The Road, Outer Dark and the Civil War

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  • 23 Oct 2015 at 10:59 pm #7817

    Glass
    Member

    I’ve begun what I hope becomes an extensive study of the Civil War. I am currently reading The Beleaguered City (The Vicksburg Campaign) by Shelby Foote.

    Without getting into any specific connections to McCarthy for the moment, although I believe I may have already spotted a few, I am curious whether anyone else gets the feeling while reading Civil War material that McCarthy may have had that war in mind at all while working on his Southern novels, specifically Outer Dark and The Road?

    Something about the movements of people (troops in the case of the Civil War), across a sometimes scorched and at times ruined Southern landscape with food in short supply, puts me in mind of OD and TR. I can’t quite articulate it more clearly right now so that’s all I have to start with.

    Thoughts about McCarthy and Civil War resonances in his work?

    (For what it’s worth, I started thinking about this possibility a few weeks ago while driving into Memphis, Tenn., from the northwest coming out of the hills of Missouri and Arkansas down into the striking flatness of the Mississippi River valley. I thought of the kid’s trek through this area quite a bit at first but my thoughts turned to the man and the boy making their way to the sea in The Road as well as Rinthy’s and Culla’s wanderings in OD, along with thoughts about the Civil War and troops moving through this area in the long ago. I love how McCarthy can do that to me!)


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    24 Oct 2015 at 7:25 am #7818

    Richard L.
    Member

    The violence and mindlessness of war is universal, especially for conscripts. The kid isn’t exactly a conscript, but he was euchred into it by force, just like a lot of us Viet Nam era veterans.

    Some of the modern Civil War novelists seem to have read McCarthy, so I see a reverse influence, especially in Alden R. Carter’s BRIGHT STARRY BANNER, which is based on the documented history of Stone River, but adds McCarthyesque touches.

    Some of the Civil War writers made the South too damn romantic, and unfortunately, Shelby Foote, whom I otherwise enjoy, was one of these. There is an “invented” southern history of the war and their “love of their negroes” that you find in Faulkner’s THE VANQUISHED and others who copied him.

    Robert Penn Warren was also one of these initially but came to a realization of the truth of the matter eventually. In the North, you could speak your mind, even in favor of slavery or against the war. But in the South, there was no free speech. They jailed or lynched anyone who spoke out against the war or in favor of abolition.

    The South claimed that they favored majority rule for each state, yet Kentucky and Maryland had majorities who rejected secession, yet still the Southern government claimed them. This shows, as General Grant has it in his memoirs, that the Slave Power minority actually ran things, since most men in the South were not slave holders.

    This is a southerner speaking who had ancestors on both sides.


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    24 Oct 2015 at 11:11 am #7819

    Candy Minx
    Member

    I had similar thoughts driving into Memphis about the boy and the man walking….and the area and the civil war. And I always think about music on the drive anywhere near the Mississippi. The music traveling between Chicago and Memphis is so fascinating.

    How interesting to think of Civil War in association with Outer Dark. I’ve always thought, I suppose simplistically, that the novel features class war and a viable economic response to resource scarcity is incest. Keeping money in the family, like Egyptians. I’ve never really had the moralistic distaste a lot of readers have from the incest in the novel. I always took it in an anthropological approach.

    What a great observation about the difference in freedom of speech in the south and the north. What would be some financial advantages or disadvantages to the mutual locations for their attitude towards voicing such opinions? I am guessing that the dissension and resistance to the north was perceived as being more financially beneficial. With the Civil War costing the federal government over a billion dollars (isn’t that a crazy sum!>) I suspect that robber barons and profitteers must have had a great income in the southern states to put pressure and social taboos on not speaking freely. A great deal could be lost if freedom of speech and sharing emotions, sympathies would allowed to spread easily and in the open.

    And this is sort of a different and weird tangent….but has to do with driving…and war. I’ve noticed more and ore in the last 7-8 years bumper stickers that qualify a veterans history. I’ve seen a lot of bumper stickers that say things along the lines of “combat veteran” “vietnam combat veteran” “iraqistan combat veteran”.

    So interesting. I love to analyze the vehicles they are driving too. Super cool stuff.

    Peter you might find this interesting….ever notice how veterinarian and veteran are so similar? One theory (Margeret Visser) is that they are related because of “beast of burden”. Where veteran was an empowering word for old or aged…and now people are so agist. But veteran was used because someone with years had years of experience and was able to carry a burden…they were a beast of burden. And this might be related to husbandry as burden is related to “borne, to bear”…there is a musical aspect too…to leadership. I’m not sure how that musical usage might relate except for the carrying the weight of a duty/mission and being first in. Drone is related too. And war comes from “to confuse, to mix up”. With an art history approach to Outer Dark the idea of incest, Culla performing husbandry in delivering baby, an ida of war (is it Civil War? is it WW!? class war? Gender war?). Wallis Sunburn describes the encounter Culla has with a horse in combative, war language “pistol fire””exploding” “concusses”. How does this contrast to the idea of Culla’s husbandry?


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    25 Oct 2015 at 12:48 pm #7826

    Glass
    Member

    Richard, thank you for the great comment. I like that you mentioned the reverse influence of McCarthy. Very interesting. Came across the word “scalawag” earlier today and thought about your comment on permissible speech in the old slave South, fwiw.

    Candy, I do find it interesting that veteran and veterinarian are similar, though I never noticed that. Funny thing you bring that up, as I was looking into morphology, as I think you know, and one of the interesting things I came across in linguistic morphology was an analysis of the word “carpet” and how its components “car” and “pet” are obviously quite dissimilar. Kind of cool stuff. I think a morphological approach might be an interesting way in which to read McCarthy. Oh, and Sanborn is always interesting and insightful.

    I’m wondering if Shelby Foote may have directly influenced McCarthy, especially in landscape descriptions and also by Foote’s observations on guns and violence. Definitely see some suggestiveness of this in the phrasing and word choices. But then there’s the infinite regress you get into with these sorts of things insofar as who influenced Foote, etc. Hard sayin, not knowin.


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    • This reply was modified 1 year, 11 months ago by  Glass.
    31 Oct 2015 at 3:13 pm #7850

    Candy Minx
    Member

    You’re on trend Peter, Tarrantino has a post-Civil War movie coming out…

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gnRbXn4-Yis


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