Naming and Not Naming in Poe and McCarthy

This topic contains 6 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  Glass 1 year, 9 months ago.

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  • 18 May 2016 at 6:33 pm #8315


    Reading the Edgar Allen Poe short story Morella, I was struck by how strongly it resonated with the opening page of Blood Meridian. Some lovely echoes, I think.

    First, the strongest connection between the two works is that the story of the kid’s mother in BM dying during his birth is basically repeated in the Poe story, wherein the unnamed narrator’s wife, Morella, also dies during childbirth. I find it fascinating that the baby girl in Poe’s tale is not given a name at birth, much like the kid in BM. We also do not know the name of the kid’s older sister, nor are we told the name of the father.

    There are just so many intriguing bits here on names and naming or not naming in the opening pages of BM and throughout Morella that it’s hard not to notice.

    I doubt the similarities are strong enough to conclude McCarthy is alluding to Poe, but there are some neat echoes. I’d be thrilled if I could prove McCarthy got the idea from Poe to kill the kid’s mother in childbirth and all of the namelessness business in the opening to Blood Meridian, but that isn’t going to happen. I can, however, offer some tasty coincidences and see what readers here think.

    A few passages from each to help illustrate the resonances, starting with BM with a few sentences from Morella to follow.

    The mother dead these fourteen years did incubate in her own bosom the creature who would carry her off. The father never speaks her name, the child does not know it. He has a sister in the world that he will not see again.

    (Blood Meridian)


    Yet, as she foretold, her child — to which in dying she had given birth, which breathed not until the mother breathed no more — her child, a daughter, lived.

    Thus passed away two lustra of her life, and, as yet, my daughter remained nameless upon the earth. “My child,” and “my love,” were the designations usually prompted by a father’s affection, and the rigid seclusion of her days precluded all other intercourse. Morella’s name died with her at her death. Of the mother I had never spoken to the daughter…


    See the child.

    One more post to come with another interesting connection between Poe’s Morella and Blood Meridian.

    • This topic was modified 1 year, 9 months ago by  Glass.
    18 May 2016 at 7:25 pm #8316


    In Poe’s Morella, the unnamed narrator’s wife loves to quote philosophers (Fichte, Schelling and Locke are named), while in Blood Meridian, the kid’s unnamed father likes to quote dead, unnamed poets. Each has an audience of one and one only (please note the fire imagery in each passage).

    I abandoned myself implicitly to the guidance of my wife, and entered with an unflinching heart into the intricacies of her studies. And then — then, when, pouring over forbidden pages, I felt a forbidden spirit enkindling within me — would Morella place her cold hand upon my own, and rake up from the ashes of a dead philosophy some low, singular words, whose strange meaning burned themselves in upon my memory. And then, hour after hour, would I linger by her side, and dwell upon the music of her voice — until, at length, its melody was tainted with terror, — and there fell a shadow upon my soul — and I grew pale, and shuddered inwardly at those too unearthly tones.


    He lies in drink, he quotes from poets whose names are now lost. The boy crouches by the fire and watches him.

    Blood Meridian

    18 May 2016 at 7:32 pm #8317


    A handy link to Morella for anyone interested.

    19 May 2016 at 7:29 am #8318



    I can’t speak directly to your interesting post, but it got me thinking of McCarthy in terms of blood-lines gone awry. What should we call it: corrupted consanguinity? Maybe not. There are numerous examples of this: The Orchard Keeper, Child of God, Outer Dark, Suttree and, as you point out, Blood Meridian. Recently I was struck by the following passage in All the Pretty Horses: “Twelve years later when his wife was carried in the influenza epidemic they still had no children. A year later he married his dead wife’s older sister and a year after this the boy’s mother was born and that was all the borning there was.” The inference I suppose here, and perhaps in the other novels, is that some are cursed and misplaced by/at origin – i.e., having to start life in the wrong womb. That’ll make turning your back on home all the easier, I suppose.

    Personally speaking, I have little time for this mother-hating trope in McCarthy. However, it is arguable that such deployment in the text resonates always with intertextuality – as in your point about Poe

    19 May 2016 at 1:06 pm #8319



    I had a similar train of thought, ruminating on Rinthy and the chap in OD, and the wife in TR. Corrupted consanguinity. I like that. McCarthy used “consanguinity” in one of the interviews, noting he wasn’t much into it personally! Thanks for the comments.

    Another interesting tangent might be identity philosophy, for which Schelling is quite well known, I think. John Vanderheide (JVH) has expertise in Schelling so it would be great to hear his thoughts. Chatted with him about Schelling at the Memphis CM conference last fall, but I believe we were discussing Eternal Return at that time. You might be a Schelling guy as well? At any rate, it’s fun stuff to brood upon.

    20 May 2016 at 9:51 am #8321


    Hi Glass

    re: “the kid’s mother in BM dying during the birth of his sister”

    “The mother dead these fourteen years did incubate
    in her own bosom the creature who would carry her off.”

    I always read that as an indication that the mother died giving
    birth to the kid, since it referes to the kid’s age, “dead these
    fourteen years”. Also, I think it gives the kid an air of “doomed
    from the get go”: he has hardly entered the world and already he
    has killed somebody.

    Or at least I read the line about “these fourteen years” as a
    reference to the kids age.

    20 May 2016 at 1:52 pm #8322



    I messed that up. You are correct. Thanks for calling it to my attention. I know I knew that fact that the kid “killed” his Mom when he was born, but got careless. Mea culpa.

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 9 months ago by  Glass.
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