Judge Holden as Prometheus

This topic contains 15 replies, has 6 voices, and was last updated by  Richard L. 2 days, 6 hours ago.

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  • 07 Feb 2018 at 12:42 am #10157


    I’m writing this on my Iphone in the Phils, so can only add this. I see the book as a critique of Enlightenment, not a renunciation. So, in this sense, it’s neither pro nor anti Enlightenment. I would go further and argue the point for the whole of McCarthy.

    07 Feb 2018 at 11:19 am #10158


    Interesting. I think “The Orchard Keeper”, “Suttree”, “Blood Meridian” and “The Road” are the only successful critiques. Whereas “Outer Dark” and “NCFOM” are outright renunciations of Enlightenment.

    09 Feb 2018 at 2:33 pm #10162


    Re “Holden=Prometheus=the Enlightenment” Thanks for introducing the Enlightenment, Richard L. It got me thinking in some new directions. The USA is probably the most significant expression of the Enlightenment. And the Glanton gang represents the USA. Doesn’t this offer an interpretation of that intriguing passage in the stable when what’s left of the gang becomes luminous or “enlightened”? I wasn’t going to mention this until I went to reread the passage and the narrator uses the unusual term “endarkened” to describe how the gang is seen by the horses with whom they share the stable. Even the horses think their enlightenment is ironic.

    • This reply was modified 1 week, 3 days ago by  RogerDuvall.
    09 Feb 2018 at 8:42 pm #10164

    Richard L.

    After the battle of Shiloh, the weather continued to be dreadful. There were over 1,700 dead Federals to bury, along with wagonloads of amputated arms and legs. It was a big job and one that was made harder because heavy rains kept washing the bodies out of their graves. Long trenches were dug to receive as many as two hundred bodies at once. Piles of dead horses, set afire but extinguished by the drizzle, smoldered here and there across the field like altars to some vengeful horse-hating god.

    That last sentence could have been written by Cormac McCarthy in BLOOD MERIDIAN, but it wasn’t. It appears in Dan Lee’s biography of little-known Kentucky lawyer, humanist, and Union Cavalry General Lovall H. Rousseau. Both Rousseau and Lee were men after my own heart, taking care of their horses and consistently trying to see their point of view. (Hey, if you’d like to read yet another true account of a Civil War battle with a McCarthyesque sense of humor, violence, and a certain respect for horseflesh, see Alden R. Carter’s BRIGHT STARRY BANNER, a novelistic blow-by-blow account of the Battle of Stones River, where Rousseau was a general but reading Victor Hugo’s LES MISERABLES in his spare time. True.).

    The McCarthy quote you mention is thus:

    “The mare snorted and shied at this luminosity in beings so endarkened and the little horse turned and hid his face in the web of his dam’s flank.”

    Breaking rules and crossing curtains, the biographers and historians may indeed be out of line, but Cormac McCarthy’s narrator certainly has his own license, his own agency, to make such comments with his own humorous irony.


    They rode past the bodies on the ground and stopped and got down and dropped the reins. The horses stepped nervously. Let’s take the horses out yonder a ways, Bell said. They don’t need to see this.

    10 Feb 2018 at 3:14 am #10165

    Richard L.

    Sorry for the post on horses, a bit off topic although McCarthy’s use of fire and sparks and light easily lend themselves to the Prometheus interpretation which is indeed a horse laugh.

    An H. L. Mencken laugh. Laughing with Zeus at Prometheus for thinking he was saving Man by giving him the fire that would be his undoing.

    Those of us who grew up American are programmed to think of the light as goodness, and the spark of the divine as holy goodness. There is a thread here devoted to McCarthy’s many beautiful quotes on this. Father and son in THE ROAD are the good guys because they carry the fire.

    The joke is, the Light is the Darkness.

    A Prometheus cycle interpretation of BLOOD MERIDIAN fits both titles and this quote:

    “The way of the world is to bloom and to flower and die but in the affairs of men there is no waning and the noon of his expression signals the onset of night. . .His spirit is exhausted at the peak of its achievement. His meridian is at once his darkening and the evening of his day.”

    BLOOD MERIDIAN, what a marvelous book.

    17 Feb 2018 at 11:22 am #10191

    Richard L.

    A Prometheus cycle interpretation works, both for the entire mosaic of Cormac McCarthy’s fiction and for the novels themselves. Wheels within wheels.

    And what about his not-yet-published novel?

    Well, we don’t know, but one among us, the Honorable Rick Wallach, who knew and worked with both the celebrated John Campbelland Mircea Eliade, has read at least an early version of the THE PASSENGER and before he was sworn to secrecy he gave us this hint: Thomas Mann’s THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN.

    Now if I knew, I would consider myself sworn to secrecy as well, but seeing as how I don’t know, let me speculate on what McCarthy’s novel will show us.

    Like THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN, McCarthy’s THE PASSENGER might show us a parable of the Prometheus cycle. That the more light we discover, the more knowledge we obtain, the unhappier we are. And eventually, if we become enlightened enough, it will lead to our destruction, to suicide or an unintentional suicide.

    And there are other references at work here. Universals. Many. But let me cite just one example.

    Over in the “reading” thread, I mentioned that I had read THE ETERNAL RETURN: OEDIPUS, THE TEMPEST, FORBIDDEN PLANET by David Sheppard. Now I saw that movie first run, back in the 1950s, and while the most impressive part for me then was the girl who swam without a bathing suit, over the years I have developed other appreciations for the film.

    I’ve long known, for instance, that it is a retelling of Shakespeare’s THE TEMPEST, and I’ve read about Shakespeare’s sources for the play. David Sheppard gives us a history of the film Forbidden Planet which came together like magic–by a synchronicity like, say, the movie Casablanca.

    The astronauts come upon the relics of a civilization which was advanced and very successful until they developed technology to take their enlightenment even higher. At which point their Ids developed into monsters and they destroyed themselves. At the peak of their civilization. Built a machine to last a thousand years, as McCarthy might say.

    I predict, mildly, tentatively, that this is what THE PASSENGER will be about, if on an individual scale. Like THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN.

    Is Las Vegas giving odds?

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