Dear Ms. Westfall,
Last night I finished Blood Meridian and I honestly have no idea what happened and the only thing I know for certain is that it is acceptable to kill everyone and everything and spitting can be regarded as an answer to a question. Many parts of the book were, for me, difficult to understand because their philosophy or perhaps reasoning and his style of writing went over my head (I also don’t have a very large knowledge of the Bible), but the ending really just blew my mind and I can only come up with possible theories as to what happen. I suppose we’ll never really know though and this is just one of those books that we are really supposed to formulate our own opinions as to what happened. Unfortunately, I didn’t grasp many of the messages that were supposed to be sent during those long convoluted passages and arguments with the judge. There were several times when the dialogue had underlying meanings that the characters understood but that I completely missing and I also had a hard time understanding their train of thoughts and their motives. I don’t know if that’s my fault as the reader or if that confusion was intentional (which very well could be the case because the point of view is so ambiguous and switches so much).
One of the main keys to the whole book is really the judge, but what exactly the judge is or what he stands for is really unknown to me. What I can conclude is that he is the embodiment of the violence of man. Perhaps he’s “war” like one of the riders of the apocalypse, an angel of war, an angel of death, or maybe he is the devil. However if he is all of these things then why is he so calculating, educated, cool, calm, and collected, and why is he called “the judge”? He’s making judgments on some things? The only thing that was clear to me was that he was trying to, in a way, take the kid. He wanted the kid on his side and he battled the priest on this. At the end when he sees the kid for the last time he says that the kid was a “disappointment” and I think this is because the kid sided with the priest rather than the judge. I also wonder as to why he’s always naked, why he’s hairless, and why he can do magic. I feel like those are all also important aspects of his character that can give us hints as to what his purpose is, but I’m not really sure where they’re leading us. I think a lot of the passages where I got confused also involved the judge and maybe it’s because we saw those things from the point of view of the other riders who also didn’t really know what was going on, because we can get insight on some things but not on the judge and his actions.
One other thing I think about the judge is that he’s managed to do to Glanton what he wants to do to the kid. He’s sort of using Glanton as a puppet of war and destruction. Glandton never really does anything without consulting the judge first and the judge speaks for the group a number of times when Glanton is really the “leader”. The judge is behind the scenes running things and the judge is letting Glanton take all of the credit for all of this destruction. We’re shown several times that the judge orchestrates certain things then puts the blame or credit off on someone else so that no one really knows the judge was ever there. The judge sort of uses the imbecile as well but I’m not sure what purpose he serves.
The judge’s enemy seems to be the priest who the kid does eventually side with. Throughout the book we get a few instances of the priest warning the kid not to do certain things whether they involve the judge or not and I think the priest is the foil to the judge. So perhaps it’s a sort of thing where the judge and the priest are the little figures on the kid’s shoulders that we see in cartoons trying to influence him. However Tobin is an “expriest” not a real priest so he doesn’t seem to have the power to completely be the light of an angel or anything like that. It was never really clear to me why the expriest says for the kids not to do things like helping the man set his arm or helping the judge kill the horse but now I think Tobin just wanted to keep the kid away from violence, but I could still be wrong. Tobin also adds to the large theme of religion and guidance by religion, but as I said I don’t know much about the Christian faith besides the basics. It also didn’t make sense to be because these are literally the most unholy men you could ever think of, so why are they so worried about religion? I’m not really sure what part religion plays, but I know it’s got to do with the outcome of the kid and other things that I can’t really name.
Finally there’s the kid. Of course he’s still a very ambiguous character but we do get more insight on his character later on in the book. I wouldn’t say that he has a “soft side” per say, because he will do what he needs to do to stay alive, but he doesn’t ever inflict violence on others unless it’s absolutely necessary. We see it when he doesn’t kill the man in the desert with the broken hip or when he stays with Shelby when Shelby’s horse is hurt. However we see time and time again that the kid is really one of those characters that has an enormous will to live. We see literally everyone he comes into contact with die pretty quickly and these are clearly hard places and times to live in because not only will the environment and diseases kill you, but people are killing other people left and right. I think this is really important to the ending, because I don’t think the kid died at the ending—it’s hard to kill the kid. Also if the judge would have killed the kid, why would he be naked, and why wasn’t the death described. Every single other gruesome death was described in excruciating detail but we only get the reactions of the men who see what happened. Therefore in my mind one of two things could have happened. Either the judge is some sort of vampire that sucks the life out of people or he violated the kid in some other way either sexually or otherwise. I did think it was interesting that the kid only ran into the judge after he murdered a child, something that the judge had done a few times earlier in the book.
As far as lenses go I think this book is very Jungian but you can probably also play with the gender role a little bit. For Jungian this book follows a good structure of dragon battles, but the hero cycle of the kid is debatable. I think the fact that he didn’t side with the judge means he completed it but I could be wrong (I just like the kid so I’d like to think he’s a hero). There’s also a lot of religion and universal themes of survival and good vs. evil.
For gender you could mention that there was almost no women in the story other than the women who were raped and pillaged continually and the women who bathed the imbecile. I feel like they’re kind of important but I don’t know why. I think though that maybe there were no women in the story because maybe women aren’t influenced and affected by violence like men are. There’s also that potential homosexuality at the end.
You could also get a little Freudian with the fact that the kid had no mother and an abusive father and a little socioeconomic with the killing of others for money and almost constant poverty.
Even though I probably didn’t really understand the book I really enjoyed it. I also hear that a movie for this book is in the works and I’m interested to see how that’s going to turn out.
The honors program at McGehee is really unique and I personally believe very successful. I think it’s really important that we get to pick our own books because we get to pick books that suit our own personalities and if we pick a bad book we’ve got no one to blame but ourselves. If you pick useful and good books (which you really have to because of the supervision of the teachers) then you will be very will off in the years to come because you’ll learn from those books and you’ll develop good habits. I mean I mad a 4 on the AP English exam with no real “AP course” and by just being in the honors program for so long. I’ve also always go to have a book because now it’s just sort of something I always do.
McCarthy, Cormac. Blood Meridian, Or, The Evening Redness in the West. New York: Vintage, 1992. Print.