By Chet Yarbrough
By Cormac McCarthy
Narrated by: Richard Poe
Blood Meridian paints a picture of the southwestern plains when Americans fought Mexicans for territory, scalped Indians for reward, and labeled human’ slavery and slaughter as a principle of American’ expansion. Cormac McCarthy writes an American story of the 1830s to 1850s. His two main characters exemplify darkness in humankind. “The kid” is a dirt poor runaway from an abusive family that eventually joins a band of scalp hunters. The soul of the gang is a man named Judge Holden; most often referred to as the Judge.
In one sense, the Judge is a nihilist. He has no loyalties and has, as a primary instinct, an impulse to destroy. However, unlike a nihilist, he seems to believe in something. He believes in eternal war.
He believes in man against everyone and everything, other than himself. The Judge brilliantly understands everything he sees and hears. He speaks many languages. He can speak as a lawyer, judge, executioner, historian, biologist, botanist, archaeologist, or psychiatrist. However, the Judge denies existence of anything he cannot control or write down in his book of life. To the Judge, what he cannot understand does not exist.
The kid comes into conflict with the Judge because he grows to see life differently. The kid is not characterized as brilliant, like the Judge, but as an outlier, a free-thinker. Freedom is anathema to the Judge’s view of life. Like birds that can fly, the kid is something the Judge cannot control.
Blood Meridian is a disturbing view of human nature. The kid participates in the carnage of the scalpers; not because he believes in the Judge’s view of the world but because he is free to do what he wants. The Judge believes the meaning of life is in war. The kid believes the meaning of life is in freedom; both beliefs result in human’ slaughter.
One is left with a question when finished with McCarthy’s tale. Is Blood Meridian a judgment of the times or of humankind?