Blood Meridian

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Blood Meridian Chapter 21 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Tobin tells the kid to leave him and save himself, but the kid declines and the two end up staggering onward together. When the kid notices that the wind is obliterating their footprints in the desert, he proposes to Tobin that the two of them find somewhere to hide. Tobin says that there’s no way to hide from the Judge, but nonetheless the two dig out a shelter under some mule bones and wait for the Judge to pass.
Unlike the Judge, the kid never leaves a man behind when he can help it—not Sproule, not Tate, and not Tobin. Though nature’s obliteration of traces of human life tends to be treated as tragic in the novel, here the wind’s obliteration of the refugees’ footprints is vital for their survival.
Themes
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Racism and Partisanship Theme Icon
The Judge passes soon enough, with the idiot on a leather leash. He has rifles, canteens, and, strangely enough, a parasol made from rotten hides and bones. The two of them pass where Tobin and the kid are hiding and disappear into the sands. Tobin says that the kid will have no chance like that to kill the Judge again.
The image of the leashed idiot shockingly epitomizes the Judge’s desire both for control and unwavering dog-like loyalty from those in his power. With his pet and parasol, the Judge resembles grotesquely a woman casually walking her dog.
Themes
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Racism and Partisanship Theme Icon
Tobin and the kid discuss where to go, but as they do the Judge returns. He addresses the countryside, telling the kid that he should show himself; he also accuses the kid of having been mutinous against the gang all along—“no partisan”—preserving in his heart as the kid apparently did some mercy for the Indians they slaughtered together. The Judge concludes that Toadvine and Brown are in fact alive, “in possession of the fruits of their election.” The kid does not respond, and the Judge moves on, suggesting that perhaps the kid has dreamed that he will die in this place.
The Judge accuses the kid of reserving in his heart mercy for the gang’s quarry, which is mutinous in the sense that the kid could not therefore commit himself wholly to the gang’s rampantly destructive cause, could not give himself to war the way the Judge himself does and, perhaps, the way the judge thought the kid might be able to. The Judge is not lying when he says that Toadvine and Brown are alive—“the fruits of their election” may refer to money which the Judge offered to the two of them in payment for their clothes and Brown’s gun.
Themes
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Racism and Partisanship Theme Icon
The kid and Tobin would have died in the sands had a band of Diegueño Indians not found them. The Indians care for the two men and bring them to their camp at San Felipe. While the kid is eating, one of the Indians reaches for his pistol twice, only for the kid to bat his hand away. On the third reach, the kid draws the pistol and aims it at the Indian’s forehead; then he puts the pistol away. While the Americans recount what befell them, the Indians denounce the Yumas as wicked.
The Indians’ act of mercy is unexplained but vital. Mercy aside, the kid is still brutally defensive of his pistol, an indication that he is neither deeply grateful nor a changed man. By having the Diegueños denounce the Yumas, McCarthy reminds us that relations between the Native American tribes could be just as fraught as those between Native Americans and whites.
Themes
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The next day, Tobin and the kid journey westward toward the mountains, resting at Warner’s Ranch before moving on. They climb a mountain trail into frosty country, then down among low hills where pieces of wagons lay scattered. By the next day, the two reach San Diego. While Tobin seeks a doctor, the kid goes down to the sea, where “whales ferry their vast souls through the black and seamless sea.”
Tobin and the kid arrive at the limit of American dominion: the Pacific Ocean. In a novel where the human capacity for gratuitous evil seems infinite, this limit takes on a serenely moral quality. It is the end of the land fought over by all these men, it is something that men can’t own. In contrast to the gang’s hectic ferry of exploitation is the whale sublimely ferrying its own soul. (Though perhaps the illiterate Kid might feel differently if he had read Moby Dick, which McCarthy surely has).
Themes
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon