Essay for you

Cormac Mccarthy The Crossing Ap Lit Essay Format

Rating: 4.0/5.0 (11 Votes)

Category: Essay

Description

Essay on Cormac Mccarthy the Crossing

"Having Your Individual Saying Doesn't Mean You Have Your Individual Rights!" - DemajhSals

Cormac Mccarthy the Crossing
  1. Struggle For Survival In Cormac Mccarthy’s The Road Cormac McCarthys The Road, the man and his son face numerous obstacles. assistance to any man, woman, or child that crosses their path. For him, that is the only.
  2. Cormac Mccarthy Biography McCarthy papers consists of 98 boxes. The acquisition of the Cormac McCarthy Papers resulted from years of ongoing conversations between McCarthy.
  3. Darkness In The Service Of Manifest Destiny As Portrayed By Cormac Mccarthy In Blood Meridian The Morning Rednesse In The Rising Of The Sun On the surface Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian is an extremely violent narrative based on historical events, which.
  4. Cormac Mccarthy's The Road- Theme Of Hope The Road Cormac McCarthys The Road is set sometime in the future after a global catastrophe. The Road follows the story of a nameless father and.
  5. The Road By Cormac Mccarthy The Road by Cormac McCarthy Posted on August 14, 2008 by CountessZ --The Road by Cormac McCarthy is by far one of the most arresting novels I have ever read. On.

Date Submitted: 01/28/2010 01:11 AM Flesch-Kincaid Score: 70 Words: 644 Essay Grade: no grades Flag

This story contains an almost equal balance of good and evil, though it also raises questions of what is truly good. It blurs the line between good and selfish or thoughtless. Characters’ actions sometimes appear impure, but in the long run, are good.

In this story Billy is faced with a wide range of undeserved punishments, but shows good through all of them with his strong will and determination. He accepts the things that happen to him in a levelheaded manner, which works to keep the story from becoming a tragedy. The first instance of undeserved punishment is the death of Billy’s family. Not only was he unable to help them in any way, there was no good reason for it to happen. While Billy could lose all hope, become depressed, and angry at the world or at God for this injustice, he instead sets out to right the wrong.

To begin his venture to right the wrong, Billy goes to get Boyd, who’s been staying at another home after his family’s death. Before they leave, Billy takes a shotgun, blanket, money, and other supplies from the house. Boyd comments, “Even a outlaw don’t rob them that’s took him in and befriended him.” In this instance it could be said that Billy’s actions are morally wrong. In


this case however, the ends justify the means. Billy is committing a small wrong to serve the greater good, which reflects a higher prompting on Billy’s behalf.

Billy’s patience is also tried when he learns of his heart murmur. He is attempting to do an already noble thing by joining the army, but is disallowed due to his heart murmur. Billy, undeterred, decides to, “go try em in Albuquerque.” When receiving the same response, Billy replies, “You could pass me if you wanted to.” It may seem that Billy is trying to beat the system, or trick someone, but in truth, he’s only trying to do a good thing, not a selfish one.

While Billy and Boyd are trying to get to Casas Grandes, another.

Comments

Video

Other articles

The Crossing Cormac McCarthy - Essays - 1025 Words

The Crossing: Cormac McCarthy

In this excerpt from The Crossing, by Cormac McCarthy, the subject has killed a wolf and is presently brooding over his feelings regarding the fallen creature. His thoughts are displayed in a rather convoluted manner, many of which offset one another, and can cause confusion for the reader. Fortunately, through the usage of diction, syntax, and imagery, McCarthy helps to convey the impact that the experience of the situation has on the main character.

Diction plays an enormous role in expressing the impression the wolf's death (and circumstances surrounding it) has on the subject. From the onset, the author establishes a dramatic mood by describing the scenery as having "talus sides" (Line: 1) and "tall escarpments". (Line: 2) As the passage progresses, the passion of the choice of words increases. Such is exemplified in Lines 57 and 58 when the author states: "What blood and bone are made of but can themselves not make on any alter nor by any wound of war". Such a quote implies that the elemental make-up of a body can create the shell of a creature, but no act of man can bring back a soul to fill the casing. The terms "blood", "bone", and "wound of war" are all very fervent and poignant expressions. Their usage conveys the gravity of the quote itself. The utilization of a simple, two-lettered word held great meaning to one particular line of the passage: "He took up her stiff head out of the leaves and held it or he reached to hold what cannot be held. " (Lines: 53 - 55). The placement of "or" implies that the subject is confused about his own emotions, but the situation indicates that they are strong. Simply holding the wolf's corpse in his arms is an attainable feat, but the second half of the previous quote seems to suggest that that subject is reaching for life in death, an impossibility that many strive for. The author's choice of diction, both complex and simplistic, conveys very precise and significant meanings that cannot be overlooked.

Please sign up to read full document.

YOU MAY ALSO FIND THESE DOCUMENTS HELPFUL

The Road by CormacMcCarthy Posted on August 14, 2008 by CountessZ --The Road by CormacMcCarthy is by far one of the most arresting novels I have ever read. On the surface, it is a dystopian novel about a very bleak future and the dark underbelly of survival in a true post-apocalyptic environment. But at its heart, it is the story of a man trying to be a “good” father under impossible circumstances. How this father and his tender.

1302 Words | 4 Pages

cannibalism or committing suicide? On the other hand, would you choose to be on an ethical route by grasping on life delicately? In the midst of the unflinching and empty world with virtually no hope, the father and son in the novel, The Road by CormacMcCarthy . choose to be the “good guys” by staying alive and refraining from cannibalism and thievery. They tried desperately to remain alive by roaming as nomads looking for shelter, edible foods, and avoiding the.

970 Words | 3 Pages

and loveable moments of the fatherhood relationship contribute to brighten up the hopeless and horrible novel. Poignant is the scene when “they slept huddled together in the rank quilts in the dark and the cold. He held the boy so close to him” (McCarthy 29); such as scene can be considered among the most beautiful scene in the whole novel. No matter how much struggling they have been through and now matter what disaster and destruction they face, the man’s love for his son is.

2171 Words | 6 Pages

The Road by CormacMcCarthy is a novel set in a post-apocalyptic world following the path of a Father and Son. McCarthy is a highly celebrated award-winning author. He is 78 years old and has an 8-year-old son – an uncommon circumstance – underlining that for him, death is imminent and prompting him to consider the ideas discussed in his novel. In The Road, the father is undergoing a crisis of faith and so adopts an Existentialist view and creates.

1311 Words | 3 Pages

chronological sequence of events to interject events of earlier occurrence. The earlier events often take the form of reminiscence.” CormacMcCarthy makes use of this narrative strategy throughout his novel, “The Road”, to present the reader some past events in order to provide background for the current narration because the story begins after the explosion occurred. McCarthy decides to begin the narration at that point, for “the use of flashback.

846 Words | 3 Pages

CormacMcCarthy – The Road (Pages 1-16) In The Road, the first 16 pages give the reader a good perspective of the novel. The reader learns that the world has undergone a dramatic change. The world seems post-apocalyptic, and there is nothing much that remains. Two characters are presented but are not described in any way; we only know that they are labeled as ‘the man’ and ‘the boy’ who are father and son. McCarthy does not give description to ‘the.

842 Words | 2 Pages

Jenny L. Mrs. Johnson AP English 4 February 22, 2014 The Road by CormacMcCarthy Research Paper Imagine a world where the skies are grey and the ground is torn to pieces. Where there is no civilization present, nor another human being to be seen. Where the feeling of hunger influences you to consider the idea of human flesh filling your insides and persuading you to do so. A world infested with murder, crime, and despair—which have now become necessary for.

1613 Words | 6 Pages

Moral Absolutism – The Road by CormacMcCarthy The Road by CormacMcCarthy is a novel based in a post-apocalyptic world. It revolves around the life of a father and a son who are struggling to survive. Everything around them is destroyed, filled with ash and stripped of life yet the two continue to move south, towards the sea hoping for better days to come. Their lives are lived in a constant state of fear. Every day spent scavenging.

1287 Words | 3 Pages

Cormac McCarthy Biography

Biography of Cormac McCarthy

Cormac McCarthy's work explores the darkest shadows of human nature, but McCarthy himself had a remarkably conventional childhood. He was born Charles Joseph McCarthy in Providence, Rhode Island, on July 20, 1933. He later changed his name to Cormac, meaning "son of Charles," to honor his father.

The McCarthys moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1937. The elder Charles, a lawyer, took a job with the Tennessee Valley Authority and remained there for the next thirty years. A number of key themes in McCarthy's works - like peregrination, the human affinity for bloodshed, and strained father-son relationships - are indirectly rooted in his formative experiences.

McCarthy grew up Catholic. He went to church regularly and attended a Catholic high school. Then, in 1951, he enrolled at The University of Tennessee. He had only completed only one year of school, however, when he decided to enlist in the U.S. Air Force. He served four years in the military, two of them on duty in Alaska, before returning to the University of Tennessee in 1957, where he found himself slowly gravitating towards fiction writing. After publishing two stories in the campus literary magazine The Phoenix. he won Ingram-Merrill Foundation grants for creative writing in both 1959 and 1960. Convinced of his potential, Cormac McCarthy left university in 1960 to pursue his writing career full time.

McCarthy moved to Chicago and became an auto mechanic to support himself while he worked on his first novel. He married Lee Holleman, with whom he has one son, Cullen McCarthy. Soon after Cullen's birth, the McCarthys returned to Tennessee, and their marriage soon crumbled.

However, his personal troubles seem not to have distracted McCarthy from his work. Random House published his debut novel, The Orchard Keeper. in 1965, which won the William Faulkner Award. In fact, William Faulkner's editor, Albert Erskine, edited The Orchard Keeper as well.

McCarthy has enjoyed critical support since the beginning of his career. In 1965, he won an American Academy of Arts and Letters traveling fellowship to go to Europe, and subsequently boarded an ocean liner to Ireland. On the trip, he met Annie DeLisle, whom he married in England in 1966. That same year, he was awarded a Rockefeller Foundation grant, which allowed him to tour Europe with his wife. After traveling through England, France, Switzerland, Italy, and Spain, McCarthy and DeLisle settled in Ibiza, off the coast of Spain, so that McCarthy could finish revising his second novel, Outer Dark .

McCarthy won the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship in 1969. He moved with his wife to Louisville, Tennessee, where he fully renovated a barn to serve as their home. There, he leisurely worked his third novel, Child of God . During the mid 1970s, McCarthy also wrote the screenplay for a PBS film called The Gardener's Son .

In 1976, McCarthy separated from DeLisle and moved to El Paso, Texas. Perhaps unsettled by the changes in his life, McCarthy returned to a manuscript with which he had been struggling for twenty years, Suttree. His perseverance was rewarded upon its publication in 1979 - critics hailed the book as his finest (some argue that he never surpassed it), and he was awarded the prestigious MacArthur Foundation Grant. Meanwhile, McCarthy and DeLisle's divorce became official in 1981.

If critical accolades had been a mainstay of McCarthy's career, popular success eluded him. However, with the 1985 publication of Blood Meridian. his work began to gain mainstream attention. Declared one of the best novels of the twentieth century by literary critic Harold Bloom, Blood Meridian perhaps best captures the bleak cynicism at the core of McCarthy's body of work. In chronicling the escapades of a young runaway who joins a bloodthirsty gang in their hunt for Indian scalps, Blood Meridian reveals the darker side of human nature, the inevitability of suffering and violence, and the tainted legacy of America's frontier past.

In a rare interview with the New York Times. McCarthy seemingly rejects the possibility that human beings can ever change our aggressive instincts. "There is no such thing as life without bloodshed," he says, "The notion that the species can be improved in some way, that everyone could live in harmony, is really a dangerous idea. Those who are afflicted with this notion are the first ones to give up their souls, their freedom. Your desire that it be that way will enslave you and make your life vacuous" (New York Times Magazine. 1992).

One of McCarthy's better-known novels is the first installment in his so-called Border Trilogy, All the Pretty Horses . This 1992 novel also features characters who are swirling in the maelstrom of unforeseen, inescapable evil. Despite its bleak themes, All the Pretty Horse built upon the acclaim of Blood Meridian. garnering both critical attention and commercial success. In addition to remaining a New York Times bestseller for six months, it won the National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award; critics were practically unanimous in declaring it the best work of fiction that year.

McCarthy then completed the two remaining books in his Border Trilogy: The Crossing (1994) and Cities on the Plain (1998), the latter of which unites the lead characters from the two previous books. During the same year that The Crossing came out, McCarthy also edited and released a play entitled The Stonemason. which he had written during the 1970s.

In the late 1990s, McCarthy entered his third marriage (to Jennifer Winkley) while he was writing Cities on the Plain. The couple has one son, John Francis McCarthy.

In recent years, Hollywood has taken an interest in McCarthy's work. A film version of All the Pretty Horses came out in 2000, but the reviews were mixed. However, his luck changed when the Coen brothers decided to adapt McCarthy's 2005 novel, No Country for Old Men, for the big screen. The film came out in 2007 and received a multitude of awards, including the Academy Award for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay.

The Road , McCarthy's 2006 novel, was awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction in 2006 and, in 2007, it won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. After that, The Road was also adapted into a film that opened in 2009 to mostly favorable reviews. A Blood Meridian film adaptation has been rumored to be in the works for many years, having attracted talent like Scott Rudin, James Franco, Todd Field, and Ridley Scott, but the project has not yet come to fruition.

McCarthy rarely grants interviews and remains reliably silent about his work. However, he did concede to his first television interview with Oprah in June 2007, after she named The Road as her April 2007 Book Club selection. McCarthy currently lives north of Santa Fe with his wife Jennifer and their son, and he satisfies his interest in science by spending time as a research fellow at the Santa Fe Institute.

In 2008, McCarthy received the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction. In 2009, the Guardian reported that McCarthy was currently writing three new novels, one of which takes place in New Orleans in the 1980s and will feature his first ever female protagonist.

Cormac McCarthy Biography

Biography of Cormac McCarthy

Cormac McCarthy's work explores the darkest shadows of human nature, but McCarthy himself had a remarkably conventional childhood. He was born Charles Joseph McCarthy in Providence, Rhode Island, on July 20, 1933. He later changed his name to Cormac, meaning "son of Charles," to honor his father.

The McCarthys moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1937. The elder Charles, a lawyer, took a job with the Tennessee Valley Authority and remained there for the next thirty years. A number of key themes in McCarthy's works - like peregrination, the human affinity for bloodshed, and strained father-son relationships - are indirectly rooted in his formative experiences.

McCarthy grew up Catholic. He went to church regularly and attended a Catholic high school. Then, in 1951, he enrolled at The University of Tennessee. He had only completed only one year of school, however, when he decided to enlist in the U.S. Air Force. He served four years in the military, two of them on duty in Alaska, before returning to the University of Tennessee in 1957, where he found himself slowly gravitating towards fiction writing. After publishing two stories in the campus literary magazine The Phoenix. he won Ingram-Merrill Foundation grants for creative writing in both 1959 and 1960. Convinced of his potential, Cormac McCarthy left university in 1960 to pursue his writing career full time.

McCarthy moved to Chicago and became an auto mechanic to support himself while he worked on his first novel. He married Lee Holleman, with whom he has one son, Cullen McCarthy. Soon after Cullen's birth, the McCarthys returned to Tennessee, and their marriage soon crumbled.

However, his personal troubles seem not to have distracted McCarthy from his work. Random House published his debut novel, The Orchard Keeper. in 1965, which won the William Faulkner Award. In fact, William Faulkner's editor, Albert Erskine, edited The Orchard Keeper as well.

McCarthy has enjoyed critical support since the beginning of his career. In 1965, he won an American Academy of Arts and Letters traveling fellowship to go to Europe, and subsequently boarded an ocean liner to Ireland. On the trip, he met Annie DeLisle, whom he married in England in 1966. That same year, he was awarded a Rockefeller Foundation grant, which allowed him to tour Europe with his wife. After traveling through England, France, Switzerland, Italy, and Spain, McCarthy and DeLisle settled in Ibiza, off the coast of Spain, so that McCarthy could finish revising his second novel, Outer Dark .

McCarthy won the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship in 1969. He moved with his wife to Louisville, Tennessee, where he fully renovated a barn to serve as their home. There, he leisurely worked his third novel, Child of God . During the mid 1970s, McCarthy also wrote the screenplay for a PBS film called The Gardener's Son .

In 1976, McCarthy separated from DeLisle and moved to El Paso, Texas. Perhaps unsettled by the changes in his life, McCarthy returned to a manuscript with which he had been struggling for twenty years, Suttree. His perseverance was rewarded upon its publication in 1979 - critics hailed the book as his finest (some argue that he never surpassed it), and he was awarded the prestigious MacArthur Foundation Grant. Meanwhile, McCarthy and DeLisle's divorce became official in 1981.

If critical accolades had been a mainstay of McCarthy's career, popular success eluded him. However, with the 1985 publication of Blood Meridian. his work began to gain mainstream attention. Declared one of the best novels of the twentieth century by literary critic Harold Bloom, Blood Meridian perhaps best captures the bleak cynicism at the core of McCarthy's body of work. In chronicling the escapades of a young runaway who joins a bloodthirsty gang in their hunt for Indian scalps, Blood Meridian reveals the darker side of human nature, the inevitability of suffering and violence, and the tainted legacy of America's frontier past.

In a rare interview with the New York Times. McCarthy seemingly rejects the possibility that human beings can ever change our aggressive instincts. "There is no such thing as life without bloodshed," he says, "The notion that the species can be improved in some way, that everyone could live in harmony, is really a dangerous idea. Those who are afflicted with this notion are the first ones to give up their souls, their freedom. Your desire that it be that way will enslave you and make your life vacuous" (New York Times Magazine. 1992).

One of McCarthy's better-known novels is the first installment in his so-called Border Trilogy, All the Pretty Horses . This 1992 novel also features characters who are swirling in the maelstrom of unforeseen, inescapable evil. Despite its bleak themes, All the Pretty Horse built upon the acclaim of Blood Meridian. garnering both critical attention and commercial success. In addition to remaining a New York Times bestseller for six months, it won the National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award; critics were practically unanimous in declaring it the best work of fiction that year.

McCarthy then completed the two remaining books in his Border Trilogy: The Crossing (1994) and Cities on the Plain (1998), the latter of which unites the lead characters from the two previous books. During the same year that The Crossing came out, McCarthy also edited and released a play entitled The Stonemason. which he had written during the 1970s.

In the late 1990s, McCarthy entered his third marriage (to Jennifer Winkley) while he was writing Cities on the Plain. The couple has one son, John Francis McCarthy.

In recent years, Hollywood has taken an interest in McCarthy's work. A film version of All the Pretty Horses came out in 2000, but the reviews were mixed. However, his luck changed when the Coen brothers decided to adapt McCarthy's 2005 novel, No Country for Old Men, for the big screen. The film came out in 2007 and received a multitude of awards, including the Academy Award for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay.

The Road , McCarthy's 2006 novel, was awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction in 2006 and, in 2007, it won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. After that, The Road was also adapted into a film that opened in 2009 to mostly favorable reviews. A Blood Meridian film adaptation has been rumored to be in the works for many years, having attracted talent like Scott Rudin, James Franco, Todd Field, and Ridley Scott, but the project has not yet come to fruition.

McCarthy rarely grants interviews and remains reliably silent about his work. However, he did concede to his first television interview with Oprah in June 2007, after she named The Road as her April 2007 Book Club selection. McCarthy currently lives north of Santa Fe with his wife Jennifer and their son, and he satisfies his interest in science by spending time as a research fellow at the Santa Fe Institute.

In 2008, McCarthy received the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction. In 2009, the Guardian reported that McCarthy was currently writing three new novels, one of which takes place in New Orleans in the 1980s and will feature his first ever female protagonist.

Cormac McCarthy - s Paradox of Choice: One Writer, Ten Novels, and a Career-Long Obsession

Cormac McCarthy’s Paradox of Choice: One Writer, Ten Novels, and a Career-Long Obsession

Discussed in this essay:
• The Orchard Keeper. Cormac McCarthy. Vintage. $13.95. 256 pp.
• Outer Dark. Cormac McCarthy. Vintage. $13.95. 256 pp.
• Child of God. Cormac McCarthy. Vintage. $13.95. 206 pp.
• Suttree. Cormac McCarthy. Vintage. $14.95. 480 pp.
• Blood Meridian. Cormac McCarthy. Vintage. $14.95. 352 pp.
• All the Pretty Horses. Cormac McCarthy. Vintage. $14.95. 320 pp.
• The Crossing. Cormac McCarthy. Vintage. $14.95. 432 pp.
• Cities of the Plain. Cormac McCarthy. Vintage. $14.95. 292 pp.
• No Country for Old Men. Cormac McCarthy. Vintage. $14.00. 309 pp.
• The Road. Cormac McCarthy. Vintage. $14.95. 287 pp.

This essay has been broken up into multiple pages. To read the entire essay in one printer-friendly page, click here .

It is telling that critics frequently compare Cormac McCarthy’s novels to dreams. Two examples: in The New York Review of Books. Joyce Carol Oates stated that McCarthy’s work is reminiscent of one of Pascal Pensées. “Life is a dream a little less inconstant.” Earlier in the same journal, Denis Donoghue found recourse to Freud: “[a dream] does not think, calculate, or judge in any way at all; it restricts itself to giving things a new form.”

Oates and Donoghue do not resort to the tired and superficial cliché, dreamlike ; rather they use the language of dreams to describe fiction at once teasingly intimate yet also fundamentally alienated from us. They acknowledge the often surreal quality of McCarthy’s fiction but imply an underlying sensibility beneath the chaos. Indeed, both quotes cut down two of the most persistent critiques of McCarthy: moral ambiguity and a lack of interest in penetrating beneath surfaces. Pascal and Freud offer rejoinders: dreams, like McCarthy, may appear unbound, but they have a power over us that belies that claim.

Still, as with many misstatements there is kernel of truth to the criticism of McCarthy: few other authors working over the last forty years have so thoroughly restricted themselves to the simple act of giving things a new form. That McCarthy does this with a singular ability is inarguable; even his detractors will grant the inherent beauty of McCarthy’s prose. In fact, more than any other postwar writer he is identified as the heir of that ultimate Southern stylist, William Faulkner; Madison Smartt Bell has even declared McCarthy one of very few authors to walk in Faulkner’s shadow and escape to tell the tale. The Faulkner comparison, of course, owes much to McCarthy’s Southern Gothic sensibilities and his obsessive mapping and re-mapping of the town of Knoxville, Tennessee; but, less superficially, the comparison is made because both Faulkner and McCarthy have discovered potent new ways to structure sentences, and because each could trammel up a deep, bassy vatic voice without estranging the surrounding prose.

McCarthy has given new shades to the English language, and that should be enough. Were he a painter or a composer, or perhaps even a poet, it probably would be, but Cormac McCarthy is a fiction writer, and fiction is generally construed to carry burdens above and beyond anything so frivolous as mere style. Stories must mean something. They must appear to argue for or against moral systems—or at least interrogate them. They must be a little less inconstant than dreams.

It is strange to charge McCarthy with not caring about anything more than surfaces, as his single most famous public utterance indicates otherwise. This is the author who declared “I don’t understand [Proust and Henry James]. To me, that’s not literature” because real literature “deals with issues of life and death.”

Here McCarthy reveals his great interest in the choices his characters make. True, he may not realize that, to Proust and James, Swann’s choice to court Odette or Isabel Archer’s choice to marry Osmond are issues just as “life and death” as any murder or tryst found in McCarthy, but the quote still flatly contradicts the claim that McCarthy is a pure formalist. And does McCarthy’s work itself back up his claim? Yes. In fact, in each of his ten novels McCarthy has showed an obsession with the rare, crucial moments when people make the decisions that will define their lives forever.

From the very beginning, McCarthy has been an author fascinated by the give-and-take between modern-day humans and the multiple systems they are exposed to in day-to-day life. These systems react potently with McCarthy’s other great novelistic concern: the alienated individual and his ultimate recognition (with McCarthy it is invariable a he) that no one can stand outside of human society, and that our codes and bureaucracies decide for us far more often than we actually decide for ourselves. McCarthy’s novels are built around the rare moments of genuine decision-making when the swell and swirl of the world pulls back to relinquish agency to the individual.

In this way, the work of Cormac McCarthy strikes deep into the heart of American literature, as his books are always rooted in that most American of themes: the search for identity. In McCarthy it is often seen as an obsession with borders: of personal identity, of physical place, and of spiritual position within an existential realm of conflicting value systems.

In exploring these borders, McCarthy has carved out what is perhaps a unique place in all of American letters; he has overseen the decline of a traditional way of life in the American South while also personalizing and reframing the rise and fall of the romanticized American West. His protagonists, so similar and yet so different, have revealed the overlap between what are generally understood as two discrete historical phenomena. And in his final novel to date, McCarthy has even showed an ability to project these typical concerns into purely speculative territory, to improbably yet powerfully fuse his earthy immediacy with the lightness of fantasy. Throughout all of this, McCarthy is grounded by his interest in moments of choice and their attendant moral consequences.

The Orchard Keeper

In McCarthy’s first novel, The Orchard Keeper. one sees an author so impressed with his plainly enormous literary powers that there is no thing, however small, that he will not test them out upon. The book is resplendent with visual imagery for almost every item it touches. Lightning in particular is described in so many ways that one almost longs for a clichéd bolt.

Prodigies can be prodigious, and although McCarthy’s imaginative powers here are humbling (in particular, one can hardly imagine how a thirty-two-year-old of modest means developed such an engorged vocabulary), his shovelfuls of imagery lack precise deployment. When every last thing is worthy of lyrical flights, the world is curiously flattened; imagery, like sentence rhythm, must be varied or risk monotony, and The Orchard Keeper succumbs to such a dulling. 1

Still, The Orchard Keeper clearly marked the emergence of an enormous talent, one that quite portentously appeared on the stage fully formed. In large part, The Orchard Keeper is written with the same stylistic tics that that Harold Bloom would later celebrate in Blood Meridian as, to paraphrase, the most remarkable American prose accomplishment since Pynchon. Already, we see: the fresh refurbishment of nouns and adjectives as verbs; the repeated joining of two unlikely nouns to create an adjective without precedent in English; quotation-less dialogue; language that reaches toward the portent and cadence of epic (commonly referred to as “vatic”); the frequent use of proper names and highly precise, almost scientific language to describe nature; and the casual employment of archaic-sounding, uncommon words that perfectly fit the bumps and flows of their sentences. Before The Orchard Keeper. McCarthy did publish a handful of short stories in little magazines, and in these stories it is possible to see the author unformed, but these works are hard to come by, a fact that McCarthy himself seems to take pride in: he has stated that he would not like them to be republished until he is “long buried and mouldering.” 2

Some have called The Orchard Keeper’s plot nonexistent; at the least it is heavily fractured book, like a shattered china pot whose fragments have been mussed around. What plot the book has revolves around a drifter picked up as a hitchhiker, who then inexplicably tries to kill the driver, only to be killed himself. Tens of pages later—after several jumps in time, narration, and point of view—a boy is made to swear vengeance on the unknown man who killed his father (it is only at the end of the book that McCarthy confirms our assumptions that the boy’s father is the murdered man). The Orchard Keeper is among McCarthy’s most demanding reads because of its fragmentation, the book’s heavily stylized prose, and McCarthy’s penchant for narrating pages and pages of various fragments without ever uttering a proper name or other identifying characteristic. Never again will McCarthy publish such a structurally ambitious, deliberately opaque work.

The Orchard Keeper’s plot limns themes of fathers and sons: the three main characters represent three generations of males, all fatherless and all linked by the father who is murdered at the novel’s beginning. These implied familial bonds contrast with the bureaucratized, urban morality that butts up against this more “natural” morality of rural Appalachian society. This is the recurring struggle throughout all of McCarthy’s career. He is drawn to rural outcasts, implicitly sympathizing with their plight as the modernizing United States infringes on their turf, although he rarely becomes sentimental or romanticizes their lives. Rather than offer explanations or solutions, McCarthy simply embodies this conflict. Progress is unstoppable, these men’s way of life will be erased in a generation—this much is clear and McCarthy shows no interest in dealing with what’s obvious and inevitable. Instead, what interests him are the ways in which people react to the inevitable change, especially how they attempt to apprehend this time of great uncertainty and moral confusion and what practical measures they take up in defense. McCarthy lets his men weigh the slim possibility of escape, and although he never grants the men escape, on seldom occasions he does give certain characters a measure of redemption.

This rural/urban conflict is elegantly dramatized near the end of The Orchard Keeper. Sylder, an underground whiskey-runner who is pursued by the police for much of the novel, is finally caught. As he sits in jail awaiting his sentence, he is visited by a fiercely loyal preteen boy who he has taken under his wing, and whose father he has unwittingly murdered. At first Sylder makes light of his incarceration and explains it thus:

Well I had a little disagreement with these fellers. as to whether a man can haul untaxed whiskey over tax-kept roads or whether by not payin the whiskey tax he forfeits the privilege of drivin over the roads the whiskey don’t keep up that ain’t taxed or if it was would be illegal anyway.

There’s a touch of bravado here and more than a little irony, but Sylder’s twisting, switchbacking remarks do honestly embody the confusion attendant to the clash of worlds. Sylder understands that he broke the law and thus must be punished, but his remarks betray his deeper sense that he did nothing wrong.

To these two moral orders a third is added when the boy vows to murder Giffords, the officer who apprehended Sylder. At first Sylder tries to casually discard the offer (“So I thank ye kindly but no thank ye, you don’t owe me nothing”), but the boy insists, forcing Sylder to lay out the case in its full confusion:

You think because he arrested me that throws it off again I reckon? I don’t. It’s his job. It’s what he gets paid for. To arrest people that break the law. And I didn’t jest break the law, I made a livin at it. More money in three hours than a workin man makes in a week. Why is that? Because it’s harder work? No, because a man who makes a livin doin something that has to get him in jail sooner or later has to be paid for the jail, has to be paid in advance not jest for his time breakin the law but for the time he has to build when he gets caught at it. So I been paid. Gifford’s been paid. Nobody owes nobody. If it wadn’t for Gifford, the law, I wouldn’t of had the job I had blockading and if it wadn’t for me blockading, Gifford wouldn’t of had his job arrestin blockaders. Now who owes who?

In its yin/yang-like formulation and its final, vaguely Eastern question, Sylder’s monologue makes a brilliant summation of the central moral question that will animate McCarthy’s later works: When each side of the equation requires the other to exist, can we coherently speak of right and wrong, of justice, revenge, and “owing” each other? In regard to this question, what makes The Orchard Keeper a lesser work than later novels is that McCarthy never ventures to represent Giffords’ side of the equation, either directly or indirectly. We only see Sylder’s side and thus are implicitly asked to sympathize with him. The novels Suttree and Blood Meridian strike a much better balance in representing other perspectives in the text. They become truly polyphonic and dialectic, respectively, and as such they lead McCarthy into highly interesting territory.

1 It seems McCarthy quickly realized that too many labyrinthine visual metaphors could weigh down a book’s forward momentum and reduce a story’s power, as his next two novels are among his most shortest and most efficient.
2 See “Prefiguring Cormac McCarthy: the early short stories,” Rick Wallach.

Read More on this Subject:

The Crossing (The Border Trilogy, #2) by Cormac McCarthy

The Crossing (The Border Trilogy, #2)

Following All the Pretty Little Horses in Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy is a novel whose force of language is matched only by its breadth of experience and depth of thought.In the bootheel of New Mexico hard on the frontier, Billy and Boyd ParhamMore Following All the Pretty Little Horses in Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy is a novel whose force of language is matched only by its breadth of experience and depth of thought.In the bootheel of New Mexico hard on the frontier, Billy and Boyd Parham are just boys in the years before the Second World War, but on the cusp of unimaginable events. First comes a trespassing Indian and the dream of wolves running wild amongst the cattle lately brought onto the plain by settlers - this when all the wisdom of trappers has disappeared along with the trappers themselves. So Billy sets forth at the age of sixteen on an unwitting journey into the souls of boys, animals and men.

Having trapped a she-wolf he would restore to the mountains of Mexico, he is long gone and returns to find everything he left behind transformed utterly in his absence. Except his kid brother, Boyd, with whom he strikes out yet again to reclaim what is theirs - thus crossing into "that antique gaze from whence there could be no way back forever."

What they find instead, is an extraordinary panoply of fiestas and circuses, dogs, horses and hawks, pilgrims and revolutionaries, grand haciendas and forlorn cantinas, bandits, gypsies and roving tribes, a young girl alone on the road, a mystery in the mountain wilds, and a myth in the making.

And in this wider world they fight a war as rageful as the one neither, in the end, will join up for back home. One brother finds his destiny, while the other arrives only at his fate.

An essential novel by any measure, and the transfixing middle passage of Cormac McCarthy's ongoing trilogy, The Crossing is luminous and appalling, a book that touches, stops,and starts the heart and mind at once. Less

Get a copy Friends’ Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up .

Community Reviews

Jason Koivu rated it it was amazing

over 1 year ago

One decision, as innocent as it may be, can fuck up your life forever. Now, you can live in fear and hide yourself away, or you can keep making those decisions and hope for the best, and if and when the shit hits the fan, you can stand strong and push on.

William1 rated it it was amazing

Enormously affecting. A boy and his father set out to trap a wolf that is preying on their cattle. The man who had trapped them in the past, who opened the plains for countless thousands of cattle to graze is now dead, and the wolves have begun to return to their old hunt. Read full review

Joe Briggs rated it it was amazing

over 6 years ago

The Crossing is an astonishing book, more downbeat than All the Pretty Horses, yet not as bleak as the likes of Blood Meridian, it is a sprawling coming-of-age tale filled with moments of beauty and sorrow. The descriptions are as beautiful as anything Cormac McCarthy wri. Read full review

Caris rated it it was amazing

over 5 years ago

Yesterday, I made a pot of beans. This in itself isn’t unusual for me, but when you pair it with the chiles and pupusas I made the day before, you can start to see a pattern. It might not have all been authentically Mexican (the pupusas certainly weren’t), but it was all. Read full review

Marco Tamborrino rated it it was amazing

almost 5 years ago

È il dolore ad addolcire ogni dono.

Grazie, Cormac McCarthy. Grazie all'infinito. Hai scritto il libro della mia vita. E ti chiedo scusa se lo chiamo libro. Ti chiedo scusa per quelli che lo hanno disprezzato e lo disprezzeranno. Perdonali, perché non sanno quello che fann. Read full review

Frank rated it it was ok

about 8 years ago

Alice Munro said in an interview that our lives begin as straightforward stories with the typical arc of fiction, but that as we go on living they become strange, experimental narratives, convoluted and difficult to interpret. It seems to me that's what's happening in thi. Read full review

Teresa rated it it was amazing

over 1 year ago

Magnífica Travessia !
Tem umas passagens árduas, tem. Umas em que se fala de Deus e de Fé, e que facilmente impacientam uma ímpia infiel como eu… Mas o resto deixou-me extasiada.
Cormac consegue expor o Homem no seu estado mais Puro; um Ser absolutamente livre e corajoso e. Read full review

MikeS rated it it was amazing

over 2 years ago

After finishing All the Pretty Horses. I felt (maybe somewhat unjustly) that the bar of expectation had been set extremely high. I realize that some (most?) people have a particular favorite part of McCarthy’s Border Trilogy, but I’d be hard-pressed to choose one after re. Read full review

Jeremy rated it it was amazing

about 2 years ago

Comparisons between this and All the Pretty Horses seem inevitable. Here we have another buldingsroman: a teenage cowboy who rides south into the Mexican frontier, coming of age through scenes of privation and violence. But Billy Parham's journey has a a peculiarly mystic. Read full review

Jason rated it really liked it

over 6 years ago

This is a campfire tale about the humble genesis of a teenage Bad Ass cowboy from the desert southwest.

The story has 4 parts, each beginning and ending with a US-Mexico border crossing (hence the title). The crossing of the border takes Billy, the main character, a 16 ye. Read full review