Study Guide

Blood Meridian Family

By Cormac McCarthy


"His folk are known hewers of wood and drawers of water but in truth his father has been a schoolmaster" (1.1).

This is one of the only mentions of the kid's father that this book ever gives us. You'd think that a trained schoolmaster would be a more upright and responsible guy, but it doesn't sound like it.

"He lies in drink, he quotes from poets whose names are now lost. The boy crouches by the fire and watches him" (1.1).

In his younger years, all the kid can do is crouch and watch his father drink his life away. No wonder the kid decides to get up and run away for adventure. Sure, the world awaiting him is awful, but so is the world at home. Can't this kid just get a break?

"The mother dead these fourteen years did incubate in her own bosom the creature who would carry her off" (1.3).

It looks like the kid's mother died while she was giving birth to him (the kid). As you can imagine, this probably affected the kid's relationship to his father in a horrible way, especially since the father will never say the mother's name to the kid.

"The father never speaks her name, the child does not know it" (1.3).

Not once in his entire life has the kid heard his father say his mother's name. The father probably blames the kid for her death, since she died while giving birth to him (the kid).

"He has a sister in the world that he will not see again" (1.3).

This is the only mention we get of anyone in the kid's family other than his father. And as the novel reminds us, this sister might as well not exist because the kid will never see her again once he runs away from home. This is something he has already accepted.

"All history present in that visage, the child the father of the man" (1.3).

Cormac McCarthy has a clever way of arguing that a child can be the father of a man. When you think about it, the kid character is a child before he grows up into a man. That means the child came first, which makes him the "father" of the man.

"At fourteen he runs away. He will not see again the freezing kitchenhouse in the predawn dark" (1.4).

The kid decides to run away from home at fourteen, and based on the description of the freezing kitchen, it doesn't sound like he's running away from much.

"[Glanton] rode out alone on the desert and sat the horse and he and the horse and the dog looked out across the rolling scrubland and the barren peppercorn hills and the mountains and the flat brush country and running plain beyond where four hundred miles to the east were the wife and child that he would not see again" (13.14).

This passage almost makes it sound as if there's some part of Glanton that misses his wife and children. It's hard to tell whether this is just a detail the narrator's adding or something Glanton feels deeply sad about.

"He seemed not to be aware that his brother was dead inside the church" (16.12).

Later in the book, Glanton and his men come across two old brothers who've gone crazy from living in the desert. Glanton's men kill one of the brothers and leave the other one alive. These brothers have no one but each other in the whole world, so it's hard to imagine how cruel it is to kill one and leave the other alive.

"Don't you know I'd have loved you like a son?" (22.18).

The judge insists that he could have loved the kid like a son had the kid not disappointed him so much. The judge has always been unsatisfied with how weak and compassionate the kid is in a world where these qualities aren't acceptable. We're just thinking, "Jeez dude, cut the kid some slack and worry about your own problems."

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