December 9, 2011 4 Comments
Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian is considered by many critics to be one of the best novels of the last century, ranked by many with Moby Dick and Absalom! Absalom!, while some have called McCarthy the heir apparent to William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor. Blood Meridian is certainly not your average book, and as such, many find it difficult and inaccessible. As Harold Bloom notes, it is a modern great, and in may respects resembles Homer or Dante. However, Blood Meridian is also more than a novel: it is a statement about many things, the most crucial of which is McCarthy’s gnostic tirade against life as it is.
Critic Leo Daugherty’s thesis is thus only partially correct: that the novel is a “gnostic tragedy,” and this is precisely what endows the novel with its elevated style and inaccessibility. Daugherty’s thesis is too weak: to those steeped in the theological discourse of the early patristic period, including the polemical tracts of the early fathers such as Irenaeus of Lyon, it is quite clear that Blood Meridian is brimming with gnostic themes and ideas on virtually every page, and is fact is a gnostic polemical tirade. Daugherty is correct about it being gnostic. However, there are many elements he misses and misinterprets. My purpose is to respond to his statements, as well to Bloom’s claim that it is incorrect to see the Judge as a gnostic figure or archon, but rather that he should be cast as more of an enigma. Bloom claims:
The citations and references to the work of Jacob Böhme, who is, after all, a very specific type of Kabbalistic Gnostic… I think you would have to say that they’re something of an evasion of the themes in Blood Meridian. McCarthy knows exactly what Gnosticism is, and he could have made Judge Holden into an explicitly Gnostic figure if he’d wanted to. He wants to keep Judge Holden completely inexplicable. Saying that he is a sort of Gnostic demiurge is too facile for McCarthy’s portrayal of him. Read more of this post