Personal Response: The End

Posted in Uncategorized on December 11, 2009 by brianconnerton

Finally, this is over. So, I would like to begin this post with a brief overview of what happened in the end. In the last 40 or so pages ,the scalp hunters are essentially massacred and only a few of them remain. The important two of those are the kid and the judge. There is a falling out between the two of them and after some fighting, they go their separate ways. Ten years pass and the kid becomes the man. He eventually goes into a town one day and in a tavern, he runs into, who else but the judge. The two of them exchange words and the judge ends up killing the man in an outhouse. Afterwards, the judge goes back inside and dances with the rest of the men in the tavern.

The first thing I am going to comment on is the style McCarthy uses throughout the novel. His writing could be compared to that of Hawthorne’s in the sense that it is a description driven story. The dialogue parts are few and far between. McCarthy makes sure that you know what the setting looks like no matter where the characters are. The frustrating part is that when he is talking about actions or what actually happens, he is very ambiguous, especially toward the end. He stops explaining what happens and leaves it to the reader to infer what happened based on context clues in the writing. For example, when the judge kills the man, McCarthy tells you in a very roundabout way. The way he sets it up, a man, you dont know who but it is either the man or the judge, is standing outside of the outhouse. Another man walks up and asks if the outhouse is occupied. The man says to not go in there, but the other man peers in and says, “Good God almighty. p.334” then the scene changes to back inside and we see the judge dancing. From this occurrence we are to infer that the judge killed the man because of their past, or maybe new, issues with each other. Either way, this style characterizes the end of the book. McCarthy repeatedly hints at and insinuates that big events occurred, but he refuses to plainly tell you what happened.

 The last thing I would like to say about Blood Meridian is that I enjoyed this novel. Now admittedly it got very boring at times and there were parts when I just wanted to stop reading it altogether, but I persisted and found the interesting and compelling parts that I was looking for. The only problem was dredging through the over used description of the setting. Once I did find an interesting part though, it was a beautifully written, inventive, and thought-provoking message or event. Now that’s not to say that the rest of the novel was not very well written, because it was. McCarthy has a fantastic and unique writing style that makes him such a good writer. The parts that I am talking about though, are philosophical moments in the novel that always involve the judge. The judge is my favorite character in the novel because of this as well. These parts are the judge voicing McCarthy’s thoughts on life and human nature. It is always done in such a way that makes the reader have to analyze and think as well. Those parts made the book for me and without them I honestly probably  would not have enjoyed this novel. All that being said, I did enjoy the novel overall because the interesting parts made the boring parts worth it. I do believe that I have officially said all I have to say about this book. And even though you will probably be reading at time too far in the future to remember this, I still say you should have sweet tea every day.

Themes from American Literature: War is God

Posted in Uncategorized on December 10, 2009 by brianconnerton

“It makes no difference what men think of war, said the judge. War endures. As well ask men what they think of stone. War was always here. Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner. p. 248”

 This is probably the biggest theme to be gathered from this novel. All other components of this book play into the overall theme of war. The killing, the money, the risk, it is all made to combine and show to the readers, a true description of mankind. the overall comment here is that man and war go hand in hand. McCarthy even goes so far to say that war was waiting for man before he entered upon the Earth. he provides a couple reasons for this assertion. The first is that our society is based on of war. he justifies this argument by saying that war is the basis of all trades and that, “All trades are contained in that of war. p. 249” What he means in this line is that all other jobs or occupations stem from war. When you think about that, it actually does makes sense. Whether the trade( trade meaning skill or occupation) is sewing clothes or selling scalps, it all goes back to war. Now the scalp selling is obviously like to war(in the sense of violence and battle), but the sewing? Well look at it this way. Let’s say there is a war between two villages in the middle ages. They fight, but how do they distinguish who is on each side. A person could be commissioned in each village to sew the uniforms so the soldiers can distinguish who is who. The war goes on and the person who made the uniforms now has a job of sewing clothes for the village. This process can be used for every job, skill or trade. No matter how indirectly the relate, all trades stem from war.

The other justification that McCarthy makes is that war is the ultimate game. He starts by saying there are two types of games. Those based on skill and those based on chance. The games based on chance must have something to wager on, or they will lose all meaning. The games based on skill have the pride of victory to wager, which is enough of a bet to qualify the game. Well war incorporates both of these things. There is the wager of your life, while there is a reward of pride and bounty and glory. This makes war the perfect game so to speak. It has the highest stakes and the biggest gain. It is the proving ground for a man to test his strength of body and will, to wager all and receive glory. It is human nature to strive for this goal. We can not help but want to partake in this perfect game. With no regard for anything, men will rush into war for whatever reason they have. It could be anything from glory to money, but the simple fact that it is war makes it perfect. This does not have to be army against army either. Our familiar scalp hunters practice war for a living. It is their trade. They hunt and kill and scalp to make money. More important than the money though, is that war endures. It is the immortality of war that makes it so powerfully connected to man. War will never end, in any of its forms. It will always provide a market for man to thrive in. It provides man with a reason to act and a reason to live. In the immortal words of the judge, “War is the ultimate game because war is at last a forcing of the unity of existence. War is god. p. 249”

Themes from American Literature: People Die

Posted in Uncategorized on December 9, 2009 by brianconnerton

I would like to begin the post by saying that there is no one quote or passage to support this theme. It is something that the reader must gather on their own by the language and attitude of the author. Now, that being said, it is not hard to figure out what McCarthy is saying. In fact, it is fairly obvious. Throughout this novel, the reader sees all kinds of atrocities committed by the scalp hunters. They kill innocent citizens without a second thought. They even kill their own over minor disputes. Now the interesting thing is, there is no emotion in the plot EVER. It does not matter who or what is killed, even if it is in the most brutal manner possible. Not once do we see a shred of guilt, regret, or remorse from any one of the scalp hunters. Even when Glanton, one of the main characters int he story, the leader of the scalp hunters, has his head split in two by an Indian, no one seems to care. They just acknowledge that he is dead and move on with their lives. Now granted when Glanton was killed it was during an Indian raid and mourning him then would be stupid, they dont even speak of it when they are safe. None of the scalp hunters seem to have any feelings about death at all.

This brings us to the point McCarthy is trying to make. He is saying that death is not the worst thing ever. It is a common occurrence and it will eventually happen to everyone. This becomes evident early on in the novel when we see McCarthy’s attitude toward a character dying. Whenever it does happen, McCarthy uses no emotional adjective whatsoever. He is completely matter of fact with his descriptions and his characters reactions. one of many examples would be, “McGill turned to look at Glanton and as he did so Glanton leveled his pistol and shot him through the head. p. 157″ That is all that McCarthy says on the subject. Afterwards he continues on with his description of the scene. Now McGill was one of them, a scalp hunter, and Glanton shot him through the head without a second thought. Now what does this all mean? Well I believe that McCarthy is trying to say that we make too big os a deal out of death. He purposely fills the novel with death, and then plays it off as if it is nothing. People die. That is a fact of life and there is nothing we can do to change that. By under playing death in his novel so much, he is speaking volumes about it.

Character Study

Posted in Uncategorized on December 9, 2009 by brianconnerton

The Kid

The kid is the first character introduced in the novel and it is arguably his story. When we meet the kid, he is a fourteen year old runaway from Tennessee who has traveled out west. He is described as “pale and thin…and he can neither read nor write. p. 3” He manages to get himself into all sorts of issues that would typify early western life. He gets into a knife fight on the street, helps burn down an inn, and even joins with a group of men whose goal is to liberate Texas from the Mexicans. These men are no the scalp hunters though. They come later, after the kid has been arrested and thrown in jail. When we follow the kid, he is not the average fourteen year old. He has the personality of a hardened killer who has been on the frontier for years. It is, in a way, a bit disturbing to see such a young person thrust into this life of brutality and killing, and not react. He deals with all of the problems that the world throws at him with such ease and coolness, that it makes you wonder if he has anything on the inside. It also makes you wonder if he is that way because he has to be. It is no secret that McCarthy was trying to show the awful way of life in the early western frontier with all of his vivid descriptions of violence and killing. Maybe the kid is another medium for him to demonstrate the harshness of this land. It had the power to transform a normal kid into the killer that the kid becomes because that is what was necessary to survive. If the kid didn’t have a willingness to kill, then he would not have made it past the first ten pages. Strangely though, as the story progresses and the kid has become integrated into the band of scalp hunters, the focus shifts off of him and onto two very interesting people, Glanton and the judge.

Glanton

Glanton is introduced to us as the leader of the scalp hunters. He is a horrible and brutal man who has no problems killing the innocent. In one instance Glanton shoots an old lady in the head simply for being near him. He does not even have a problem killing his own men. After a battle, one of the men is injured and, “McGill turned to look at Glanton and as he did so Glanton leveled his pistol and shot him through the head. p. 157” Glanton is not only characterized as a killer though. He is also determined and strong. He will fearlessly lead his troops into battle with the Indians time and time again. He also will not give up on his original goal to find the Indian leader terrorizing the towns. Glanton seems to epitomize the typical frontiersman, in the real sense, not the wild west sense. Once again it comes back to McCarthy’s goal of depicting the real nature of that land in that time. There is no honor, no fame, no glory, only killing and money. That is all those men knew and that is all that Glanton knows. Glanton is not once shown in any other light than that of a killer. This is because to Glanton, there is no other way of life. His only purpose in the novel, and his life, is to profit from the scalping of Indians.

The Judge

The judge is undoubtedly the most interesting character in this novel. It can be very difficult to tell what is truly going on in the judges mind. The judge is introduced at the same time that Glanton is, when the kid joins the scalp hunters. Now, most of the men in the group are cold-hearted killers who can even enjoy killing. The judge is different. He is more of a two-sided coin. Looking at his scalp hunter side, the judge is probably the most brutal and crazy of them all. There is one time in the novel, where the judge is in a town and he is listening to a reverend give a sermon. He then interrupts the reverend and says that he recognizes him as the man who committed some truly heinous crimes such as the rape of an eleven year old and having sex with a goat. This causes the other people to go crazy and attack the reverend. Later, when the judge is approached about this, he tells them that he has never laid eyes on the man before in his life. On the other hand, the judge tells the scalp hunters the story of the Anaszi, a powerful desert tribe that were gone before the white men came. When examining the judge, the biggest question is what is he the judge of? As of yet that information has not yet been made known. It is also important to note that the judge holds as much power in the band of scalp hunters and Glanton does. The other men fear and respect the judge. He is a powerful, enigmatic force that give them all something to think about. He often behaves in curious ways that the other men can not understand, and thereby fear him. The judge is a fascinating character instrumental to the plot and themes of the novel.

Image Study

Posted in Uncategorized on December 8, 2009 by brianconnerton

 The first picture that I have here is a picture of money. This is the driving force behind all of the terrible things done in this book. When the kid first unites with the scalp hunters, they are charged with the task of finding, and killing an Indian leader who is terrorizing the town. With this they are told that for every Indian scalp they bring back, they will get one hundred dollars. This causes them to kill everyone they encounter along the way when they are in search of the Indian leader. Whether they are innocent or not, man or woman, adult or child, they kill indiscriminately, and some of them with joy. They scalp anyone who could pass for an Indian warrior, and at one point in the story they bring 128 scalps into town. Only a fraction of these are from Indian fighters. The rest came from innocent people who were unfortunate to get into the path of these horrible, greedy men. I think in the end, that is what McCarthy is commenting on. The greed exhibited by these men is a horrible thing and led to the deaths of many, many people. That lust for money was one of the biggest, and most dangerous problems on the early western frontier.

This picture of a gun represents the violence of the novel. The entire premise of the novel is a group of men hunting and scalping Indians, yes, but McCarthy brings the violence in this book to very brutal and almost unnecessary levels. At one point in the novel, one of the men in the group, the judge, is asked by a local town boy to buy two dogs. The judge does so and even pays the boy more than the asking price, and after purchasing these dogs, he, “crossed upon the stone bridge and he looked down into the swollen waters and raised the dogs and pitched them in.” After seeing this, another man in the group shoots both of the dogs and kills them before they drown. This mindless brutality is prevalent all throughout the band of scalp hunters. We see time and time again how they will kill and old lady for no reason, or even kill one of their own over a squabble around the fire. McCarthy often goes into a very detailed description of gore when some unfortunate soul become one of the novels many casualties. McCarthy makes sure to jam into the readers throat that these men were far from the romanticized version of cowboys we think of today. They were cold, hard killers because that’s what it took to survive in the lawless land of the old west.

  

This is a picture of an Apache Indian. The Apaches are the real fight for the scalp hunters. They are the tribe that the scalp hunters contend with and actually fight against. They are powerful warriors and can be just as brutal as the scalp hunters. That being said, the Apache, and all other Indians in the book, are somewhat of an enigma. They only show up at inopportune times and wreak havoc upon the scalp hunters. Once they are done killing, they disappear off into the desert, victorious. Now the Apache are important because they show the true weakness of the scalp hunters. These are men who can kill defenseless people without a problem, but when they face a real enemy, a warrior, they are virtually helpless. So far, the scalp hunters have not won a single fight against the Apache. A fight against the Apache always results in their defeat, and the death of more than a few of the hunters. McCarthy is trying to make a point with this by saying that even though these men are hardened killers and tough guys against the weak, they are no match for a real enemy. McCarthy is saying that being a tough guy doesnt make you strong.

This is a picture of the setting of the novel, the mid-western desert. This is the heart of all of the problems. It is common knowledge that this place has a brutal history and that whites and Indians fought bitterly over these lands. Going back into the story, you can see that this is the heart of the problem. The only reason the scalp hunters started was to stop Indians from raiding the towns of the area. They are raiding the towns because they want their land back. Unfortunately the whites want the land too, and both sides are more than willing to fight for it. McCarthy uses this place as the perfect stage for his novel about violence and greed and killing. The best part is, it’s only partly fiction.

Personal Response

Posted in Uncategorized on November 24, 2009 by brianconnerton

So far this book has not been what I expected. First off, I would like to note the surprising infrequency that the main character, the kid, appears in the story anymore. What once started out as his story has become the intricate tale of the men in the band of Indian hunters. The story no longer focuses on the kid, and instead addresses issues concerning all of the men in the band. I found this to be very interesting. It almost made the kid and the first part of the novel feel like a simple introduction to the rest of the story. The kid was just an interesting and convenient way to end up on the Indian hunters.

The Indian hunters are a strange group, and an interesting comment on the men in that time period. These men are essentially thug for hire who go out and kill Indians, scalp the bodies, and return those scalps for money. It is perhaps one of the most brutal industries of the time period, and perhaps American history. It’s not often that a similar business comes up in our history. The interesting thing about these men though, is that they don’t just symbolize greed. Each of them who have so far been introduced brings a new quality to the table. Th judge is a stoic and spiritual man, while Glanton is a cold, hard fighter, and in it more for the killing and less for the money.

This book also surprised me by how slow it moves. I expected some slower parts when I chose it, but most of the book is description and unimportant dialogue. This gives me time to think about what happened and it also gives me very little to deal with at a time. Surprisingly enough, this makes the book a little more difficult to read. I can’t help but keep thinking that a very important or gripping part is just around the corner the entire time. The funny thing is though, that part rarely comes. McCarthy spends a lot of time developing the scenery and the characters, and I think this links back to what I said in a previous post-it’s not what happens, it’s how it happens. McCarthy goes into great detail, just to describe the desert around the characters. This style makes the story a very different one than what I am used to reading, and it’s also what makes this book a great one.

Themes from American Literature: Nothing is Forever

Posted in Uncategorized on November 24, 2009 by brianconnerton

A very important theme in this book comes to light about halfway through. A man by the name of “the judge” is telling a story to the band of Indian hunters. In the end of the story, he makes a comment about humans of the current era. The judge says, “The way of the world is to bloom and to flower and die but in the affairs of men there is no waning and the non of his expression signals the onset of night. His spirit is exhausted to the peak of its achievement. His meridian is at once his darkening and the evening of his day… This you see here, these ruins wondered at by tribes of savages, do you not think that this will be again? Aye. And again. With other people, with other sons.(p.147)”

McCarthy is, first off, commenting on the idea that our society will last forever. The judge prefaces his nugget of wisdom with a speech about the Anasazi, a great and ancient tribe that used to live in that region. He says that they are gone now, but someday, the will return. The implication here is that our society will collapse and the new one will take over eventually. The judge uses the example of the Anaszi because they were not only a great societ, but a good one, respectful to the land and its inhabitants. McCarthy wants to make clear that our society can not last forever.

McCarthy emphasizes that the way of the world is for things to be born, grow, and die, but man goes against that law. Man does not end, and refuses to. He will make the time his own and change the natural way of things. Now this is said in a broad spectrum, but its implication is a more narrow target. He goes on to accuse the people of believing that they will last forever, and that they are special. He then goes on to refute that by saying that there have already been great civilizations that have risen and collapsed, and eventually it will happen to us, and then happen again.

Now although this is being said to a group of Indian hunters, the real audience is the people of America today. It is very common to find someone today, in America, who assumes that we are the best in the world and we will rule supreme forever. McCarthy is blatantly accusing these people of being stupid and wrong. It is ignorant to assume that. History repeats itself and in the past, all of the great civilizations have fallen. McCarthy is telling these people that nothing is forever.