Study Guide

Blood Meridian Chapter 23

By Cormac McCarthy

Chapter 23

  • In his journeys, the kid meets up with an old buffalo herder who laments the fact that settlers have killed nearly every last buffalo in all of America. The herder falls asleep wondering if there are other worlds or if their terrible world is the only one there is.
  • While traveling across the desert, the kid comes across some children who ask him about where he's been and what he's done. One of the children thinks he's tough and has a big mouth on him. He keeps talking smack to the kid. The kid gets fed up and shoots the child dead.
  • The other children gather up the dead child and carry him away. The dead child's twelve year-old brother can only stare off into the distance, stunned at what's happened.
  • The kid reaches the next town and heads into a bar looking for whiskey. And who should show up all these years later but the judge. It's eerie, but the dude looks the exact same as he did when the kid last saw him ten years before. Maybe this dude really is the devil.
  • At the front of the bar is a girl with a dancing bear. Someone in the crowd gets drunk and shoots the bear dead, causing a commotion. But the judge doesn't blink. He just sits down next to the kid and talks about how they're the only survivors of Glanton's gang.
  • The judge gives the kid a speech about the secret order of the universe and how it's all one big dance of death. But the kid isn't really interested in listening. Finally, the judge moves away.
  • The kid heads upstairs with a prostitute. When he comes back down, the bar is getting ready for a big dance. The kid heads out to the outhouse outside, but when he opens the door, he finds the judge inside. The judge gives him a bear-hug and pulls him into the outhouse, latching the door behind them.
  • Some other drunk comes walking toward the outhouse, but another one warns him not to go inside. We don't know what the judge has done with the kid, but it doesn't sound good.
  • Minutes later, the judge reenters the bar and starts up a dance. The book ends by describing what a great dancer the judge is. It also talks about how the judge claims he'll never die and how he is forever dancing.
  • So yeah, is this guy Satan or not?
  • Anyways, that's the end whether you like it or not. Cormac McCarthy is pretty famous for denying his readers a sense of closure, and he's definitely doing that in this case. We never really find out what happens to the kid. But we can guess…

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