Study Guide

Blood Meridian Chapter 20

By Cormac McCarthy

Chapter 20

  • We look in on the kid and Toadvine, who are trying their best to get away from the Yumas who attacked their people at the ferry crossing. The kid has already gotten an arrow in his leg.
  • One a ridge, the kid drops and shoots one of the Yumas, which buys him some time to run as the other Yumas gather around the injured one to help him.
  • The kid and Toadvine finally reach a well, where Tobin is already waiting. They realize that they might be the only three survivors of the Yuma raid.
  • When the Yumas show up, the kid takes out a few more of them with his pistol. His shooting is good enough to discourage them and force them to turn back. But they don't go away completely. They stay just out of gun range and keep following the kid and the others.
  • The next day, someone on a horse approaches the three Americans with someone at his side. It's the judge pulling the mentally challenged "wild man" along on a leash.
  • The first thing he does when he reaches the Americans is ask Toadvine how much money he wants for his hat. The judge's bald head is peeling badly in the sun. Toadvine says he won't sell his hat for any price, but the judge eventually makes him an offer he can't refuse. Next, the judge offers to share his meat with Tobin and the kid, but they won't go near him. Tobin is convinced that the judge is dangerous.
  • The kid eventually goes down to the judge to grab some water, but only after leaving his pistol with Tobin. They won't let the judge anywhere near their last gun.
  • Finally, the judge offers the kid five hundred dollars (an insane amount of money in 1850) for his pistol and bullets. At this point, Tobin orders the kid to shoot the judge. He says the kid will never get a better chance to finish the guy off. Tobin is convinced that the judge is death incarnate, and he might be right.
  • The kid and Tobin ride away, leaving the judge and Toadvine at the well. Toadvine doesn't go with them because he's wanted in California, which is exactly where they're heading. On their way out, they pass David Brown, who has escaped from prison and is riding toward the wells where the judge and Toadvine are. They tell Brown that everyone is dead except them and Toadvine and the judge. It's important to mention here that Brown is riding toward the judge with a rifleā€¦
  • The next day, the kid bathes himself in a little puddle when a rifle bullet grazes him. He drops to the ground and looks to see who's shooting. On a nearby mound, he sees the judge on top of a horse carrying Brown's rifle. We don't know how he got the thing, but there you have it. He seems pretty intent on killing the kid.
  • While the kid is hiding, he gets a clean shot at the judge. Tobin drops beside him and tells him to shoot the judge. But the kid just can't do it.
  • The judge starts talking, coaxing the kid to come out. But Tobin tells the kid to plug his ears and not listen to the judge. The judge's words are pure evil, he says, and they might lure the kid if he listens to them.
  • Tobin makes a cross out of two bones and waves it at the judge. But the judge just shoots him through the neck. As he's bleeding, Tobin tells the kid to shoot their horses. The only way the kid can beat the judge is if he takes away his (and the judge's) ability to get out of the desert. The kid eventually decides to shoot the horses and does.
  • When he gets back to Tobin, he hears the judge telling him to hand over his pistol. But he still can't see where the judge is, so he takes his chances and moves away. He and Tobin hide until dark. The judge keeps talking to them, but they don't respond. When it's evening, they get up and try to run away. But it's tough, since the kid has an arrow in his ankle and Tobin is shot through the neck.
  • They get away and head onto some rocks. When they look back over the desert, they can see the judge walking after them, dragging the "wild man" on his leash.

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