McCarthy and Exemplary Communities

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  • 14 Feb 2013 at 2:25 pm #2972

    Greg S.
    Member

    I always come back to the passage starting on page 133 of The Crossing.   The old man tells Billy that he should not separate himself from the community of men, because “he would become estranged from men and so ultimately from himself.  He said that the world could only be known as it existed in men’s hearts.  For while it seemed a place which contained men it was in reality a place contained within them and therefore to know it one must look there and come to know those hearts and to do this one must live with men and not only pass among them.”

    For all of McCarthy’s emphasis of nature in his works, this passage subjugates nature (the world) to community — an interesting perspective.


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    14 Feb 2013 at 2:47 pm #2973

    robmcinroy
    Member

    Greg, that’s an excellent observation. And, emotionally, it must link in to the end of COTP, when the kindly woman says to the ageing Billy, “I know who you are.” Billy lives a full life. JGC, who cannot live among people because he is so solipsistically unable to compromise his adolescent beliefs, does not.


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    15 Feb 2013 at 8:19 am #2976

    Greg S.
    Member

    I think McCarthy would cringe at the term “exemplary” even if he acknowledges the existence and importance of communities in some of his works.  Utopian thought comes across as striving for transcendence, and that clashes with so much that McCarthy describes in his works.


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    17 Feb 2013 at 8:28 pm #2993

    Richard L.
    Member

    McCarthy plays the individual mindset against the more highly evolved community mindset.  Empathy and compassion develop on the pre-frontal cortex provided that there is interaction with other humans.  As David Eagleman and other neuroscientists have been arguing in their recent books, if a human were to grow up on a desert island on which there were no other humans, the pre-frontal cortex would not develop empathy or compassion.

    Story-telling and the concepts of narration and narrator are important in McCarthy’s novels.  The object of story-telling may at first be entertainment, but as Richard Russo and others have pointed out, the end of literature is compassion.  Stories give our minds the benefits of vicarious experience.  They give us alternate lives–borrowed eyes, as McCarthy says.  The child is every child, the kid is every kid, the man is every man.  When the Judge tells the story to the assembled company of scalp hunters, every man thinks it is his own story.

    A parable within a parable.  To tell any story, properly, is to tell every man’s story.


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    18 Feb 2013 at 2:45 pm #2997

    robmcinroy
    Member

    Utopian thought comes across as striving for transcendence, and that clashes with so much that McCarthy describes in his works.

    Well, I don’t know. There’s certainly precious little hope of transcendence in his works, but a number of the characters would have to be said to be striving for it. At the very least, they’re straining for some connection with the divine.

    When the Judge tells the story to the assembled company of scalp hunters, every man thinks it is his own story.A parable within a parable.  To tell any story, properly, is to tell every man’s story.

    That is an interesting passage, for sure. I’ve just been writing about it myself, as it happens. I think it’s a brilliant piece of writing. It says almost as much, in a few pages, as all the line-up of prophets in The Crossing manage to convey on the nature of storytelling. I agree it’s an important passage about the nature of storytelling, but I’m not sure, in the context of BM or the Trilogy, the array of storytelling that goes on speaks much of compassion.


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