Black and White Jacksons

This topic contains 20 replies, has 6 voices, and was last updated by  Richard L. 2 years, 4 months ago.

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  • 03 Oct 2014 at 12:52 pm #5977

    efscerbo
    Member

    Thanks for looking up the reference, Peter. I’ll take a look.

    Ed


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    15 Apr 2015 at 12:04 pm #6915

    efscerbo
    Member

    Just reread the first section of Chapter 7 and a few things jumped out at me regarding the judge’s introduction of black Jackson to Sergeant Aguilar:

    1) The judge “sketched for the sergeant a [emphasis mine] problematic career of the man before them”. “A” career. The judge is just making stuff up, isn’t he?

    2) The passage involving “the children of Ham” et al. never really made any sense to me. Something just clicked, though: Except for the references to “certain passages from the Greek poets”, all of the items on that list involve the history of black people. From the children of Ham to the lost tribes of the Israelites, the “anthropological speculations as to the propagation of the races”, and “an assessment of racial traits”. So it seems the judge truly is describing “the shapes of what varied paths conspired here in the ultimate authority of the extant”. That is, he’s talking about a whole bunch of historical things, from Ham to the Israelites to “geological cataclysms” to genetics, and how they have played a role in putting black Jackson in that very spot at that very time.

    So presumably the “passages from the Greek poets” must also bear on the history/culture/dispersion/etc. of Africans. Anyone have any ideas what passages and what poets?

    3) The mention of “geological cataclysm” may well be a Brothers Karamazov reference. We all know that’s supposed to be one of McCarthy’s “big four”. And everyone knows about Ivan’s Grand Inquisitor “poem” (as he calls it). Well, he also wrote an earlier “poem” titled “Geological Cataclysm”, which the devil talks to him about in the “The Devil” chapter. Interesting link between the judge and the devil (and Ivan).

    4) The whole first section of Chapter 7 is weird, structurally: It opens with the description of the animosity between black and white Jackson. The second paragraph begins “Earlier that morning…”, meaning that what follows is a flashback. This flashback contains the shooting of the Colt’s revolver and goes up to the interaction between the judge, Sergeant Aguilar, and black Jackson. The section ends with the gang “[taking] the road upcountry as told”, pointing out again that that scene was a flashback (of only a few hours, sure, but a flashback still).

    Why begin the chapter with the conflict between black and white Jackson, then? The organization of this scene makes it feel like somehow the section on the two Jacksons has bearing on the section with Sergeant Aguilar. Like, the narrator talks about the two Jacksons and immediately begins a flashback which culminates in that meeting. Almost like the former passage is important/foundational for the latter. But I don’t see any connections there other than the fact that black Jackson is in both. Anyone have any idea why the scene may be structured this way?


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    15 Apr 2015 at 6:52 pm #6921

    Toejac
    Member

    Sorry if this has been mentioned before, I haven’t read the whole thread through, but when white Jackson takes black Jackson’s shade doesn’t the enshadowed white become somewhat blackish there so that it could be read that the blacker Jackson is hearing his inner voice and his slaying of his counterpart is also the slaying of that voice.


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    15 Apr 2015 at 8:50 pm #6922

    efscerbo
    Member

    Hi Toejac,

    In my first post on this thread, that’s largely what I wonder: Is the killing of white Jackson an attempt to “slay” some inner voice? However, b/c I have tended to view both shadows and whiteness as having evil associations in McCarthy (cf. again my first post), I’ve been confused: If white Jackson represents some “evil” inner voice of black Jackson, why does killing him not make him less evil? In fact, he kind of winds up being the judge’s right-hand man later in the novel.

    Lately I’ve been considering a potential resolution to this that I quite like: One of the things I feel like McCarthy is getting at in some of his books is that any attempt to fight too forcefully against evil invariably turns one evil.* If this is so, then perhaps black Jackson’s violent rejection of his white counterpart just gets him in deeper with the judge.
    _________________________________________

    *There are several things that point in this direction, to my mind: There’s the line from Suttree “Dear friend he is not to be dwelt upon for it is by just suchwise that he’s invited in.” There’s the scene in the desert, where Tobin, instead of continuing to tell the kid to shoot the judge, tells him “Stop your ears”. In response, the narrator refers to Tobin as “priest” instead of “expriest” for only the second (and final) time in the novel. The other is when Tobin refuses to engage the judge after the war speech. I certainly interpret this refusal to engage as what makes him a “priest” in these situations. There’s the “no such thing as life without bloodshed” line, which I think makes a fair bit of sense interpreted along these lines.

    These ideas come up in Melville as well: Ahab does himself no favors in hunting the “evil” Moby-Dick (obviously there are other ways to read that novel, but I suspect this or something like it is McCarthy’s, especially because of Gardener’s Son, as I talked about at http://www.cormacmccarthy.com/topic/the-gardeners-son-2/). Ahab only loses his sanity and his humanity, and finally his life. And then there’s Melville’s “Fragments of a Lost Gnostic Poem”, where he writes

    “Indolence is heaven’s ally here,
    And energy the child of hell”.


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    15 Apr 2015 at 10:35 pm #6923

    Glass
    Member

    The judge’s lost tribes/Greek poets talk recalls the kid’s father on the first page of the book quoting “from poets whose names are now lost.”

    The “Geological Cataclysm” connection is quite neat. Never heard that before.


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    15 Apr 2015 at 11:29 pm #6925

    efscerbo
    Member

    Hmm, I like that, Peter. I can’t shake the feeling he’s getting at something specific, but that’s a nice resonance. Thanks.


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    16 Apr 2015 at 12:26 am #6926

    Glass
    Member

    Ed, yes, I am sure he is getting at something specific, probably closely along the lines of your interpretation.

    It just occurred to me thinking about the conjuring words “lost” and “poets” that while reading McCarthy I often get that feeling the kid had when he saw that four of cups card during the Tarot scene and the narrator says that he “hadn’t seen such cards before, yet the one he held seemed familiar to him.” But the kid of course had seen a card like that before on p. 59 — “a gypsy card that was the four of cups.” I’m frequently wondering where I had seen something in McCarthy, a sentence or passage that seems strangely familiar. It’s interesting and strange, maybe something like Nietzsche’s conception of ressentiment. And now I’m wondering if the judge cut out that illustration of the card from the “old journal” and pasted it to that wall so he, the judge, could make a better sketch of it and, more importantly, to make sure the kid saw it. Planting it in effect. Sorry for the OT ramble.


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    16 Apr 2015 at 4:33 am #6928

    Toni
    Member

    Hi,

    “any attempt to fight too forcefully against evil invariably turns one evil.*
    If this is so, then perhaps black Jackson’s violent rejection of his white
    counterpart just gets him in deeper with the judge.”

    I read the scene along those lines. Although I haven’t got a carved in stone
    opinion about it.

    Check this out from the end of chapter 73 in MOBY-DICK:

    “And Ahab chanced so to stand, that the Parsee occupied his shadow; while,
    if the Parsee’s shadow was there at all it seemed only to blend with, and
    lengthen Ahab’s.”

    – Toni


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    16 Apr 2015 at 9:14 am #6935

    Rick Wallach
    Keymaster

    EF: Harold Bloom has compared the judge’s apparently autochthonous evil to Iago’s on several occasions. “What you know, you know….”


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    16 Apr 2015 at 8:18 pm #6937

    efscerbo
    Member

    Hiya Rick,

    Yup, I first heard of the Iago/the judge connection from Bloom. But nothing I’ve read by him is terribly detailed on the point, which is why I started digging myself. I dunno if you saw this when I put it up last year, but if not, check out the fourth post on http://www.cormacmccarthy.com/topic/iago-and-the-coldforger/. It’s a nice passage from Goddard’s “The Meaning of Shakespeare” discussing Iago in terms that sound extremely judgelike. There’s also a great quote from W.H. Auden on Iago that makes him sound much like the judge. I’ll post it over on the thread I just linked you to.

    ______________________________________

    Toni,

    Great MD passage, thanks. That definitely seems to resonate nicely here.

    ______________________________________

    Peter,

    I don’t even need to say it, cuz you and I have talked about this enough so you know where I stand, but I’m *sure* the judge planted the gypsy card there. Otherwise, why should he laugh during the kid’s Tarot reading? At the very least he knows the kid saw the four of cups earlier, and if he knows that, he probably planted it.


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