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.

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Blood, Gore, and Death in Blood Meridian

After watching the first episode of Heimat, the violence, blood, and death in Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian: or the Redness in the West probably seems simply atrocious.  Is the thirst for violence just an innate quality or a product of the kid’s environment?  On the very first page of Chapter 1, we learn the kid “already [has] a taste for mindless violence” (McCarthy, 3).  This desire for “mindless violence” appears throughout the first six chapters, especially in the scene where we first meet the judge and the scene in the bar.  McCarthy also includes graphic passages depicting death, such as the attack on the plane.  What does this overabundance of violence do to the characters?  And what does it do to us as the readers?

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Additional Help Playing “Heimat”

If you are having problems playing the Heimat series from a PC, it is probably because you only have Windows Media Player installed.  Heimat is encoded as a streaming .mov file, which is a format that WMP does not support.  To remedy this, download either Quicktime ( or the free VLC media player ( and make sure to set it as the default player for .mov files during the installation.

If your computer still gives you problems, you can also go to the audiovisual reserves desk on the second floor of the Hesburgh library and check out the DVD set, which is on reserve for our class.  Unfortunately, you can’t leave the building with the DVDs, so you will either have to watch them on one of their TVs or on your computer.  But it’s better than nothing.  Good luck!

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Home sweet home?

On the first day of class Professor Boes asked us what home means to us. A response I found particularly intriguing said something along the lines of “home is a place where you have a job to do and somewhere you belong”. Watching Heimat, I instantly remembered this comment. This definition of home is especially relevant because in Heimat we see how a home transcends a physical location. This was apparent to me when Apollonia and Paul are talking and Appollonia tells Paul how he is unlike the village people like her, does not belong there, should leave with her.

Isn’t Schabbach Paul’s home? He trekked from France for six days to return from the World War. When he first arrives, Paul immediately begins to help his father assemble a wheel. That action seemed so routine and familiar that Paul appeared to belong there next to his father. But soon after it becomes clear that Paul doesn’t fit perfectly in Schabbach. He is desperately trying to achieve something important like assembling his wireless. He does not want to assume the work his father does and so he obsesses and focuses on finding connections to places away from Schabbach.

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Some background information on Heimat

We’ll discuss both the real-world and the fictional backdrop of Heimat during our first class session, but I thought you would appreciate a little bit of information to help get you started.

The majority of the show takes place in the fictional village of Schabbach, Germany, a composite of several actual villages in the Hunsrück, a remote mountainous region near the border with France that is also the real-world home of filmmaker Edgar Reitz. “Hunsrück” is the German name for the eastern outskirts of the Ardennes mountain range, which would become famous during the Second World War as the site of Germany’s last stand against the advancing U.S. Army. The exact location of Schabbach is never revealed, but the closest real-world town is Simmern (this is where Pauline will move after marrying the jeweler Robert), the closest slightly larger town is Koblenz (where Paul go to buy the parts for his radio).

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Was Derville Trying to Make Chabert Cry?

Hey guys so I’ve been thinking a lot of the importance of Colonel Chabert and Derville’s relationship. After reading over the other blog posts, I decided I had too much to say just to leave in a comment. A lot of this may seem like it’s arguing towards a particular point, but I’m just trying to understand the Derville’s intent in helping Chabert at all because it seems Derville is already aware of the outcome. Let’s focus on pages 47-52 of the text.

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Colonel Chabert Can’t Catch A Break

Having now finished Colonel Chabert, it seems fitting that it is part of a story cycle entitled The Human Comedy, for Honore de Balzac’s goal of social commentary was definitely fulfilled. For sure. 100%.

What is readily apparent from the first time that we meet Chabert is that he cannot catch a break. Let’s begin with the fact that his head was basically sliced open on the battlefield—ouch—and he then lived to wake up in a pit of naked, dead bodies which he had to claw himself out of—gross. Just this one occurrence would leave any normal person seriously scarred for life (literally and figuratively). But, Chabert then learns that his beloved wife has up and married someone else. The score now stands Karma 2, Chabert 0.  Great. The story goes on to detail Chabert’s life in poverty while his wife lives in luxury with his money, his attempt to reclaim his wealth and status only to be tricked by his wife, and his final fate of life as a vagabond and half-insane mad man. As far as luck goes, Colonel Chabert seems to have none of it. (It’s at this point when Odysseus must be thanking his lucky stars that Athena was on his side in his return to Ithaca, or else his story could have ended up much like Chabert’s.)

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I realize this is rather presumptuous…

…to assume that this post will be read with any enthusiasm, or be read at all, what with fall break at our fingertips. But bear with me for a paragraph or two; after today’s class, I simply wanted to lay something out before it all left me. I promise it will be over soon.
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…and how far to read to find out!

For Thursday, please try to get through page 37 of Colonel Chabert.  The following brief timeline of Napoleon’s reign may be helpful to you in understanding the story:

1795 – in the wake of the French Revolution, a young Corsican artillery officer named Napoleon Bonaparte shows both extreme ruthlessness and outstanding military skill in putting down a royalist insurrection trying to overthrow the reigning republican government, the Directorate.

1796 – the Directorate puts Napoleon in charge of an army and sends him to Italy (then largely under the control of the Austrian Empire) where he defeats Austrian forces hoping to invade France and restore the Bourbon dynasty to the throne.

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Who is Colonel Chabert?

Much like Lily, I am finding it very difficult to avoid applying topics we discussed in The Odyssey to this new novella, Colonel Chabert. One of our biggest talking points concerning The Odyssey was the role of disguise and deception, especially on the part of Odysseus. He was always taking on various disguises and spinning all sorts of tall tales to get his way. Luckily for him, he ends up being able to revert to his true form practically at will, as when he initiates the slaughter of the suitors. However, in Colonel Chabert, the protagonist is in a different situation. He, supposedly once a great colonel, has been turned into a beggar, and his goal is to shed that unwanted appearance. However, in dwelling on this difference between the two characters, I developed some serious doubts about who the person behind this beggar persona really is.

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