In a narrative punctured with pistol shots and thrusts of a knife, it is little surprise that we hear so much about blood in the novel. Human blood is, of course, tied to the theme of violence, and also to the idea that for many Mexicans, nothing can be proven if it is not made to bleed, as Alfonsa
says about her fellow citizens. But blood also symbolizes the attempt to prove oneself, to embrace courage and carve out one’s own identity. Rawlins
worries that his infusion of blood might make him part Mexican—a humorous moment, but one that also emphasizes how easy it is for the characters to link blood to national and personal identity. In this framework, blood must be spilled for blood—this is why the charro
hires the captain to kill Blevins
in revenge. In the prison, John Grady
realizes that someone’s blood must be spilled, and that his only choice is to kill or be killed. The novel supplements this symbolism with imagery of blood-red sunsets and dust—all symbols of violence that take a personal turn when tied to the choices John Grady and other characters have made.