A Gruesome Tale of the Brutality and Ugliness of Man

9 March 2012 in Reviews


I have read several Cormac McCarthy books in the past, most recognizable because of the movie is The Road. But others include All the Pretty Horses (also a movie, but a terrible adaptation starring Matt Damon), The Crossing, and Cities of the Plain. These books all blend poetic descriptions of the baron lands to the south in the US, but usually more so in Mexico with torrid tales of isolation, survival, and love. They also often contain sporadic insertions of rich and meaningful dialog that arises unexpectedly between otherwise stoic characters. These insertions keep me reading his books more than anything, but this is not to say the over arcing stories are not beautifully crafted and well written.

In the latest book I just finished, Blood Meridian, there is a dark departure from what I’ve come to expect from McCarthy. While his books can be dark and bleak at times even The Road was a ray of sunshine compared to this book. It is based loosely on the historical events of America’s westward expansion, specifically around the Texas and Mexico border. The main character is a fourteen year old boy who stumbles into the ultra violent world of a troop of Indian hunters. This world is shockingly graphic and grotesque. The acts portrayed by all parties are savage and barbaric to say the least, but are made all the more hideous by the fact that events like this did happen. While initially the troop rides out on a self-decided “honorable” mission and descriptions of the Indians dress, manner and actions support this, the troop soon finds itself dressed just as poorly, caring itself just as wickedly and acting some would argue worse than the Indians.

This book was hard to read at times. The depravity and sadistic cruelty was almost to much to bear. But it all leads to some interesting questions of man’s natural tendencies towards war and of the frailty and convenience of our morals. While I can’t whole heartedly agree with our tendency towards war being natural, the proposition of the fleeting propensity of our morality is an interesting exploration. What morals do we honestly hold so true that we would die for them? For example I might be a vegetarian, but should some circumstance apply its weight on me and force me to choose between my life and an animals I’ll certainly choose my own. Going many steps further into the ultimate moral of many the act of murder, if it were “us” or “them” most would choose to save their own skin or that of their kin even if it meant abandoning what most hold as one of the highest moral truths.

Once we realize these weaknesses in others we would also do well to see them in ourselves. There is little limit to what a human can be driven to do and our high moral grounds might be crumbling mounds of dirt only held together by a frail clay of convenience, luck, and circumstance.

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9 March 2012 Reviews

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