Gosh I need to read A CIRCLE IN THE FIRE, and I will anon then come back here and comment again.
The dark triune or tribune in OUTER DARK is indeed partly from Flannery O’Connor but I’d always seen it in “A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND” along with the cat which represents the animal side of man. O’Connor and McCarthy thus both allude to Joseph Conrad’s novel, VICTORY, in which the dark triune–dark spiritual father, son, and holy ghost, or dark id, ego, and superego–have their feline component just as in the cat’s smile of the knife blade cutting the infant’s throat in OUTER DARK and the cat rubbing up against the killer’s leg in A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND.
The dark triune or tribune has its origins in the mythic FATES, of course, just as in the three witches of MACBETH. The cat imagery with the dark trinity is something I’ve discussed in other threads. McCarthy uses Harmon where O’Connor used Hiram. Joseph Conrad and Ridley Scott both used Jones. All have the track of the cat.
This dark tribune is also used in the Austin Wright’s brilliant novel, TONY AND SUSAN, cat and all. Wright also wrote the brilliant novel of Faulkner interpretation in which he coined the term “recalcitrance” to explain the use of universals in such authors as Conrad, Faulkner, O’Connor, and McCarthy.