The End of BM: A Reading

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  • 04 Feb 2015 at 8:47 pm #6396

    Ed, Toni (you a girl or a boy?), you’re wearing this ole fart out with your seemingly endless speculations. There’s absolutely no textual evidence for what you claim. Fact: the girl goes missing. Speculation: She’s kidnapped and killed by the kid. Fact: The kid leaves the jedge and goes to the upper room to fuck the dwarf. It doesn’t go well. Either the kid blows his wad too soon or he can’t get it up (I speculate the former as he seems pretty damned virile). Now tell me if the kid has enough time and space to bid Holden adieu with “you aint nothing,” then try to get it on with dwarf gal, then snatch organ-grinder girl (when in the nearby street “men were calling for the little girl” (333)) then drag her to the jakes and kill her (all done silently), then casually stroll outside, piss and walk away.

    If you’re gonna speculate, choose a more likely one: the little girl is so emotionally upset over the slaying of her poo bear she has to pee bad. She then runs off and into the jakes, the jedge jumps off the commode unwiped, crushes her to death, casts her on the floor like a rag doll, then wipes and trippy-toes off to do his naked thing on stage.

    Of course, this won’t do either. It’s quite evident in the judge-kid exchanges in the saloon that Holden’s feelings for the kid have fallen below disappointment to disgust. The kid won’t fully subscribe to H’s war code. There’s room for only one beast in the ritual warrior dance and that’s the jedge. The kid has to go. In the jakes Holden sees his chance and grabs the kid/man “in his arms against his immense and terrible flesh and [shoots] the barlatch home behind him.” (333) This is clearly a killing scene, which may or may not entail sex.


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    04 Feb 2015 at 10:11 pm #6397

    efscerbo
    Member

    To be fair, Bob: When I float opinions/theories on the book, I back it up *extensively* with quotations, and relevant ones at that, from the text or other works by McCarthy. All fairness if you just plain think I’m full of it, but saying there’s “absolutely no textual evidence” for it… Well, I think there’s a world of difference between plain ol’ making shit up and reading between the lines. We don’t see Quentin kill himself or Benjy get “fixed”, but no one seriously doubts those things happen. Just because something’s not explicitly shown doesn’t mean it didn’t happen (or is it, “just because you’re paranoid…”?)


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    05 Feb 2015 at 3:56 am #6399

    Toni
    Member

    Dear Mr. Fart,

    to answer your question: I am a boy, but there have been occasions
    in my life when I actually passed for a man. I know this to be true
    ’cause my mama told me so.

    Now, on a more serious note: I also think that Ed does provide quite
    extensive textual evidence to back up his ideas. So I don’t necessarily
    understand your comment.

    Hate you wear you out, though. . .

    – Toni


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    05 Feb 2015 at 6:33 am #6403

    Toni
    Member

    Ed,

    re: “So I don’t know that shock value is the full reason.”

    I don’t mean to suggest that it is the full reason for it, and “shock value”
    is not necessarily what I have in mind at all. To me “shock value” sounds
    like a cheap Hollywood-trick. It’s hard for me to explain what I’m after
    here. . .Sure, there is an element of “shock value”, but in my reading it’s
    much more than just that, it’s a way to show the true depth of a horrifying
    thing without actually showing the thing itself, or rather the physical
    manifestation of it. A horror that, if actually shown, especially after all
    the preceding carnage, would not come across to the reader “as it truly is”.
    Something terribly deep and awful would appear as just another mindless
    act of violence, which, at this point in the book, would be down right boring.

    This may all sound like incoherent rambling, but maybe you get what I mean?
    If I come up with a better way to explain this I’ll get back to you.

    – Toni


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    05 Feb 2015 at 10:32 am #6412

    efscerbo
    Member

    Hi Toni,

    I like that a lot. Especially the “show the true depth of a horrifying thing without actually showing the thing itself” part. That sounds along the lines of what I was getting at about McCarthy making a metaphysical point with the ending. However, I still must point out that earlier we do see scenes of violence against children: The Delaware and the infants is the most explicit, but I don’t think there’s any real reading between the lines necessary regarding the tree of dead babies or the judge and the Apache boy. And that in turn makes me wonder about omitting that final scene (assuming it is, in fact, the little organ-grinder girl in there).

    Regardless, I see more what you’re saying now, and I don’t disagree. But I don’t really know what I think about it yet, so I’ll just file this under “food for thought” for the time being.

    Thanks,
    Ed


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    05 Feb 2015 at 10:55 am #6414

    Mackenna
    Member

    There’s a marvellously apposite Ingmar Bergman quotation to what you’re saying here, Toni, but I can’t for the life of me seem to find it. Annoying.


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    05 Feb 2015 at 11:56 am #6415

    1850
    Member

    Ed,

    This is the passage I was referring to (chapter 15). Yes, it is the same chapter as the burning bush scene, but this is specific to the stable scene (nativity reference?). I might be wrong, but this is one of the only, if not rare instances where there appears to be direct supernatural going ons.

    Also, while I respect everyone needs to read the ending the way they feel is right, I still feel the need to point out that if the books ends with simply more blood spilt the kid), it renders the book nothing more that a tactical victory of great writing. What do we get out of the book other than that? Nothing. BUT, if we go with the “fight club” sort of ending, then the books suddenly rises to a whole new level, a strategic victory. It becomes a great book with a timeless message. I honestly feel the book deserves that ending, where it’s a man losing a lifelong battle against evil/pure violence. It’s the ultimate tragedy. Man fights against a violent/evil nature, but is eventually ground down and becomes part of it all.

    If the book ends with the “man” dead in the jakes, the book is anticlimactic. If the man does the unspeakable evil to the child, then whoah, that should blow the reader’s mind on what was exactly going on throughout the whole book. I unable to read it any other way. I am quite certain if you search “the man” in the book, every single result will be a referral directly to our older “kid”–except for one time, where “the man” is next a jake, walking away from a terrible crime, where the our supposed other “man” was grabbed by the judge and his “terrible and immense flesh”. I don’t know, I really can’t read that in any other way but a metaphor for sexual assault of the child by the man (giving in to his demons/judge). There is no other kid but our kid, and there isn’t any other man but our man. Unless you take it literally that our man was killed, and another man showed up out of nowhere.

    At any rate, Ed has done a wonderful job of explaining himself, and has only solidified my feelings on ending. I am printing it out and keeping it for my own files, bravo sir.


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    05 Feb 2015 at 12:02 pm #6419

    1850
    Member

    Oh wait, never mind about the stable scene. The light comes from fire they are standing around. I’m an idiot, haha.

    I still stand by my interpretation of the ending though.


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    05 Feb 2015 at 1:57 pm #6421

    efscerbo
    Member

    Hi 1850,

    Sorry, perhaps I was a bit unclear: I wasn’t mentioning the burning tree because I thought that was the scene you were talking about. It was more that, the burning tree scene is (in my reading) a manifestation of God as fire. And then at the end of that same chapter is another spooky, supernatural-seeming manifestation of fire. Except this time it comes from *within* the men. And I was just pointing out that perhaps those two scenes are related.

    In fact, I think that many times throughout the novel, when fire is mentioned we are meant to realize it’s McCarthy’s conception of God (whatever that is). I’m particularly thinking of scenes like “The godfire”, where we are told that “each fire is all fires, the first fire and the last ever to be”, as well as scenes such as where the idiot is “yearn[ing] for the flames”. There’s also how the narrator keeps very careful note of whose eyes reflect the firelight when the gang are in camp and whose eyes remain “empty slots”.

    (However, I’ve outlined elsewhere (http://www.cormacmccarthy.com/topic/the-subjunctive-mood-and-fate/) that this is problematic, in that fire is often destructive in McCarthy. In particular, note how it’s used in Child of God. And the first chapter of BM has the kid and Toadvine burning down the hotel (after which the judge calls the kid “Blasarius”). And importantly, at the end of the Tarot scene we are told how the judge “stepped through the fire and the flames delivered him up as if he were in some way native to their element.” Whoa, Nellie, that doesn’t sound good. And I’ve honestly not yet found a way to understand that that I’m comfortable with.)

    Also, I think you were right the first time about the stable scene. Just before they start to get undressed, they are left in “profound and absolute darkness”. But the fire/sparks that come from them as they “divest themselves” may in fact be static electricity. So I wouldn’t say this scene is supernatural per se. However, I do agree wholeheartedly that that is the tone of the scene. That is, this scene strikes me as McCarthy trying to say something without coming right out and saying it (much like how the judge “seemed little changed or none in all these years” at the end). I think he wants to hint that these men still have some quantum of “godfire” in them, but doesn’t want to just tell us.

    Finally, I should point out: “The man” is used *many* times in the book to refer to people who are not the kid/man. (Praise be to Kindle for this fact.) In the final chapter, though, the man who shoots the bear is called “the man”, twice. And “That man hatless” is also called “the man”: “The man was indeed muttering to himself[…]” But I don’t think there’s any chance of confusing those with the kid/man. And no one else besides the kid/man and “the man who was relieving himself” is called “the man” by the narrator in that chapter.

    Thanks again for commenting and for the kind words. Much obliged.

    Ed


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    05 Feb 2015 at 2:59 pm #6422

    Toni
    Member

    Ed,

    Glad to hear you can follow my thinking.

    I agree, McCarthy seems to be making a metaphysical point.

    By the way, looking forward to hearing more of your thoughts
    on the “witness ankle” you talked about earlier.

    Perhaps it’s time you began writing your own book on BM?
    I mean it’s already happening here online. . .
    Having read most of your posts here, I’d say you have all
    the ingredients for a book, and then some; something like
    “Call me Ishmael”, the Charles Olson book on Moby-Dick.

    You have a lot of fascinating ideas and things to point out
    on so many levels. You’ve certainly widened my perspective
    on BM, greatly. Keep at it.

    – Toni


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