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 e...
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...stence in a world of depravity that seems foreign to the reader, but is all too normal in the world created in the book (147).
As the novel tells of the kid's appalling journey, much of the action seen is centered around Judge Holden. The mysterious, malignant man varies in interpretation from godlike to child-like. Many critics have commented on Holden's manipulative power, ability to remain unchanged by years, and his appearance in several places at what seems the same time. Many lines are drawn between Judge Holden and the devil (Wallach 125).
Though not a literary success in terms of book sales and overall recognition, Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian tells and intriguing story in a light in which the Old West is rarely seen. Conscienceless violence, devil-like characters, and breathtaking scenery fill this novel uninhibited by morality or rectitude.
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