Blood Meridian: Quotes & Character Analysis

Instructor: Margaret Stone

Margaret has taught both college and high school English and has a master's degree in English from Mississippi State University. She holds a Mississippi AA Educator License.

The characters in Cormac McCarthy's 'Blood Meridian' are as violent as the story in which they appear. McCarthy uses the novel's characters to reflect the bloody conflict that occurred on the Mexican border in the 1840s.

The Kid

The Kid, who is unnamed in Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian, is a runaway when he encounters a group of mercenaries. He joins the group, whose members are set on killing for the bounty the Mexican authorities will pay for the scalps of the Indians who have been menacing the citizens. Although the kid is a willing participant in the violence, he elects to show mercy when possible.

In one instance, the kid tries to help an old woman he encounters. ''The kid rose and looked about at this desolate scene and then he saw alone and upright in a small niche in the rocks an old woman kneeling in a faded rebozo with her eyes cast down.'' He begins to comfort the woman and offers to help her. ''He told her that he would convey her to a safe place, some party of her country - people who would welcome her and that she should join them for he could not leave her in this place or she would surely die.'' The kid has arrived too late, however, and he soon realizes that he has been speaking to the woman's mummified body.

Although the kid is still capable of murderous violence, he retains some part of his humanity. This trait enrages some of his more violent companions, and this rage directed at any form of goodness in the kid leads to the young man's final confrontation with the judge.

The Judge

The judge, as leader of the ragtag group, oversees the quest for bounty as the group travels through the desolate Mexican landscape. He or his subordinates see to the provisions for the group, and he enters the walled gates of the governor's palace to negotiate the price for the scalps. When the men encounter groups of Indians, the judge participates in the slaughter. He is described as being completely hairless and having luminescent skin.

An ex-priest, who rides along with the other men in Mexico, describes the judge as something of a Renaissance man: ''You wouldnt think to look at him that he could outdance the devil himself now would ye? God the man is a dancer, you'll not take that away from him. And fiddle. He's the greatest fiddler I ever heard and that's an end on it. The greatest. He can cut a trail, shoot a rifle, ride a horse, track a deer. He's been all over the world. Him and the governor they sat up till breakfast and it was Paris this and London that in five languages, you'd have give something to of heard them.''

The judge is a philosophical man who often articulates his thoughts on everything from natural phenomena to alien life and tort claims. He claims that he will never die, and he seems to represent unbridled evil. Before his final confrontation with the kid, the judge indicates that he has seen reticence in the kid when they were combating the Indians. The judge views the kid's reluctance to participate in extraneous bloodletting as a weakness. In the judge's opinion, then, the kid is less powerful than he and should die as a result of this failing. The final meeting between the judge and the kid occurs in an outhouse, and the novel does not divulge the particulars of this meeting. It seems likely, however, that Judge Holden brutalizes and kills the kid.

Tobin

Tobin is often called ''the priest,'' but he says that he never took final vows to join the priesthood. Tobin's experience on the frontier has made him a realist. He recognizes the thirst for absolute power in the judge. When the kid has an opportunity to kill the judge, Tobin urges him to do so. ''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?'' Tobin asks. ''Do it, lad. Do it for the love of God.''

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