Study Guide

Blood Meridian

Blood Meridian Introduction

Blood Meridian is probably the most violent book you'll ever read. 'Nuff said.

Seriously though. It's easy to say that Blood Meridian is one big mess of gore and fancy language that doesn't really go anywhere. But that would be ignoring the fact that McCarthy's book is really accurate in how it describes Mexico and the American Southwest in the mid-1800s. The fact is that this was one of the most brutal periods in American history, with Americans, Mexicans, and Aboriginal peoples all trying to kill each other and (in many cases) cutting off each other's scalps.

So yeah, if you think McCarthy is being too graphic in this book, take a look at American history from 1830 to 1860 and you'll see he's not exaggerating all that much.

After Blood Meridian was published in 1985, the famous critic Harold Bloom said that it was "the major esthetic achievement of any living American writer." How's that for praise?

There are several reasons people put Blood Meridian among the best American novels ever written. First, there's the book's incredible prose, which is packed with mind-blowing metaphors and descriptions. Second, there are McCarthy's memorable characters, especially the Kid, Glanton, and Judge Holden. Third, you have McCarthy's intimate sense of the Southwestern American landscape. You can just taste the dust in your mouth when you're reading this book. And who doesn't like the taste of dust, right?

Yes, the dense writing of Blood Meridian can be tough to stick with. But we promise you that you'll never read another book quite like this one. In the end, it's up to you to decide whether that's a good thing or a bad thing.

What is Blood Meridian About and Why Should I Care?

The Mexican-American War might not be the first thing you learn about in history class. Stuff like the Civil War and the American Revolution tend to get a lot more play these days. But it's important to know that the Mexican-American War is the reason why California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah are part of the U.S. today instead of Mexico. On top of that, it's important to realize just how nutty and violent these states were in the mid-1800s.

A lot of people tend to think of Native Americans when they think of "scalping" or the process of cutting off a person's scalp. But historical records show that white people tended to scalp native people just as much (or even more) than the other way around. That's because many places offered bounties for Aboriginal scalps, especially in Mexico and the area just North of it.

You see, back in those days, there wasn't exactly a giant fence separating the U.S. from Mexico. The boundaries were pretty fluid and there were all kinds of outlaws and mercenaries who roamed this area looking for quick cash.

So how does this answer the question, "Why Should I Care?" Well because this part of American history has had a huge impact on our current world, even though many people don't know a whole lot about it. So sit back, relax, and hold on to your scalps—it's about to be wild ride.

Blood Meridian Resources

Websites

Cormacmccarthy.com
The name says it all. This is a place for those who want to honor one of America's greatest writers.

Cormac McCarthy Official Website
Wondering about what McCarthy novel you'd like to read next? Well this site is right for you.

The Cormac McCarthy Journal
For the real hardcores…

Movie or TV Productions

Blood Meridian
It's in production and coming soon to a theatre near you. With James Franco slated to direct.

Articles and Interviews

McCarthy with the Paris Review
The man himself sits down with interviewer Bunny Truman to talk about everything from when he gets up in the morning to why he writes at all.

McCarthy with the New York Times
It's not every day McCarthy agrees to an interview. In this one, he talks about his fascination with poisonous snakes.

Hating Cormac McCarthy
If you don't like McCarthy, you're not alone. Here's an article from someone who thinks McCarthy is way too overrated.

Video

McCarthy and Oprah
Yup, that's right. In his first television interview ever, McCarthy sits down with Oprah Winfrey.

Blood Meridian Movie
Yes, it looks like a film version of Blood Meridian could be coming out. But all that's out there so far is a screen test created by James Franco.

Cormac McCarthy on Punctuation
In his interview with Oprah, McCarthy carves out some special time to talk about his attitude toward punctuation, or namely, his own lack of it.

Audio

The Judge on War
Want to hear the judge's thoughts on war and why it's great? Then check out this clip from Blood Meridian.

The Comanche Hordes
Yup, this is the scene where Captain White's militia gets totally owned by a group of Comanche warriors.

The Opening Pages
This is a great reading to listen to and really get yourself into the beginning of Blood Meridian.

Images

Super Creepy Statue of Judge Holden
Yup, the guy's plenty scary all right, and this image is consistent with the descriptions of him in the text.

Book Cover Illustration
Here's a particularly chilling cover illustration for Blood Meridian. As you can tell, it's not exactly a book you want to read before drifting off into sleep.

Another Creepy Drawing Inspired by Blood Meridian
Yup, the book has a way of inspiring people to make scary art.