Study Guide

Blood Meridian Alcohol and Drugs

By Cormac McCarthy

Alcohol and Drugs

"There is no such joy in the tavern as upon the road thereto" (3.193).

An old Mennonite makes a clever observation when he says that a tavern can never live up to what people expect of it. It's not drinking that's pleasurable, he says, but the anticipation of drinking. In other words, alcohol can never provide what people are looking for, which is fulfillment and peace of mind.

"I think she'd have you beware the demon rum. Prudent counsel, don't you think?" (7.122).

A fortune teller tells John Jackson to be careful of rum. And guess what? Dude ends up getting shot with an arrow while he's drunk.

"Toadvine doled the coppers onto the bar and drained his cup and paid again. He gestured at the cups all three with a wag of his finger" (8.17).

Toadvine and his buddies don't know the meaning of rest. For them, the only thing they want to do when they're not fighting or murdering people is to drink.

"The first thing they asked for was whiskey and the next was tobacco" (9.36).

Whenever Glanton's crew meets people on the road, the first thing people are always looking for is whiskey. How else are they going to forget about their horrible lives for a few hours?

"Finally a man appeared and opened the gate. He was slightly drunk and he held the gate while the horsemen rode through one by one into the little flooded courtyard" (14.8).

It's pretty common to run into drunk people in the wild west. Even when random people open doors, they're usually drunk because that's just how people roll in the old west. Sure, it'll kill them eventually. But there aren't a whole lot of people who plan on making it to 50.

"By midnight there were fires in the street and dancing and drunkenness and the house rang" (14.88).

Whenever Glanton and his men get a chance to part, they tend to go all the way with it. They get totally drunk and end up trashing entire towns. And Ke$ha thought she went hard. These guys make your crazy night out seem as tame as a study date in the library.

"They were drunk on tiswin they'd brewed and there had been shooting in the night two nights running and an incessant clamor for whiskey" (16.49).

As if alcohol weren't dangerous enough on its own, it turns out that Glanton and his men like to fire their guns randomly when they get drunk, which sounds like pretty much the worst idea ever. And as you might expect, they occasionally hit an innocent bystander and kill them. Unfortunately, there's no police force strong enough to take on Glanton's gang. In fact, it seems like most of the time there's no police force at all.

"Glanton and his men were two days and nights in the streets crazed with liquor" (19.103).

Once again, Glanton and his men run amuck whenever they get drunk together. Their entire lives seem to exist in the steady rhythm of kill people/get drunk/kill people/get drunk.

"Whiskey it is. He set up a glass and uncorked a bottle and poured perhaps half a gill and took the coin" (23.126).

When the judge sees the kid for the first time in ten years, his first instinct is to order some shots of whiskey. Just like old times, eh?

"Then he took his hat off and placed it on the bar and took up the glass and drank it very deliberately and set the empty glass down again" (23.127).

Cormac McCarthy is a very deliberate writer and the judge is a deliberate character. That's why we always hear about every action he makes in specific detail. The specific detail, though, also suggests that no matter how much he drinks, the judge doesn't really get drunk. And that makes him dangerous.

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