Character Study

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 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.


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