The Cretin

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  • 02 Apr 2012 at 8:46 pm #648

    Toejac
    Member

    Something interesting I noticed, after the Kid has been arrested and the Judge pays him a visit he asks him about Tobin. The Judge replies,

    ‘I told them that the cretin was a respected Doctor of Divinity from Harvard College as recently as March of this year. That his wits had stood him as far as the Aquarius mountains.’

    Interestingly enough cretin means, among several other definitions, ‘one who has failed to develop mentally and physically due to congenital hypothyrodism’ and ‘idiot’.

    Later the Judge states that, ‘Even the cretin acted in good faith according to his parts.’

    Is it possible that the Judge is not in fact referring to Tobin but to the Fool? If not in the former sentence but the latter? I wouldn’t second say anyone in their notions but it seems to me that this implicates the Kid as being, at least in the Judge’s eyes, an incomplete being more stunted than his Fool.
    Of course what any of this might mean is sadly beyond me. Any thoughts from minds wiser than mine?


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    02 Apr 2012 at 9:19 pm #649

    Webmaster
    Keymaster

    The Online Etymology Dictionary suggests that the word ‘cretin” originates from the Latin vulgate and was once literally the word “Christian”:

    from V.L. *christianus “a Christian,”

    Or Wikipedia:

    From “chretien,” French for “Christian” or “Christlike,” because those affected were so mentally handicapped that they were considered incapable of sinning

    The judge would have known of the etymology, and I think he’s being ironic in his use of the term.


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    • This reply was modified 5 years, 9 months ago by  Webmaster.
    13 Apr 2012 at 11:17 am #810

    peterfranz
    Member

    Mmmmmm. To be honest I’m at a complete loss to understand why you think the judge would be talking here about anyone other than his holy fool. The question is about Tobin certainly but the judge is simply being inclusive of other matters pertaining in answering it.

    I’m sure the website has been no end of work and my thanks to those concerned but could we not have a b/g colour rather more elegant than variants of beige? Looks rather too much like a jaundiced digestive biscuit.

    pf


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    03 May 2012 at 7:53 pm #1115

    The Judge is talking about Tobin in the spirit of his earlier remark about Tobin in a discussion Holden led and as usual dominated: “What does the ex-priest say? The ex-priest doesn’t say.” The judge would reason that Tobin doesn’t say because he’s a mindless cretin, a nominal Christian. Tobin wants the Judge dead but doesn’t have the guts to try it himself and pressures the Kid to do it. Holden, of course, senses Tobin’s urge from the git-go and with some justification comes to despise the ex-priest all the more. Similarly, he despises the Kid for not trying to assassinate him. Holden exposes himself several (three?) times to the Kid’s gun, thus pushing his code to the point of wishing the Kid would be noble warrior enough to pull the trigger. The Kid doesn’t, a side of his mind strangely drawn to the Judge. To the Judge the Kid lacks the right stuff to kill or die according to Holden’s code, so the big boy eventually murders and mutilates him.


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    04 May 2012 at 6:40 am #1119

    peterfranz
    Member

    Bk said >>> The Judge is talking about Tobin in the spirit of his earlier remark about Tobin in a discussion Holden led and as usual dominated: “What does the ex-priest say? The ex-priest doesn’t say.” The judge would reason that Tobin doesn’t say because he’s a mindless cretin, a nominal Christian. <<<

    Absolutely not. The etymology of a word is not the same thing as the definition of a word. But in an etymological sense it would be wrong anyway, secondly the judge is using the term as defined at the period of the novel (it is perfectly reasonable to conclude the fool is in fact a cretin in the 19th century sense of the term, though what medical opinion would conclude in the 21st century would be rather more precise) which is to say as descriptive of a medical condition: Cretinism. Further: ‘I told them that the cretin was a respected Doctor of Divinity from Harvard College as recently as March of this year. That his wits had stood him as far as the Aquarius mountains.’ is, apart from its appeal to the judges sense of humour and possibly ours, a remark that would only make sense to those whom the judge is addressing in relation to the fool, and no sense at all in relation to Tobin.

    The use of the term 'cretin' as a pejorative meaning something like idiot is not new but later than the date of McCarthy's pastiche and it's diminishment of precise meaning would cause the judge no end of pain. I realise you're not saying that the judge is using the term in that way and I'm just adding the thought.

    pf


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    04 May 2012 at 10:33 am #1120

    Well, Peter, you’re possibly right, though your “absolutely not” comes on strong and jars a bit (Is anything “absolute”? The speed of light’s the only thing I can thing of). Anyway, lemme git back there to the context and see if my view’s got any cause for further discourse. It’s been a while since I dug around in BM and got my mind bloodier than I like.

    BK


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    05 May 2012 at 9:21 am #1126

    aden
    Member

    I fail to see how strictly delineating the definition of cretin obviates Bob’s general analysis of the situation involving the judge, the kid and the ex-priest. One could remove the use of cretin in the context of the situation in question and the over-all meaning would remain basically the same: the judge despises the kid because the little peckerwood is a pansy—a piece of antic clay who takes on the color of the land through which he passes. This is a legitimate criticism of the kid on the part of the judge which most readers refuse to recognize because they are blinded to its truth by their dislike for the judge. The ugly fact that the judge is the “true” is what gives the novel its peculiar power.


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    05 May 2012 at 12:57 pm #1127

    Glass
    Member

    The kid’s malleability is one his most interesting and appealing attributes, and helps him survive, so I come at this one from a different place than Aden. The judge, on the other hand, never seems to change at all, although I believe he assumes lots of different shapes.

    Nihil Dicit is interesting in the episode mentioned above when the priest doesn’t answer, does not say, but the judge then says that the priest does say by his frocklessness. Eschewing the robes and being referred to often by the narrator as an ex priest although the judge refers to him as the priest. Anyway, I find it interesting that not saying can expose one more than does the act of saying, perhaps linked to when the judge says something to the kid like, “Did you think if you did not speak you would not be recognized?”

    Peter W.


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    05 May 2012 at 1:22 pm #1131

    Well, Peter Franz, I may have heavy artillery on my side with Aden, though I don’t know about the Judge as “the true.” True to his own code, yes, and true in the sense that he expects anyone who takes up arms against enemies to kill in his spirit of killing. He’s somewhat Eastern in this sense in that once battle lines are drawn he kills without hatred. How transcendent and amoral this Eastern idea is I don’t know, but in my Western view Holden is totally amoral and all the more dangerous–bad, bad.

    I like Glass on the Kid, too.


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    05 May 2012 at 2:43 pm #1133

    aden
    Member

    Bob,

    The judge as the “true” is not limited to a code. The judge has no “code” in the positive sense of a set of rules or laws he observes. He is true as the reality of death and the metaphysical actualization of what Hegel called the “negative.” For something to exist it must be finite and thus determinate. By definition this means that all “things” have an “end.” Metaphysically the only thing without end is without being, the Nichts. It is precisely the negative, the nothing, which is immanent in all “things” by virtue of their inherent finitude that establishes the immanent relationship of the finite and infinite. The true is the whole but the whole is no-thing but rather the continuous manifestation of an endless stream of parts. This is what the judge means when he says war is god. Hegel says that the Christian God is dead, but that does not mean that the Trinity is not actualized in human cognition. God is dead because we killed him during the Enlightenment. Now man is god in the truest sense of the word (“In the beginning was the logos, and the logos was with God, and the logos was God.” John 1:1), which is nothing more than the ultimate meaning of Christology. And here we come back to the judge as the true.


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