just like all the others. Is the judge crazy? Is he the one fueling the psychopathic nature of the killings? Could he be the explanation for these actions that seem so indecently inhuman?