Cormac McCarthy's setting in Blood Meridian is a landscape of endless and diverse beauty. McCarthy highlights the surprising beauty of combinations of scrubby plants, jagged rock, and the fused auburn and crimson colors of the fiery wasteland that frame this nightmarish novel. Various descriptions, from the desolate to the scenic, feature McCarthy's highly wrought, lyrical prose. Such descriptions of the divine landscape seem to serve a dual function. While being an isolated highlight to this gruesome novel, McCarthy's beautiful setting also serves as an intricate device in defining the novel's themes and creating the reality in which it is set.
Apart from the novel's thematic development, McCarthy's setting and his detailed description of the ornate beauty of the desert southwest is deserving of praise. A lyrical quality and refined beauty are apparent in the novel's description. McCarthy's extended accounts of the pristine beauty of the desert can be seen as an artistic and visually appealing piece work apart from the plot of the novel. Such memorable accounts seem to be a lone highlight in a shockingly disturbing book (Moran 37).
By noon they had begun to climb toward the gap in the mountains. Riding up through the lavender or soapweed, under the Animas peaks. The shadow of an eagle that had set forth from the line of riders below and they looked up to mark it where it rode in that brittle blue and faultless void. In the evening they came out to upon a mesa that overlooked all the country to the north... The crumpled butcher paper mountains lay in sharp shadowfold under the long blue dusk and in the middle distance the glazed bed of a dry lake lay shimmering like the mare imbrium. (168)
Such highly-developed and picturesque scenes help elevate and restore the novel from the brutal and grisly realities which it portrays. McCarthy's striking views of the setting provide a background for a novel soaked throughout with blood, deception and mindless cruelty. According to one critic, this beauteous landscape is the lone virginal feature of the novel and seems to be detached from the murder and chaos of the plot (James 31).
The endless distances and unreachable horizons of the desert setting are functional in the thematic development of both the plot and characters. The environment of...