Study Guide

Blood Meridian Man and the Natural World

By Cormac McCarthy

Man and the Natural World

"[The bat] crafted in his neck two narrow grooves and folding its wings over him it began to drink his blood" (5.126).

Just when Sproule looks like he's on his last nerve, a vampire bat comes out of nowhere and bites his neck. It's almost as if nature is trying its best to kill the dude. Or at least turn him into a vampire.

"The cat simply disappeared. There was no blood or cry, it just vanished" (7.4).

Yes, an explosion of blood and guts is violent. But there's something eerie about the fact that Glanton's bullet makes a cat disappear. It's almost as if the animal means nothing and has no right to exist in a book this violent. McCarthy must not have been much of a cat person.

"A small mottled stallion belonging to one of the Delawares came out of the remuda and struck at the thing twice and then turned and buried its teeth in its neck" (9.36).

Even the horses in this book are mean to each other. Sheesh, is there any living thing in this book that doesn't want to hurt other living things?

"[God] speaks in stones and trees, the bones of things" (9.50).

The judge doesn't buy the Biblical idea that the world is only a few thousand years old. He's convinced that the world is millions of years old, which is something the fossil record supports. What's interesting is that despite this scientific attitude, he still suggests there's a God.

"The bear had carried off their kinsman like some fabled storybook beast and the land had swallowed them up beyond all ransom or reprieve" (11.3).

Don't worry, it's not just humans who look brutal and terrible in this book. There are also horses that bite other horses and bears that eat people the first chance they get. In case you didn't get it earlier, McCarthy paints a brutal picture of ALL things.

"In the days to come they would ride up through a country where the rocks would cook the flesh from your hand and where other than rocks nothing was" (11.6).

We've mentioned how the animals in Blood Meridian are just as vicious as the humans, but in this scene, it sounds like even the rocks are violent in the way they reflect the sun and heat up so much they'll burn your flesh. What's a person got to do to find an oasis in all of this horrible scenery? In McCarthy's world, the oasis would probably be full of piranhas anyway…

"The man as they rode turned black in the sun from the blood on their clothes and their faces and then paled slowly in the rising dust until they assumed once more the color of the land through which they passed" (12.53).

The more blood Glanton's men get on their clothes, the more they blend in with the Southwestern landscape of this novel. It's as though their connection to violence gives them a more intimate relationship with the desert they're always riding through.

"[They] rode infatuate and half fond toward the red demise of that day, toward the evening lands and the distant pandemonium of the sun" (13.68).

When you see words like "demise" and "pandemonium" used to describe a landscape, you can bet your last dollar that McCarthy is making a symbolic point. In this case, the landscape reflects the death and madness that's always hanging over Glanton's band of bloodthirsty men. Maybe they could use a change of scenery…

"Only nature can enslave man and only when the existence of each last entity is routed out and made to stand naked before him will he be properly suzerain of the earth" (14.62).

The judge is convinced that as long as there are things in nature that men don't know about, nature will always have the upper hand. That's why he spends so much time writing in his ledger and trying to learn as much about nature as he can.

"They're gone. Ever one of them that God ever made is gone as if they'd never been at all" (23.3).

Toward the end of this book, the kid has a conversation with an old buffalo hunter who's sad that all the buffalo in North America have been wiped out by hunters. In fact, half of the buffalo he's seen killed died for no reason other than the fact that the hunters were bored. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how species begin to go extinct.

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