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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Judge Holden's war dance : manifest destiny and evil in Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian Newland, Trevor


With an indisputably impressive collection of works to his name, Cormac McCarthy has emerged (among critical and commercial literary circles) as one of America's finest authors. Although each of his powerfully written works resonates with rich, disturbing imagery, Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West stands alone, perhaps, as his masterpiece. At the center of this apocalyptic vision of the American West is Judge Holden, enigmatic albino giant, pedophile, philosopher and ruthless murderer, and though McCarthy critics have presented many fascinating and inventive interpretations of the judge, he remains, in many ways, inexplicably baffling. Nevertheless, in this thesis I present yet another analysis of Holden, unique in that it juxtaposes the influence of mid nineteenth century manifest destiny ideology against his disconcerting philosophy of war. I examine, in depth, Holden's desire to control his own fate by shattering (what he perceives to be) the chains of predestiny as well his ambition to "illuminate" Glanton's riders as to their significance as warriors in the history of human conduct. I also investigate the manner in which these ruthless outriders consistently validate Holden's beliefs through their savage butchery and inane ignorance, illustrating the defining factors that separate the typical mercenary scalp hunter from the judge. In order to express these differences convincingly, however, it is necessary that I present my analysis within a relevant historical framework; thus, I begin this thesis with a brief overview of the roots of manifest destiny and the manner in which it captured the American imagination during this period.

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