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03 Oct 2014 at 8:36 pm #5982
Edit So it turns out I was incredibly drunk last night when I wrote this. Take it all with a grain of salt 😀
Reckon Ill chime in response to the original post, forgive me if Im saying anything already said ere now.
Firstly its well known that there are limits to the judge’s knowledge exemplified by his questioning of Robert Bell,
Do I understand you correctly, said the Judge that the idiot is your brother?
his ignorance of the kid’s name throughout the novel,
El hoven, whispered the juggler.
and thirdly his tacit, and very roundabout, admission of both the limits of his knowledge and his presence as it pertains to his ability to be in more than any one place at any one time,
Did you post witnesses? To report to you on the continuing existence of those places once you quit them?
After all things do not occur to him outside of his exigencies. Which arrives me to the hermit. I have a few competing theories as to his nature, though none need be mutually exclusive, not one of which could be a witness posted by the judge to report to him. Remember he is gone in the morning and perhaps he informed the judge of the kid’s fitful sleep. Perhaps an explanation of the Judge’s taunt to the hidden kid in the desert,
Perhaps, he called, perhaps youve seen this place in a dream. That you would die here.
Alternatively this scene can be interpreted as a form of self-divination, a meeting of the hermit’s mind and heart. Odd that the host who represents the former immediately recognizes the kid but the latter is at a loss. Their heart is their communal fire. After all the similarities between kid and hermit cannot be discounted as mere conincidence. As Sepich notes the four of cups indicates,
perfection, realization, completion, making a matter settled and fixed.
This is in fact four times told: First in the opening lines,
All history present in that visage, the child the father of the man.
Then in the church where he sees the four of cups torn from a journal page and posted to a wall and again in the company reading, the quatro de copas, then finally again in the coldforger dream,
and he saw his own name which nowhere else could he have ciphered out at all logged into the records as a thing already accomplished…
Taken together and were it not for the personal disparities between the two, it might well be believed that the hermit is in fact his future self, or most certainly a kindred self, now in the thrall of the judge, attempting to warn him. Which of course he fails in so doing. But unheeded warnings, or turning a deaf ear, as the judge charges, is a continuing theme in McCarthy’s bibliography.
All confessions take place in wildernesses. Remember the kid doesnt believe the hermit until he sees for himself, Fate entreats the old man to tell about the White Caps when secluded on a boat, a request which the old man initially refuses while Ab tells Suttree of a head in a shoebox while laid up in a cot in the back of a tavern in the slums of Knoxville and Black tells White his jail house story and White professes to Black his theology of darkness all behind a door with many locks and Bell says,
I always liked to hear about the old timers, never missed a chance to do so.
but if Ellis’ story, told no less in a condemned house in the desert overrun with cats, or one like it was somewhere in all of those chances then he must not have believed or never really listened and by then its too late for neither can the man,
Construct for the child’s pleasure the world he’d lost without also constructing the loss as well.
and by then the boy is openly questioning the veracity of his papa’s stories and by then the world is gone.
05 Oct 2014 at 5:13 pm #5989
- This reply was modified 2 years, 5 months ago by Toejac.
Thanks for clarifying. I think I’m starting to get a sense of what you’re talking about. The Yeats quote is very interesting, especially in light of the title of NCFOM.
Agreed, the heart and the ears seem to me to be connected. I wonder if there’s any significance to the body parts involved. After all, right after the hermit shows the kid the heart, he says how a man “can know his heart, but he dont want to. Rightly so. Best not to look in there.” Strange commentary coming from a man who carries some other man’s heart with him. And I certainly don’t dislike your idea about the kid turning into the hermit, in a sense. It seems unnatural to me to think of the kid as “reformed” at the end, despite his carrying the bible and helping the “eldress in the rocks.” (I believe I’m in the minority with this view. But it seems more natural to me that these demonstrate the futility of him ever changing.)
05 Oct 2014 at 6:07 pm #5991
- This reply was modified 2 years, 5 months ago by efscerbo.
There are some interesting things in your post, but I must be honest I’m having trouble following them. It seems to me that your main points are:
1) The judge has various spatiotemporal and epistemological limitations, and
2) The kid and the hermit are versions of one another.
But I can’t pick out much from the details you included. On your first point, I definitely agree with you. IMO the judge is extremely powerful, definitely supernatural, but he is not omnipotent. However, I’m not sure that your examples really support that point. Just because the judge asks if the idiot is Cloyce Bell’s brother doesn’t mean he doesn’t know it. (That would be a dead giveaway, after all, both to the reader and to the characters in the book, that he’s supernatural. Just as Zeus would disguise himself as a beggar (which, incidentally, is alluded to in The Road), just as the Chistian God came as a man among men, I certainly imagine the judge needs to “play the part”.) Similarly with the judge not knowing the kid’s name. Especially in light of the other line you included,
“[The judge] peered down with his small and lashless pig’s eyes wherein this child… saw his own name which nowhere else could he have ciphered out at all logged into the records as a thing already accomplished”,
I certainly believe the judge knows the kid’s name. Else you need to take the kid’s dream as false/irrelevant, which I’m convinced it is not. And I’m not sure how the “Did you post witnesses?” line reveals the aforementioned limitations of the judge. That seems to be the judge mocking the man for his (the man’s) limitations.
I quite like the possibility that the hermit is a “witness posted by the judge”. And I really like how you connect the judge’s “perhaps you have seen this place in a dream” line with the kid’s dreaming in the hermit’s hut. To my knowledge, nowhere else in the book is it mentioned that the kid is dreaming. That’s a very interesting association.
Finally: How exactly does the hermit recognize the kid? And I truly don’t see how those four examples you listed in connection with the four of cups are related to the hermit being a version of the kid.
Pardon if the fault is mine. But there’s some really interesting stuff seemingly buried in there. If you get a moment and could elaborate a bit, I’d be quite interested.
06 Oct 2014 at 5:55 am #5998
I should add: All this talk about not knowing your mind or your heart is reminiscent of the reflections that arise in connection with the kid and the idiot later on in the novel. I discussed this this summer at http://www.cormacmccarthy.com/topic/the-idiotjames-robert/ and at http://www.cormacmccarthy.com/topic/the-end-of-bm-a-reading/ for anyone who’s interested.
09 Oct 2014 at 10:01 am #6005
Hey efscerbo sorry for the late and rather brief reply, Ive been busier than heck. And trust me its not you for missing a few points I imbibed I think a heroic dose of tequila in the writing of that post.
Basically though the import of the four of cups was support for my assertation that the hermit is the future kid, a sutree-antisuttree type deal. If the implication of the card is true then from the beginning of the novel he’s already complete and since BM tentatively takes place in the realm of the supernatural or at least has supernatural agents in it its isn’t out of the question that he could meet himself, aka the hermit.
And I didn’t notice that one line about the kid reading his name in the judge’s eyes in the coldforger dream, thanks for pointing that out. I might have to reconsider a few things.
ToejacQuote10 Oct 2014 at 3:37 am #6006
Hahaha, that’s great. Been a long time since I touched the stuff. Tequila is *not* my friend.
The idea of the kid turning into the hermit (in a sense) is very interesting. AStock alluded to something similar a few posts up. I never really considered that before, but I think it’s an interesting idea to play with.
Thanks for the clarification, Toejac,
10 Oct 2014 at 9:16 pm #6007
Lots of interesting commentary in this thread. I’d like to add a quick not about some intriguing deatails in this pasage that possibly suggest the hermit as a necromancer and that his interactions with the kid contain many elements of a necromancy ritual, which is divination by the evocation of the dead. I would further suggest that the Epilogue also perhaps contains several elements associated with necromancy, such as “bone-conjurers” and the fact McCarthy envisioned this scene taking place in a graveyard, an awesome tidbit I heard at a McCarthy conference a few years ago.
Ed, in his opening post, made note of the fire pit in the hermit hut in addition to the rotting flesh of the rabbit the hermit shares with the kid. According to Wiki, necromancy rites must be performed around a pit of fire during nocturnal hours…that the necromancer might also surround himself with morbid aspects of death (the slave’s black heart?) …and consume foods that symbolize lifelessness and decay (the rank rabbit meat?).
Ed also wrote about the hermit crawling into bed with the kid, a move I’ve always read as the hermit trying to possess the kid’s body and mind, an attempt to enter his dreams. The hermit probably fails because he hasn’t disabled the kid, while the judge succeeds in occupying the kid’s dream later in the book because the kid’s body has been properly disabled or immobilized. He is helpless, very much possessed in body, mind and spirit by the judge.
“Muttered” is a key word in the dream sequence in the hermit scene. I think it has a strong necromancy connotation. One nice example of this can be found in Isiah 8:19 — 8:19 — “And when they shall say unto you, seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and into wizards that peep, and that MUTTER: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living and the dead?” (KJV, my caps)
This idea of wizards and soothsayers using necromancy in order to divine the mind of God might also bear on the hermit’s question about knowing the mind and only having the mind to know it ad necroman
10 Oct 2014 at 9:35 pm #6008
My tablet won’t allow me to scroll down far enough to fix the last sentence in my post above, so what I was trying to say is that the sorcerers and practitioners of black magic would say that the mind is NOT the only thing we have to know our minds and the world but, instead, there are rituals like necromancy that allow us to know things we wouldn’t ordinarily be able to know.
As for the kid muttering while dreaming — “…and in his sleep he struggled and muttered like a dreaming dog” — and the resonance with necromancy, I like some of the commentary on Isiah 8:19 that can be read at the following link: http://biblehub.com/isaiah/8-19.htm
21 Oct 2014 at 12:11 pm #6016
Sorry for the delay in replying. I’ve been super busy with research lately.
Anyway: The idea of the necromancer is interesting, especially since other types of “mancers” show up in McCarthy: There’s the “spodomantic sage” in TOK, haruspices in COG, oneiromancy in just about every McCarthy book, just about every type of prophecy imaginable in BM (Tarot, dowsing, belomancy, phrenology, perhaps even geomancy, if you interpret Toadvine making the “six holes in the form of a star or a hexagon” (297) as him making the “carcer” geomantic figure, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geomantic_figures), inter alia. So a necromancer would fit right in here.
Next: You mention “the fact McCarthy envisioned this scene taking place in a graveyard”. Wait, what? Is that true? Or was that just speculation at that conference? Had the speaker corresponded with McCarthy?
The “enter his dreams” bit is particularly interesting. I was dancing around that idea in my initial post above: I initially viewed that scene as “rape-y”, but found it a bit incongruous that a) the kid is dreaming and b) the hermit runs away when the kid wakes up, almost as if whatever he’s trying to do he cannot do with the kid awake. I like that idea a lot. Thanks for clarifying the mess of thoughts in my head.
05 Nov 2014 at 8:11 pm #6042
- This reply was modified 2 years, 5 months ago by efscerbo.
Ed, I recall the speaker found a note in the Archives wherein McCarthy said he had envisioned the Epilogue in a graveyard setting. But I might be remembering the exact source. That made my day because I had alluded to that possibility at the conclusion of my paper earlier in the conference.
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