Study Guide

Tobin in Blood Meridian

By Cormac McCarthy


If the kid has any kind of mentor in this book, it's the ex priest Tobin. We're not sure why Tobin left the priesthood to become a professional mercenary, but it might have to do with the unfairness he sees in God's decisions. When he sees the kid repairing a strap, for example, he says:

The gifts of the Almighty are weighed and parceled out in a scale peculiar to himself. It's no fair accountin and I don't doubt but what he'd be the first to admit it and you put the query to him boldface. (10.19)

In other words, he knows that there's no real logic to the way God dishes out good and bad fortune.

Tobin seems especially confused at why God would give such talents to someone as cruel as the judge:

Maybe [the judge] ain't to your liking, fair enough. But the man's a hand at everything. I've never seen him turn to a task but what he didn't prove clever at it. (10.8)

In the end, we can say that Tobin is wise enough to know just how much he doesn't know. Yet despite his belief in God, Tobin knows better than the kid that there's no room for mercy or weakness in the American Southwest. When he sees the kid get a chance to kill the judge, he orders to kid to do it:

You'll get no second chance lad. Do it. He is naked. He is unarmed. God's blood, do you think you'll best him any other way? Do it, lad. Do it for the love of God. Do it or I swear your life is forfeit. (20.87)

He turns out to be right, but the kid still can't bring himself to shoot the judge. At the end of the day, he doesn't have it in him. Tobin sees this and knows that the kid is lost forever. Tobin eventually disappears and we never hear from him again. We might even wonder if he was ever real to begin with…

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