The End of BM: A Reading

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  • 08 Sep 2014 at 12:09 am #5832

    CMG
    Member

    Perhaps this comment doesn’t belong in this thread, but the same region in the text is under discussion here as what I’ve got questions about. I just reread BM for the second time after… perhaps ten years. I’m still new enough to thinking about the book that certain episodes bleed together in my memory. Which brought me to these forums to ask for clarity!

    I’ve wondered in the past how exactly the kid managed to resist the judge throughout the book, and what happened in the jakes at the end. Did the kid/man surrender? Or was the judge finally driven to rise up and crush the kid/man who wouldn’t submit to his authority? Or did something more bizarre take place? (Probably something more bizarre.)

    That’s a side point to my main concern, though, which is how the kid apparently maintained “clemency for the heathen,” according to the judge. This is partly how the kid resisted the judge, but what that clemency was or is remains unstated. When the kid is a member in Glanton’s gang, we don’t get too many detailed reports about what he does. We only hear about what the gang does, as an entity that has absorbed its members. But I feel that it’s safe to assume the kid did his fair share of butchering and scalping, otherwise he wouldn’t have been in the gang at all. There seems to be little room for clemency in this. However, there is room for clemency in the raping. So I’m curious about whether the kid took part in those sexual crimes. If that was ever explicitly stated.

    The judge seems clearly implied to be a predator and pedophile. But I rack my brains to remember anything sexual the kid participated in, until the episode with the dwarf whore at the end, which immediately precedes the horror in the jakes. This dwarf feels relevant for purposes I can’t pinpoint. And the dwarf also seems to strangely mirror the missing organ-grinder girl, who is presumably one last child victim for the judge before the book closes. So you have the missing girl juxtaposed with the willing prostitute.

    What happens between the kid/man and the whore is also not explained, just like what happens in the jakes. We can assume there might have been impotence involved, but it requires us to guess. And usually the novel is not shy with providing graphic details.

    Excuse my rambling here. I’m just thinking out loud — or in type, as it were. And knowing me, the kid probably did have a sexual encounter before the dwarf whore that I’ve forgotten! But if he did not, then it seems like this might have been an important trigger leading into the last pages.

    One thing I would like to add, regarding what the bonepickers say about Griffin, is that I did not take them too seriously. They are boastful young men talking about “the biggest town for sin in all Texas,” “lively … for murders,” but they are unknowingly speaking to a man who has lived through atrocities that must make the Griffin whores perched in the tree look like nuns by comparison. Of course the kid/man is too stoic to bother correcting the bonepickers by telling them about real sin. Instead he just tells them about his ear necklace, and that’s already enough to make them doubt his story and get nervous. Griffin certainly isn’t a delightful town, but if there’s a ninth circle anywhere, I’d say the kid visited it earlier in the book.


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    08 Sep 2014 at 12:28 am #5833

    CMG
    Member

    Oh, one other thing I didn’t mention! The kid is at one point mistaken for a man whore, and when he realizes what’s going on, he beats up his prospective client. This is a sexual encounter, but an encounter that isn’t allowed to occur. You might speculate that it finally does occur when the judge is too strong to be resisted in the jakes.


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    18 Oct 2014 at 4:13 pm #6014

    I’ve just finished my first reading of BM and have not had a chance to review it (or to search the forum for related discussion), so please excuse me if I am rehashing common discussion points.

    Regarding the Judge’s statement that the Kid is maintaining “clemency for the heathen,” could this not be a statement that the Kid refused to attack the Judge when he had the opportunity? That is, the Judge himself is the “heathen” and the Judge is upset that the Kid has not completely given in to vice as have all the other members of the gang? Surviving members gave in in the desert, selling the Judge their weapons and clothes, but the kid did not sell his pistol, attempt to kill the Judge, or desert Tobin for that matter.

    Based on this, my first interpretation is that the Judge is forced to kill the Kid because he cannot cause him to undo himself.


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    21 Oct 2014 at 1:42 pm #6018

    efscerbo
    Member

    CMG + Michael: You both asked about the “clemency for the heathen” line. If you read through the book and note uses of the word “heathen”, it is never used to refer to anyone who is clearly not an Indian:

    (All page references are to the Vintage 25th anniversary edition.)

    Captain White on the Apaches: “While a heathen horde rides over the land looting and killing with total impunity.” (36)

    White’s sergeant just before the Comanche attack: “I make it a parcel of heathen stockthieves is what I make it.” (53)

    The description of the dead Mexicans slaughtered by the Apaches in the church: “[…] some forty souls who’d barricaded themselves in this house of God against the heathen.” (63)

    When the kid sees Captain White’s head: “It was Captain White. Lately at war among the heathen.” (73)

    When the gang first ride into Chihuahua: “[They were] like a visitation from some heathen land where they and others like them fed on human flesh.” (83)

    After the Apache “ambuscado” (114): “The judge looked north along the pale shore of the dry lake where the heathen had fled.” (116)

    Webster referring to the “old Hueco” (147) whose portrait the judge had drawn: “That man[…] was no more than a ignorant heathen savage.” (148)

    When the gang are on the run from the Apaches/Gilenos after the “Slaughter of the Gilenos” (157): “Day found the heathen much advanced upon them.” (170)

    The judge at the kid’s prison cell in San Diego.

    When the kid buys the scapular in San Diego: “With his last two dollars he bought from a soldier the scapular of heathen ears that Brown had worn to the scaffold.” (324)

    The only one of the above examples that is iffy is the description of the gang entering Chihuahua. But given all the others, I have to interpret the judge’s “clemency for the heathen” line as referring only to Indians.

    Now, if you go back and read the first very long post I wrote to start this thread, I argue that the ending of the novel depicts the kid completely giving into the judge and becoming fully evil. (CMG: I too noticed the parallel between the organ-grinder and the dwarf whore. That was a focal point of what I wrote, so check it out if you’re interested.) So my take on the “clemency” line is that the judge can see that the kid is not yet fully his. I don’t think it necessarily refers to something the kid did or did not do: I’m sure he took part in the various Indian slaughters. I think it’s more that the judge is privy to the kid’s mental state and can see that the kid is perhaps not yet fully comfortable with the carnage the gang have been wreaking. He has not yet accepted War as his god.

    That’s my take on it, at least. I’m sure others who post here may disagree.


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    14 Nov 2014 at 3:10 pm #6070

    fanabomerro
    Member

    I think there is a rather large consensus that the kid is the one whom something awful happens to in the jakes, the discussion being how awful exactly. Surely there is foreshadowing throughout the whole novel that the kid will not come out of things unharmed. It is quite essential that the kid meets his “tragic” end at the end of the novel. While he might have postponed his death for twenty-eight years, he cannot escape it. He is already in the judge’s “ledgerbook,” as he sees in his dreams. The judge means to wipe out what he has in his ledgerbook, so that it only exist in a medium which he has control over (his own little order of the universe, so to say).

    I also don’t think it is the judge’s desire to convert anyone to evil. Rather, the judge just means to dance, and there is only one true dancer. The reason he shows special attention to the kid is because unlike the others, who dance till their defeat, the kid refused to dance. He arguably has the divine spark, the pneuma, which is mentioned in gnosticism. This is his asset and his doom at the same time. He lives in a world ruled by the laws of the judge, and in that world the spark will not save him but brand him.

    The kid gives no sign that he means to change his opinion on the judge. He is no saint, he has sinned throughout the book, albeit not explicitly mentioned, but he has always had a dislike for the judge. He shows this dislike strongly in their final conversation, stating that the judge is nothing. A simple hug in the jakes is not sufficient to completely change his mind. The kid was never “good,” he was simply defiant to the judge, and he was so till the end, and it brought him to a horrible fate (however horrible your mind wants to make it).


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    07 Jan 2015 at 6:17 pm #6200

    I’ve been away from McCarthy discussion for a decade, so forgive me if this point has been brought up and proven factually or otherwise incorrect. I’ve long believed that what the unnamed man who, in Rick’s words, “gasps at the mess inside” of the jakes is not gasping at a mess, so to speak. Considering the violence, death, destruction, and other unpleasantness these men witness on a daily basis, I find it impossible to believe that there is an outhouse (or slaughterhouse or whatever other Tommy Lee Jones-inspired structure you want to consider) that could be defiled enough to make one of them gasp. However, to my mind, a Biblically “unnatural” coupling of two men — in other words, homosexuals interrupted in flagrante delicto — would elicit such a reaction. Prior to the jakes incident, the kid has trouble performing with a (female) prostitute. Then the kid enters the jakes, where he sees the judge “seated upon the closet. He was naked and he rose up smiling and gathered him in his arms against his immense and terrible flesh and shot the wooden barlatch home behind him.” On a literal level, it sounds like the judge locked the door (which itself implies a desire for privacy). On a metaphorical level, it sounds like the judge is raping (or, more generously, engaging in consensual sex with) the kid. A hardened man the likes of whom are hanging with this crowd would not be overpowered by the stench of an outhouse. Male-on-male sexual activity, however, might just be the straw that breaks that camel’s back.


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    08 Jan 2015 at 9:48 am #6201

    Rick Wallach
    Keymaster

    Droid:

    First of all, it’s great to have you back with us. (For those Cormackians who don’t remember, Andrew was a very early and very enthusiastic member of the Society, its conferences and this forum. In the intervening years, among other things, he authored a brilliant book about AIG, the insurance cyclops centrally involved in the subprime mortgage meltdown. Tower of Thieves, which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction).

    Second of all, here’s the sort of little flaw in your analysis that Sherlock Holmes would have toked a pipeful of opium to celebrate spotting: if the judge had still been busy buggering the kid when the guy who freaked out at what he saw inside the jakes opened the door, he never would have been able to open the door because the judge had shut the barlatch. Ergo, the judge had already finished his business and departed, leaving the door unlatched.

    Ergo, whatever the man saw that sent him off to piss on the ground instead wasn’t the kid being raped. I prefer to think that it was the kid splattered all over the inside of the outhouse. You’re right that these were hardened guys, and simply warning others away from the jakes while taking a leak a few yards away still plays consistently with your characterization of him.


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    09 Jan 2015 at 4:52 pm #6202

    I see what you’re saying, Rick, but I’d point out that, to my mind, you’ve proven my point. Precisely because the judge HAD already finished his business suggests that the line referencing the bar latch being shut may be read metaphorically rather than literally. I don’t think the judge wrapped his massive arms around the kid and somehow dismembered (or otherwise created a macabre mess with) his body THEN shut the door, simply because of the way the sentence is written.

    It’s good to be back, even if there is much work to be done in order to bring you around to my way of thinking…


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    09 Jan 2015 at 5:08 pm #6203

    Rick Wallach
    Keymaster

    I can be bought off. You didn’t happen to hang onto that cilantro sauce recipe, did you?


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    10 Jan 2015 at 6:57 am #6204

    I might be able to dig it out…


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