Study Guide

Blood Meridian Madness

By Cormac McCarthy


"Solitary, half mad, his eyes redrimmed as if locked in cages with hot wires" (2.4).

When the kid spends a night with an old hermit, he can tell that years of isolation in the desert have made the old man half-crazy. After all, how could you expect someone to stay sane alone in the desert, with all that sun and dust and general sense of lawlessness?

"Toadvine was running down the street, waving his fists above his head crazily and laughing" (1.114).

It's pretty clear that many of the men in this book have a true love for destroying stuff. In this scene, Toadvine burns down a hotel and runs through the streets laughing like a crazy person. The kid looks at all of this and thinks, "Yeah, this is a dude I want to hang out with." Talk about love at first sight.

"Sproule was clawing at his neck and he was gibbering hysterically and when he saw the kid standing there looking down at him he held out to him his bloodied hands as if in accusation and then clapped them to his ears and cried out what it seemed he himself would not hear" (5.128).

Sproule has been through enough punishment to drive anyone mad. After an attack by some Apaches, he's been left with a severely infected arm out in the middle of the desert (and this is long before the days of effective and easily accessible antibiotics). And if that weren't bad enough, a vampire bat attacks him while he's sleeping, which sounds like a one-way ticket to a rabies infection. It seems as though the whole world is against the guy, and he can't take it anymore.

"The old man's full [Bathcat] said. Or mad" (8.26).

You mad, bro? Bathcat has no time for the old Mexican man who tries to talk to him about killing Apaches. He tells his buddies not to listen to the old man because he's mad. It's pretty funny, though, that a group of bloodthirsty murderers like them are calling other people mad.

"He looked at them. They were foul and ragged and half crazed" (9.35).

You ride around in the desert long enough and you're going to run into some people who've been so badly beaten down by the sun and by constant attacks from Apaches, Americans, and Mexicans that there's really nothing left in them. Some people like to think they're hard and tough, but in the end, no one is invincible. Maybe they should have brought some sunscreen.

"In the afternoon he lay bound to his bed like a madman while the judge sat with him and cooled his brow with rags of water and spoke to him in a low voice" (14.17).

At one point, Glanton falls into a fever and goes half crazy with sickness. This is a big break from the normal cold, silent face that he shows to the world. Who knows? Maybe all those years of murdering are getting to him.

"The brother had his wits stole in this place and the man now before them in his hides and his peculiar bootees was not altogether sane" (16.12).

The kid and Glanton's crew come across two old brothers who've lived alone together in the desert for years. Like many people, they've lost most of their sanity by living out in the sandy wastelands. We also think it's kind of cute that McCarthy chose to use the word "bootees" to describe their shoes—that word makes us think of babies.

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

It takes a lot of energy for Glanton and his men to ride around and kill people all day. That's why they like to sit back and cut loose whenever they can, getting drunk and running around like crazy people.

"The judge smiled, he tapped his temple. The priest, he said. The priest has been too long in the sun" (20.88).

When Tobin warns the kid against trusting the judge, the judge implies that Tobin has gone crazy from being in the desert too long. The idea of the sun and sand driving someone crazy is a pretty old one, and the judge is happy to use it to his advantage.

"In his cell he began to speak with a strange urgency of things few men have seen in a lifetime and his jailers said that his mind had come uncottered by the acts of blood in which he had participated" (22.2).

The kid finally snaps at the end of the book, when he's thrown into a jail cell and forced to sit and think about his life and what he's done. His jailers know what he's been up to, and they assume that his life of violence has finally taken its toll on his sanity.

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