Themes from American Literature: War is God

“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”


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