Depravity and Destruction in Blood Meridian
Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian is a passionate, lyrical, and ugly novel of depravity and destruction of life in the Old West. It is a story of a hellish journey where violence and corruption are currency in a life of murder and treachery. Contrasting scenes of scenic beauty, poetically described by McCarthy, are negated by his gruesome accounts of despicable scenes of human cruelty in the examination of evil.
Like all of McCarthy's earlier novels, Blood Meridian (1985) had a lukewarm arrival to the literary world in the sense of sales and publicity, in part due to McCarthy's own aversion to self-promotion (Woodward 28). Yet critics and scholars were captivated by the mindless violence of the story and its tale of deceit, genocide, and gruesome realities set around the US-Mexico border in the 1840's (James 31). Blood Meridian, McCarthy's fifth book, was received with a variety of reactions from critics. Terence Moran, though finding McCarthy's writing to be "evocative," believed the author "failed in Blood Meridian to retell a simple Western in his haunting, original voice" (37). Conversely, Steven Shaviro wrote, "Cormac McCarthy, the solitary poet of his exultation, is our greatest living author...[this novel] manifests a sublime visionary power that is matched only by a still more ferocious irony" (144).
This novel, due to its candid narration of barbarous events, prevails as one of a few books which challenge traditional molds of literature. Not a story of the redeemable antagonist or the helpless victim, Blood Meridian blurs the lines of sanctity and depravity in this lawless and demoralized land. This examination of the most unimaginable evils ever witnessed creates and interesting ground on which to base themes and interpretation. One critic says that in Blood Meridian, "the myth of paradise lost and regained...has been abolished once and for all" (Shaviro, 144).
This gruesome story follows the journey of the disturbed son of a Tennessee schoolmaster, known only as "the kid." The kid stumbles through the southwest and the Mexican desert, surviving gun shots, bar fights, and fires, fleeing each town only to find lawlessness and savagery in another. After witnessing several scenes of slaughter and human depravity which include mindless slayings of peaceful soldiers, innocent villagers, and helpless infants, the kid is thrown in a Mexican jail. His freedom is soon...