Blood Meridian

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Captain White Character Analysis

The racist leader of an army of filibusters—government soldiers operating outside the limits of the law—with which the kid rides and a staunch advocate for American imperialism, White is embittered by the aftermath of the Mexican-American War and becomes hell-bent on invading and seizing Mexican territory. He claims to be an American patriot, yet he hypocritically breaks American law in invading Mexico. He claims to be delivering justice and liberation to “a dark and troubled land,” yet he hypocritically plans on pillaging the country of its resources. White survives the Comanches’ destruction of his army, but dies at the hands of Mexican bandits. The last the kid sees of Captain White is his head floating in a jar of mescal.

Captain White Quotes in Blood Meridian

The Blood Meridian quotes below are all either spoken by Captain White or refer to Captain White. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Vintage edition of Blood Meridian published in 1992.
Chapter 3 Quotes

There is no government in Mexico. Hell, there’s no God in Mexico. Never will be. We are dealing with a people manifestly incapable of governing themselves. And do you know what happens with people who cannot govern themselves? That’s right. Others come in to govern for them.

Related Characters: Captain White (speaker)
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:

After getting into a vicious bar-fight in Bexar, the Kid is recruited into Captain White's army. In conversation with the Kid, Captain White announces that the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which formally ended the Mexican-American War (1846-1848), was a betrayal of Americans who fought in that war. He believes that it would have been better had the United States simply conquered Mexico and absorbed it into U.S. rule, because, he says, the people of Mexico are lawless, godless, and barbaric. His plan is to take his own army into Mexico, without authorization from the American government, and to finish what the Mexican-American War started.

The Captain's justifications for conquering Mexico are both racist and merely a pretense: it would seem that he is ultimately less interested in "governing" Mexico than in plundering the country. Moreover, the rest of the novel challenges Captain White's view of Mexico. The leaders of Mexico whom we meet, like Governor Trias of Chihuahua, are very cultured and sophisticated, and the citizens of Mexico are relatively peaceful. Far more barbaric than Trias is Captain White himself, or the anarchic gang of scalp-hunters led by Glanton. However, perhaps the most cultured, sophisticated character in the novel, Judge Holden, is also the cruelest and most bloodthirsty. He introduces a God into Mexico – but it is the god of war.


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The wrath of God lies sleeping. It was hid a million years before men were and only men have power to wake it. Hell aint half full. Hear me. Ye carry war of a madman’s making onto a foreign land. Ye’ll wake more than the dogs.

Related Characters: The Mennonite (speaker), Captain White
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:

After being contracted into Captain White's army, the Kid celebrates by going into Bexar to drink with some of his comrades-in-arms. There, they meet a Mennonite – a Christian sect of strong moral and religious beliefs and a refusal to engage with modern culture. The Mennonite is one of several prophets in the novel who foretells death and destruction. 

Specifically, the Mennonite gives an account of God's Creation of the universe which holds that God created not just with love but also wrath, and that the wrath of God has been merely sleeping, to be awoken by the evil acts of human beings themselves. This account is an allusion to Herman Melville's Moby Dick, where the narrator thinks, "Though in many of its aspects the visible world seems formed in love, the invisible spheres were formed in fright." In other words, Love and Wrath are not distinct, but bound to one another. We will see just how frightful our universe is if we persist in our evil ways, the Mennonite implies.

One of the ironies underlying this passage is that Captain White claims to be bringing God and good government into Mexico by making war there. He, like many Americans of his time, are intoxicated with a myth of progress, the idea that human beings can master nature and spread civilization and perfect themselves. The Mennonite sees, however, that unchecked, ruthless progress, far from bringing paradise to earth, will bring a hell instead. 

Of course, no one heeds the Mennonite's words.

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Captain White Character Timeline in Blood Meridian

The timeline below shows where the character Captain White appears in Blood Meridian. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon the one who mauled the Mexican bartender the day before, because, if he is, Captain White wants him to join an army of irregulars going to war against the Mexicans. The... (full context)
Religion and Ritual Theme Icon the kid’s. He was poor, a drunkard, a frequenter of prostitutes. Then he met Captain White , who helped him rise like Lazarus and walk the path of righteousness. The kid... (full context)
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
Together, the kid and Sergeant Trammel ride back into Bexar, to the pretty hotel where Captain White keeps quarters. After completing and rereading a letter, the gray-haired and mustachioed Captain holds an... (full context)
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
Racism and Partisanship Theme Icon
Captain White then asks the kid what he thinks of “the treaty” (presumably the Treaty of Guadalupe... (full context)
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
Racism and Partisanship Theme Icon
Captain White then turns to his plans. He tells the kid that the U.S. will eventually take... (full context)
Fate Theme Icon
Religion and Ritual Theme Icon them, warning that the United States Army under General Worth will jail all of Captain White ’s army at the river. In fact, he tells the three recruits to pray that... (full context)
Chapter 4
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
Five days later, mounted on Earl’s horse, the kid rides out with Captain White ’s army of filibusters (people engaging in unauthorized warfare against a foreign country). They ride... (full context)
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
Racism and Partisanship Theme Icon
...hut is empty, they know from the hot coals inside that people must be near. Captain White instructs a sergeant to find them, as well as any food or water that may... (full context)
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
Racism and Partisanship Theme Icon
The next day, Captain White surveys the desert with a brass telescope and spies what he thinks is a large... (full context)
Chapter 5
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
...that it is a man named Sproule, one of eight survivors of the massacre including Captain White . Sproule and the kid rest and discuss their injuries—Sproule has a wounded arm—before resuming... (full context)
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
Witness and Mercy Theme Icon
...out to them, Sproule trots after them. The apparent leader of the Mexicans, mounted on Captain White ’s horse, asks if the two are looking for the Indians, upon which several of... (full context)
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
Racism and Partisanship Theme Icon
...strange reptiles, a leper, and a liquor-filled jar in which is floating the head of Captain White . The kid looks at the head, spits, and says that the Captain was no... (full context)
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
...mission. He befriends a boy from Georgia, and together they talk about their plight, and Captain White ’s. The kid calls the Captain a fool. From the Georgian, the kid learns that... (full context)