Old paper on Blood Meridian. Thoughts?

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  • 25 Nov 2012 at 5:10 pm #2499

    Markus W.

    Adam, I’ve just read an essay by Tim Parrish, “The Killer Wears the Halo: Cormac McCarthy, Flannery O’Connor, and the American Religion.” (Sacred Violence, Vol.1). It deals provides another Girardian reading of Blood Meridian that would, I think, nicely complement your own, since Parrish mentions a lot of different points and situates the whole thing within what we might call the peculiarities of American history and the American character.

    One of my caveats would be that Parrish, as well as most other Girardian analyses I’ve read so far of McCarthy’s novels rarely go beyond Violence and the Sacred, which is primarily concerned with archaic, Pre-Christian societies wherein the scapegoat mechanism still works and the ritual structure is fully intact. While  neither the mimetic processes nor the dynamics of violence really change, the way culture deals with it has changed a great deal (as is only hinted at in Violence and the Sacred) and with the advent of Christianity, the scapegoat mechanism is effectively dismantled as a foundation for lasting social stabilization/re-stabilization, though the awakening to the knowledge that the victim is a scapegoat comes but gradually. It just does not work in the way it used to, and this has to be considered when looking at McCarthy’s works from this perspective, I think. Of course, one will easily notice that violence rarely is constructive of any social order in McCarthy, and that’s where for instance Parrish finds Girard inconclusive or inapplicable to modern America, but in fact, there’s a whole lot more to be found on this that may well be fruitfully applied both to McCarthy and American history…

    I can’t recall it exactly, but I think it’s elaborated on quite extensively in Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World and The Scapegoat, the latter of which may be the better way to start.

    26 Nov 2012 at 1:19 pm #2509


    Hey Markus,

    Thank you for the information!  I would agree that Violence and the Sacred doesn’t seem to account for the entirety of Blood Meridian.  I just picked up and started reading Deceit, Desire, and the Novel by Girard and am planning on reading as much of Girard as possible.  I’m planning on writing further about the sacrificial structure of Blood Meridian.

    26 Nov 2012 at 1:33 pm #2512

    Rick Wallach

    Adam, and especially Markus:  you should also pick up the book Violence and Difference: Girard, Derrida, Deconstruction by Andrew J. McKenna. Its focus on the textual dimension of Girard, seen through the deconstructive lens, fills in a lot of the blank spots that a Girardian reading alone would leave.

    26 Nov 2012 at 10:51 pm #2570


    Hi, i am no scholar and i feel a little intimidated by the intellectuals on here ( i am not being sarcastic, honest ). I have thoroughly enjoyed many threads on this site but feel compelled to ask some questions on this post. If BM does have sacrificial qualities, who or what is the sacrifice and who or what is it offered too. If the simple answer is the kid, ( i dont think it can be however) his actions do not to my mind represent someones acceptance of, or forced into being the “sacrifice”. If it is the kids ‘innocence’ or by simple association, the whole notion of innocence this does not appear to ring true either. The kid shows little innocence at the beginning of the story. He is raised and suited to blood letting and viloence and seems little affected by its consequence. The last part of the post mentions that BM is “driven by change” but this runs against this  part of the post .

    Here McCarthy quite explicitly points to ancient history and then begins his story in 1847, a mere 138 years prior to publication of Blood Meridian.  The intention here is clear.  If spontaneous and undifferentiated violence, represented by scalping, continues to occur or simply rears its head again 300,000 years later in the Mexican War, what makes the modern world believe that 138 years makes such a huge difference between humanity then and now?  

    If  McCarthys is to state that after 138yrs there is little evidence of lack of change  then BM can’t be driven by change, lack of change perhaps, in that the kid is still called the kid at the end of his life and that the Judge is still nimble enough to lead the dance after all the years then lack of change appears to be more powerful than any actual change.

    As i said im no expert but this excerpt seems to me to confirm that BM is not driven by change or even a desire to change

    Tobin the ex-priest, says “God the man is a dancer, you’ll not take that away from him” (130).  The Judge himself likens dance to war: “As war becomes dishonored…those honorable men who recognize the sanctity of blood will become excluded from the dance…and thereby will the dance become a false dance”

    It seems to me that the judge believes that to have reason and purpose in the pursuit and execution of violence is a betrayal of the nature of violence and this would suggest that that BM cant be said to have sacrificial qualities. My arguments may seem simplistic but i have lots of time on my hands on nightshift. P.S. This is a fine site for a very fine writer

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