The End of Blood Meridian

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  • 31 May 2015 at 2:49 pm #7174



    I do not think there is any hope for the kid in the jakes. It’s right there in the last of the little sub-subtitles for Chapter XXII: “Sie mussen schlafen aber Ich muss tanzen.”

    This is in Dutch(German) and the judge is the only one that speaks Dutch cause he learned it off a Dutchman. I am not the expert but I’m pretty sure this translates: “You must sleep and I must dance.” So, the judge puts the kid to “sleep” and he is subsequently dancing.

    01 Jun 2015 at 8:03 pm #7180


    I agree with Richard that the epilogue encourages multiple interpretation and that once an interpretation is reached it should impel the interpreter to reread his/her own conclusions. This is a book that confounds a definitive reading – and that is the joy of it. A strictly historicist reading of the book is undone by the novel’s parabolic substructure, by the mélange of literary, mystical and factual articulations provided in the epigraphs, and by the mystery that is the epilogue. But one could quite easily test this notion by putting that sentence in reverse. My own take on McCarthy’s work, however, is: “It’s history, Jim, but history not as we know it.”
    As far as my understanding of the epilogue goes – idiosyncratic as it undoubtedly is – I like to see it as analogous with, or evocative of, the old Native-American practice of digging memory holes. Here is Nathaniel Philbrick in his book Mayflower, describing the journey into Indian territory made by Edward Winslow and Stephen Hopkins:
    “As they conversed with their new companions, the Englishmen learned that to walk along the land in Southern New England was to travel in time. All along this narrow, hard-packed trail were circular foot deep holes in the ground that had been dug where “any remarkable act” had occurred. It was each person’s responsibility to maintain the holes and to inform fellow travelers of what had once had happened at that particular place so that “many things of great antiquity are fresh in the memory.” (Nathaniel Philbrick, Mayflower. p.105)
    There is definitely a “come and see” element in BM – well, in all McCarthy. A witnessing of Apocalypse, mind, that forces us to think of historical referents. In this way, the historically bounded reader is enjoined to remember what a lot of the protagonists/antagonists seem to wilfully forget. So, what if the holes at the end of the novel are memory holes that not only remind us of all the victims of the violence recorded in the preceding pages and of all the victims of violence in historical time? I already get the objections to this reading – and the rational part of me is already casting scorn upon it – but, nevertheless, I like the idea of memory holes.

    “They also began to appreciate why these memory holes were more important than ever before to the Native inhabitants of the region. Everywhere they went, they were stunned by the emptiness and desolation of the place. “Thousands of men have lived there,” Winslow wrote, “which died in a great plague not long since: and pity it was and is to see, so many goodly fields, and so well seated, without men to dress and manure the same.” With so many dead, the Pokanokets’ connection to the past was hanging by a thread – a connection that the memory holes, and the stories they inspired, helped to maintain. (p.106)

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 8 months ago by  cantona.
    • This reply was modified 2 years, 8 months ago by  cantona.
    01 Jun 2015 at 9:30 pm #7188


    Memory holes. That’s fantastic!

    14 Jun 2015 at 1:14 pm #7245

    Richard L.

    I too like the idea of memory holes. There are many interpretations and I’d have to say that, although I prefer the divine spark theory, I like all of them.

    For instance, I also like the Walter de Maria Lightning Field Theory, much discussed, “The Lightning Field featured prominently in the novel Blinded by the Light (2008)by Morgan Hunt. This work might also have influenced the imagery of author Cormac McCarthy’s epilogue in his book BLOOD MERIDIAN (1985). It is also the subject of a 2011 New Yorker article by Geoff Dyer called Poles Apart.[8] David Ulin discusses the work as a narrative which “unfolds not as a fixed encounter but rather as something that gets inside us in a more sequential way.”


    I also like Ken’s five elements theory:

    Ken quotes McCarthy as saying that this was meant to be a burial scene, which I interpret my own way, as shoring up the theories of ethereal alien sparks captured in this material world and released by death. Probably others will interpret this differently.

    And I enjoy the after influences, such as Bibliokept’s THERE WILL BE BLOOD allusions, discussed in another thread. See this link:

    Another obvious riff on it appears in James Lee Burke’s RAIN GODS (2006), pp. 3-4, where the tall man is inserting a rake handle into the ground at intervals like the man in the epilogue, looking for unmourned bodies.

    All brilliant, I’d say.

    Someone in the comments of that Bibliokept blog suggested that the bone collectors were after glue, something I had not heard elsewhere. I’ve no doubt that there are hundreds of other interpretations, as there should be.

    Indeed, I thought of it while reading Victor Hugo’s LES MISERABLES (1862). In one of his many digressions, there is the legend of the black man who wanders around digging holes. “Goodwives affirm that it is no rarity to encounter at nightfall, in secluded nooks of the forest, a black man with the air of a carter or a wood-chopper. Some take him for the devil with two horns on his head, but others, drawing close, say that it is an two-branched instrument like a dung-fork that he has been carrying on his back. He digs holes at intervals. Anyone who encounters him goes home and dies within an interval, depending on the means of encountering him.

    Some who have dug up the holes seeking the devil’s buried treasure have only encountered “A sou, sometimes a crown-piece, a stone, a skeleton, a bleeding body, sometimes a spectre folded in four like a sheet of paper in a portfolio. . .sometimes an old pack of cards greasy and worn, which has evidently served the devil.”

    Hugo too seems to insist on many different interpretations of the hole digger.

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 8 months ago by  Richard L..
    07 Jul 2016 at 5:40 pm #8421


    Regarding the event in the jakes, not the epilogue:

    Any thoughts on the idea that the judge isnt literally in the jakes waiting on the kid, but that is figurative. That’s where the kid finally fully accepts the judge’s philosophy on life and war – the “dance.” He opens the door of the jakes and sees only the little girl who was previously with the bear. He rapes and kills her in the jakes and then steps out just before the other two men walk up. Then it is the kid who recommends not opening the door. And when they do, they see her mutilated body. The kid has finally fully given himself to the judge figuratively. He had previously been fighting who he really was and now has accepted it.

    You can see glimpses of this earlier in the book beginning on page one, either in himself or more likely in his father’s abuse of his sister. “He has a sister in this world that he will not see again. He watches, pale and unwashed. He can neither read nor write and in him broods already a taste for mindless violence. All history present in that visage, the child the farther of the man.” Seeing this awakens his thirst for absolute depraved violence and he finally accepts it in the end.

    “What man would not be a dancer if he could, said the judge. It’s a great thing, the dance.”

    Just a thought. No other explanation satisfies. But this isnt a common interpretation.

    31 Jul 2016 at 10:59 am #8468

    Stiff Gravel

    I think the Judge was curious with regard to the Kid as a specimen that somehow prevailed and made rational decisions based on his circumstances, a tactful survivor with uncommon instincts that didn’t normally have to follow the herd or was consumed by judgements, able to assess the implications of actions perhaps a rare heuristic and empirical soul to be studied further. So I think the Judge hobbled him or crippled him in the jakes to see how he would fare with the imposed handicap on the barren landscape- an experiment that he could check on from time to time in the future to observe how his ingenuity had served him. So that would be the Kid hobbling over the wasteland boneyard in the epilogue.

    28 Sep 2016 at 3:29 am #8595


    I agree that the holes signify the progression of time, perhaps against God’s will. You can’t know the digger of the first hole. And each subsequent hole isn’t possible without the holes in the future already existing, like dots on an infinite timeline. You also can’t know the last hole.

    05 Oct 2016 at 2:42 pm #8602

    Candy Minx

    From post 7174, Weston wrote…

    “I do not think there is any hope for the kid in the jakes. It’s right there in the last of the little sub-subtitles for Chapter XXII: “Sie mussen schlafen aber Ich muss tanzen.”

    This is in Dutch(German) and the judge is the only one that speaks Dutch cause he learned it off a Dutchman. I am not the expert but I’m pretty sure this translates: “You must sleep and I must dance.” So, the judge puts the kid to “sleep” and he is subsequently dancing.”

    I’m not sure that this poem means sleep=death. Often in poetry sleep can mean death….but I think readers and lovers of poetry including Thomas Mann have interpreted this poem to mean “sleep” as not questioning. Asleep in consciousness, not self-examining or taking action.

    I think the poem is used to imply that some people are not actively “dancing” in life. Their activity is one of a sleeper…not questioning or challenging. The dance is a philosophical dance…one of the artist and writer. The dance is someone not afraid to mess around with ideas or theories or status quo. To be a dancer is to be a thinker. To sleep is to be in darkness philosophically.

    19 Oct 2016 at 2:40 pm #8650


    We had a bit of a debate about the jakes scene during the workshop here at Warwick. Not meaning to promote this, but have a look at the video – the jakes discussion is towards the end.

    20 Oct 2016 at 4:23 am #8651

    Stiff Gravel

    Dear Tim There must be something wrong with me because I still don’t continue to see evil in Judge Holden rather the curious and pragmatic scientist and polymath. I have resigned to read a few treatises that rank him amongst the worst if not the worst villain in American literature. And yet he just seems to be swept along with the fun, taking note of things, including his intrigue of the spiritual and physical genetic vigour of the Kid. I think that’s the kid who is either gimping across the plain at the end at the end or stubbornly digging post holes as a presage to a settlement of blood nurtured soil.

    I think he embraces the Kid as an unwitting acolyte at the end much as a father would his son in glee during any festivity and chance necounter. The sight of the 7 foot apparition bear hugging the lad in the gloom would be sufficient for a horrified gasped “what they lord“.

    We as readers with a confirmation bias of the incomprehensible sexual and greivous physical violation are preconditioned to imagine separately to our own privations and exposures what might be going on. I think of the judge embracing the kid in love and joy. Overall the Judge is a realist, in acceptance and comparmentalising the actions that surround him, much as he catalogues and makes noltes of “God’s Words”. He enjoy’s a challenge. He has no time for the mawkish or sentimental; he’s just enjoying himself and adpating as necessary and learning making the best of the maelstrom of raw humanity. He is the apotheosis of the mental health survivor. Does he actually participate in any of the violence except the euthanasia of two dogs? I’m going to have to read it again and book mark any perceived atrocity (care to catalogue and discuss?). I think if one wants some type of metaphor (except just enjoy the pure unadultered beauty of it) the Judge is spirit of the nation borne along in the inevitable tide of human filth, cruelty and desperation that presages a new era. I want to think of T***p as some kind of deranged spiritual Glanton or but it doesn’t work, because it seems obscene to grant him any allusion to literature allegory in this transcendence and the piddling motes of dust being batted around as important life or death issues; in absurdum reductio the trail of trivial crumbs of this year around may substitute for the odyssey of atrocity in Meridian– perhaps the Judge dances and laughs yet between Appalachia and the last remaining forests of Maine

    Faulkner can be an unreadable wanker. I tried to diligently get through most of his stuff when I first came to Canada with access to a big North American library but I gave up on some of that pidgin English commentary “that be my fish baint it, mister?”. Fuck off Bill. Other times though he makes big rich puddings to savour and you can see where McCarthy gets his oats from. As a shortie, check out Old Man Short story in The Flood chapter (Chapter 6) of the attached collection and you will see the bleak commentary of existence infused with Russian form such as Chekov. Also and this is ultimately what matters is it’s rattling good and charming. There’s also the Bear in there under the chapter of The Last Wilderness (chapter 3)

    Speaking of bears and as far as birch bark canoes go, young Tom might enjoy the book that inspired the Revenant movie by Punke. It’s good old-timey frontier stuff with authenticity aplenty and the bloke played by Tom Hardy is something out of Glanton’s gang albeit with a much single and more mercenary sense of purpose.

    After years of snaggletoothedness, finally gave in and had my front teeth removed yesterday. As grim tapestry would have it, surgery performed in a dentist chair in a window exactly across the park from the house we lost 18 months ago. It did not provoke grief rather a shudder at the dark sink-hole that seemed to gorge on the penumbral afternoon light. Right now I look like an old hockey player-most of them get their fronts blasted out by a puck or by fights that are gleefully encouraged even at the national and American-Canadian games more evidence of genteel Meridian. The worst part of it was seeing the contemporary flock of Glanton family, face tattoos, ear plugs and jacked up pick ups and pitbulls, carnal ferret-eyed men either gaunt and haggard, Walmart scarecrows or bloated like priapic foetal hogs with obscenely pink glowing phallic domes adorned with a sea of blackheads such is the sartorial style; during surgery having to be subjected but this chunky jumper beardy audial effluent piped in, like Mumford and Sons and so so painful Lumineers. They remind me of the C____ supporters, earnest fluffy scrims of lint barely covering a seething cognitive dissonance, the priest that is the pederast, the evangelist that is the profligate. And in all we need the Judge to craft, collect and disrupt. I think he’s there and next year there will be post holes being dug across the rock hard plain. Pip pip. Stiff

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 4 months ago by  Stiff Gravel.
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