The True Wild West: A Violent, Godless Wasteland
As defined by Edgar Roberts setting is “the natural, manufactured, political, cultural, and temporal environment including everything that the characters own. Characters may be either helped or hurt by their surroundings and they nay fight about possessions or goals” (Roberts 109). In Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian or The Evening Redness in the West, this setting is the focal point. Every natural event or decision made by the characters is unique to the wild platform on which it takes place. The setting of the West, including the mindless violence within this setting and the merciless desert that it holds, shapes the story and characters therein on a magnitude so great that the characters have no control over it.
Though it is traditionally thought of as being the Wild West with gun-slinging cowboys and treacherous bandits, this is not an accurate picture of the West. In McCarthy’s West, the just cowboys do not save the day because they do not even exist. The West that seems too terrible to be real was real. McCarthy depicts, with minimal embellishment, the actual life lived out by real men along the Mexican-American border at that time. The violence was real (Sanderson 48). The blood-soaked Southwest of McCarthy was one of the first of its time, creating much controversy. He shows it to be as it truly was, not, as other writers had done before, to show it as the fun cowboy land that it simply was not (Handley 341). It is only treacherous bandits opposing other treacherous bandits, fighting for turf and spilling blood all the while.
Early on the American government dressed up the culture and opportunities that lay in the West to get more westward expansion. The truth of it was that there were many dangerous towns, very few were actually the luxurious and prosperous cities that were often times advertised (“The Frontier American Dream”). William R. Handley wrote, “national myth is personified in the gun-slinging cowboy, who took shape in the dime novels published by the House of Beadle and Adams in New York City ... [they bore] little resemblance to the cowboy and Indian Westerns [of the movies they helped formulate]” (337). By writing this novel, McCarthy redefines the picture of the West; no longer is it fairytale land that it was thought to be.
The Americans of Glanton’s gang seek to drive the Natives from their land, gaining more wealth and increasing the property of the United States in an example of manifest destiny taken too far. But, the tale depicts the true reality of manifest destiny. It was unorganized and uncivilized. On the bloody quest of manifest destiny the basic brutality of human nature is clearly displayed (Lewis 43). In an effort to increase the power of the United States, many groups of men such as Glanton’s gang abused the shield of manifest destiny in their violent conquests.
Another truth of the West revealed by McCarthy in this novel is the...