Blood Meridian Tidbits

This topic contains 65 replies, has 11 voices, and was last updated by  Rick Wallach 6 months, 2 weeks ago.

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  • 14 Aug 2015 at 12:41 pm #7468

    Richard L.

    Re: “I think that the meticulousness that went into making of Blood Meridian can hardly leave a doubt that McCarthy would avoid anachronisms. The “might is right” claim that the judge seems to be making is already present in Stirner and it is his central point (not that he is the first to make it, but it is central to him). Stirner also demeans morality like Nietzsche. In any case, any Nietzschean influence could be interpreted in some other way. The specific Nietzscean points concerning pessimism, nihilism, tragedy etc. seem to be missing in the judge.”

    “Might makes right” goes back to the Greeks. There are probably a few anachronisms in BLOOD MERIDIAN, but if so, they do not diminish the work. The Tarot cards are thought to be such an anachronism, although they were used in Europe at the time, at least as a game. The Dali picture on the first edition dustjacket goes with the supernatural nature of the Judge. You ain’t nothing, the kid says, speaking truer than he knows.

    I’m glad that Stirner was brought up here, and indeed, at times his prose is seems more Judge-like than Nietzsche’s own, unless translated by Mencken. Nietzsche read Stirner and was greatly influenced by him. Toward the end of Stirner’s THE EGO AND ITS OWN, Stirner starts to sound like Paul Valery’s eastern informant, decrying the worship of knowledge and the fear of blood.

    Education in society, Stirner says, imposes moral education which bogs down the free personality and thus enslaves it. It is remarkable that Stirner and some others held these views long before Darwin came along and provided a scientific rationalization for them.

    The Judge is of course quite correct in saying that morality and ethics are human constructions. See the child. Nietzsche’s superman is free of the conventional morality and looks on everything as a child. This is in keeping with the giant infant, the Judge, in BLOOD MERIDIAN. All ego all the time.

    Jack London’s Wolf Larson in THE SEA WOLF espoused this philosophy via Nietzsche and the others (who are mentioned in the text). The narrator says of him, that he was not immoral but rather unmoral. There was an innocent and childish aspect to his unmoral personality. Wolf Larson chides the idealist narrator for being afraid of blood.

    Modern scientists tell us that most people develop empathy in their prefrontal cortex by the time they are twenty-three, but in some people the development is retarded or void. Of course, there are sociopaths and psychopaths all around us. They might learn to mimic empathy in time, but they never feel true empathy.

    15 Aug 2015 at 6:34 pm #7471


    You’re right that “might makes right” goes back to the Greeks. I would also like to mention that Schelling’s paper (or Franz Xaver von Baader’s which partly inspired Schelling) could have inspired McCarthy because I’ve read the Erskine-McCarthy dissertation where it mentions that McCarthy wrote to Erskine that he wanted to explore uses of knowledge.
    The point of Schelling’s investigation into the essence of human freedom is somewhat antiplatonic (in a broader sense of platonism) in that it allows for evil uses of knowledge and reason and McCarthy’s possible assumption that there are evil uses of knowledge undermines the equation of virtue and knowledge. Of course, Socrates was not naively equating virtue and knowledge and was quite reticent about the question whether virtue can be learned but it seems that McCarthy wants to prove that there are evil uses of knowledge or put intellectual addicts like myself (or ourselves) in limbo with the judge.

    30 Mar 2017 at 5:11 pm #8958


    I’ve seen references to the ubi sunt motif in connection with McCarthy’s works, but I’ve never seen this before: One prominent ubi sunt poem is The Wanderer (, which contains the lines

    “Where is the horse gone? Where the rider? Where the giver of treasure?
    Where are the seats at the feast? Where are the revels in the hall?”

    That’s an awful lot like

    “Where is yesterday? Where is Glanton and Brown and where is the priest? […] Where is Shelby, whom you left to the mercies of Elias in the desert, and where is Tate whom you abandoned in the mountains? Where are the ladies, ah the fair and tender ladies with whom you danced at the governor’s ball when you were a hero anointed with the blood of the enemies of the republic you’d elected to defend? And where is the fiddler and where the dance?”

    10 May 2017 at 8:58 am #9367


    Small note that just occurred to me is that the epilogue is the only part of the novel not given a subchapter. If were understanding the subchapters to reinforce the sense of foreordainment then perhaps this break is to weight even more the idea that the hole digger is a redeeming figure working towards the liberation of the spirit from the archonic heimarmene which the judge seems to embody.

    Also along those lines it seems that since the final subchapter heading Sie miissen schlafen aberlch muss tanzen is in first person it implies that the headings originate from the judge distinct from the narrator and that in fact when the judge asks the ostensibly rhetorical question about death whom does he intend towards he is actually speaking of the narrator.

    05 Jul 2017 at 7:49 am #9670

    Richard L.

    Back when I was examining bits of BLOOD MERIDAN and touting the book to innocents over at the Readerville site, the reason that most gave for not enjoying the novel was its extreme violence, and the tipping point for some–that point at which they threw the book across the room–was “the tree of dead babies.”

    At the time, I took this to be non-historical, just a McCarthyism, a figure of horror. I was surprised recently, when I read of it as a fear-mongering report of the Dakota uprising in 1862. It is documented there in Scott W. Berg’s 32 NOOSES: LINCOLN, LITTLE CROW, AND THE BEGINNING OF THE END OF THE FRONTIER (2012).

    Scott also says that Little Crow donned a white wedding dress for a photographer, something McCarthy might have read about.

    Scott knows his stuff, and it was an excellent and reliable history. Lincoln soars in my estimation yet again, even though all of the executions should have been stopped.

    05 Jul 2017 at 1:10 pm #9671

    Rick Wallach

    Poisonally, I believe we lost our hair to save money on expensive pomades. That’s how we became bona fide.

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