Study Guide

Blood Meridian Chapter 1

By Cormac McCarthy

Chapter 1

  • Meet "the child." Apparently, he's pale and thin and lives in a horrible home back in the early nineteenth century (1845-ish) in the United States. His mom's dead and his dad's an abusive drunk.
  • At fourteen, the kid decides to run away from home. He bounces around America for a while and ends up in St. Louis after a year. He gets into all kinds of scraps and one night, a dude shoots him in the back with a pistol. But the child lives through all of it.
  • One day, the kid (he's called "the kid" now) goes into a tent where a guy named Reverend Green is preaching. While the reverend goes on about death and hell, a huge man (seven feet tall) comes into the tent and starts making serious accusations about the reverend. The huge man (who people call "the judge") claims the reverend is a fraud with no credentials and—worse yet—a rap sheet that includes sexually assaulting a goat. The townspeople crowd around the reverend feeling thirsty for his blood while the kid ducks out of the tent.
  • The kid and a new buddy go into a bar later on, and they find the judge hanging out there. The judge buys the kid a drink while other people gather and ask how the judge knew so much about the phony reverend. The judge laughs and says he's never seen or heard of Reverend Green in his life, which means he basically just got the guy beaten up and run out of town for the sheer fun of it. Everybody laughs at the joke because hey, the Wild West is a brutal place.
  • Eventually, the kid meets a guy named Toadvine. He runs into Toadvine while Toadvine is walking away from an outhouse. They're both walking the same path and neither wants to move. So like any civilized people, they get into a knife-fight over it. The two seem evenly matched before someone with a big club comes and smashes the kid over the back of the head, knocking him out.
  • The kid wakes up later with Toadvine standing over him. After making sure his neck isn't broken, he gets up and retrieves his boots.
  • Toadvine invites the kid to wander around with him. They head to a hotel where Toadvine goes to the room of some guy named Sydney who apparently owes him money. They light a fire under the man's door and when he comes running out, Toadvine and the kid beat him up. The kid doesn't ask any questions.
  • When they're done beating on the guy, they turn and walk away. Meanwhile, the fire they lit under the guy's door has spread and is now burning the whole floor of the hotel. Toadvine runs through the streets, laughing like a crazy man while the kid follows quietly.
  • The kid gets his horse and rides out of town, exchanging one last look with the judge as he goes. The judge smiles at him.
  • Creepy, ain't it?