Critical Essay Blood Meridian
[s]ince the epic has often been tied to the affirmation of social norms.” (405) The extreme violence of the book, many have argued, is meant to be read as an allegory or metaphor for every Occidental form of violent dominance and subjugation (often with racist undertones or outright xenophobic justifications), from imperialism to Manifest Destiny, to, as previously mentioned by scholar Dana Phillips, American intervention in Vietnam.
The violence of the book is one of my central objections to Blood Meridian, though not because the gore serves as an allegory, criticizing the bloodshed inherent in the maintenance of Western hegemonic supremacy in global affairs.
Its opening pages offer a summary of the kid’s early life in the Tennessee hills, his flight to Texas in 1848, and his recruitment by a troop of filibusters, most of whom are slaughtered by a force of Comanche as their expedition makes its way into Mexico.
The kid then joins up with Captain John Joel Glanton’s band of scalp hunters, who have a contract to provide the Mexicans with the hair of Apache raiders preying on isolated borderland villages and towns.
For readers not familiar with the work, scholar Dana Phillips offers a more than adequate summary in the opening passages of his study, History and the Ugly Facts of Cormac Mc Carthy’s Blood Meridian: “[Blood Meridian] is only very loosely centered around the character identified to the reader simply as ‘the kid’.Phillips hints at the unwieldy, impossible-to-categorize nature of the book in the aforementioned essay: “Blood Meridian is a very complicated book-although complication is not a quality often associated with the label Western…[R]eviewers attempting to map this novel’s outlandish aesthetic and moral territories resorted to striking but desperate oppositions. I concede this statement is harsh, and would thus like to qualify it by adding two caveats, the first being that I consider Cormac Mc Carthy to be far superior to me as a writer, and that, secondly, while I find Blood Meridian to be a grim, impenetrable slog, I have enjoyed some of Mr.To them, the novel seemed a blend of Hieronymus Bosch and Sam Peckinpah; of Salvador Dali, Shakespeare, and the Bible; of Faulkner and Fellini; of Gustave Dore, Louis L ‘Amour, Dante, and Goya; of cowboys and nothingness; of Texas and Vietnam.” (434) My own personal feelings about Blood Meridian are a bit more prosaic: I find the novel to be a pretentious, nearly-unreadable pastiche hybrid of every writer from Ernest Hemingway, to H. Mc Carthy’s other books (including No Country for Old Men and All the Pretty Horses) immensely.In point of fact, I love epics, and, though the genre is most often associated with works of antiquity, I count at least two modern novels as epics, and number them among my ten all-time favorite reads, the first being Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, and the latter of the two being Mitchell Smith’s Stone City.In To Disenchant and Disintoxicate (sic): Blood Meridian as critical Epic, author Justin Evans categorizes Blood Meridian as an epic, but qualifies this statement by adding that Mc Carthy subjects (and perhaps subverts) the genre, by giving it the postmodern treatment: “By analogy with critical theory, we can read Cormac Mc Carthy’s Blood Meridian (1985) as a ‘critical epic.’ It tries to make this most traditional literary form into a self-reflexive and self-critical but idealistic agent, one that respects the ideals of traditional literary forms but radicalizes them in order to criticize modern societies…Being as this was my first time reading one of my books in public, before a crowd, I was quite anxious.I felt that I did reasonably well in my performance (selecting a chapter from one of my earlier, hardboiled crime novels, Rolling Country).The book is just a narratively slack catalogue of abuses.According to James Dorson, in his article Demystifying the Judge: Law and Mythical Violence in Cormac Mc Carthy’s Blood Meridian: “Since its publication in 1985, the extreme scenes of violence in Cormac Mc Carthy’s Blood Meridian have posed a central problem for critics.” (105).Dorson argues (or rationalizes) the violence not by “…either historicizing it in the context of American imperialism, or by naturalizing it as part and parcel of the human condition…” (IBID), but rather “[t]hrough a reading of Judge Holden’s character as a figure of the law…propos[ing] instead to read its violence as the result of a metaphysical yearning for meaning to brace us against the fear of the unknown.” (IBID) The problem with the character of the Judge, though (the main antagonist in this fatalist epic) is that while he may be, for Dorson, a symbol for “a metaphysical yearning for meaning to brace us against the fear of the unknown,” he is not believable as a character; he is merely a cipher for the philosophical pontification that Dorson mistakes for profound meaning.