Rhetoric Study

“They camped that night on the foreplain at the foot of a talus slope and the murder that had been reckoned upon took place… The black looked once more across the flames at Glanton and then he moved away in the dark. The white man uncocked the revolver and placed it in the ground before him. Two of the other came back to the fire and stood uneasily. Jackson sat with his legs crossed. One hand lay in his lap and the other was outstretched on his knee holding a slender black cigarillo. The nearest man to him was Tobin when the black stepped out of the darkness bearing a bowieknife in both hands like some instrument of ceremony Tobin started to rise. The white man looked up drunkenly and the black stepped forward and with a single stroke swapt off his head.

       Two thick ropes of dark blood and two slender rose like snakes from the stump of his neck and arched into the hissing fire. The head rolled to the left and came to rest at the expriest’s feet where it lay with eyes aghast. Tobin jerked his foot away and rose and stepped back. The fire steamed and blackened and a gray cloud of smoke rose and the columnar arches of blood slowly subsided until the neck bubbled gently like a stew and then that too was stilled. He was sat as before save headless, drenched in blood, the cigarillo still between his fingers, leaning toward the dark and smoking grotto in the flames where his life had gone.

Glanton rose. The men moved away. No one spoke. When they set out in the dawn the headless man was sitting like a murdered anchorite discaled in ashes and spark. Someone had taken his gun, but the boots were where he put them. The company rode on. (p.106-107)”

One of the biggest elements of this passage is imagery. McCarthy obviously goes into a lot of detail to make sure that the reader pictures what is going on. When reading this passage you can see the headless body sitting there with “two thick ropes of dark blood and two slender, ”  coming out of his neck. McCarthy wanted to make sure that the impact of that act stays with you. He described this scene so vividly because he is trying to make a point with it. These men were brutal and lawless and it was perfectly acceptable to lop another mans head off, even though it was a bit distasteful.

The next thing is tone. There is a very obvious, and almost disturbingly dry tone about this passage. When reading this passage, there is no emotion, just action. Now the nature of this passage seems to contradict that observation, and that is what makes it a little disturbing. Normally it would be a scene of horror to witness this. People would go crazy and have this man arrested for doing this, but not in the old wild west. The description of the beheading itself is written very plainly. “The white man looked up drunkenly and the black stepped forward and with a single stroke swapt off his head.” This matter of fact description gives the reader a sense of interest in the matter, not repulsion. This is a very clever technique employed by McCarthy. He is once again trying to give the reader the experience of the rugged frontiersman who is not bothered by some silly old quarrel that ends in a beheading.

 

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