Blood Meridian

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John Joel Glanton Character Analysis

The leader of the gang of scalp hunters featured in the novel, Glanton is a small dark-haired man who has left his wife and daughter for a life of bloodshed and debauchery. After the Judge saved his gang from the Apaches, Glanton entered into something of a terrible covenant with the Judge, who became his foremost deputy. Obsessed with the inexorable workings of fate, Glanton claims agency over his own end by self-destructively embracing it; after a bounty is posted on his head in Mexico, he becomes more and more possessed by a mad and explosive intensity, leading his gang on to the Colorado River where they violently betray Yuma Indians with whom they’ve conspired and seize Dr. Lincoln’s ferry. The Yumas respond in kind, massacring the gang; Glanton dies at the hands of the Yuma leader Caballo en Pelo, and his corpse is hurled onto a bonfire.

John Joel Glanton Quotes in Blood Meridian

The Blood Meridian quotes below are all either spoken by John Joel Glanton or refer to John Joel Glanton. 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 13 Quotes

They entered the city haggard and filthy and reeking with the blood of the citizenry for whose protection they had contracted. The scalps of the slain villagers were strung from the windows of the governor’s house and the partisans were paid out of the all but exhausted coffers and the Sociedad was disbanded and the bounty rescinded. Within a week of their quitting the city there would be a price of eight thousand pesos posted for Glanton’s head.

Related Characters: John Joel Glanton
Page Number: 181
Explanation and Analysis:

Glanton's gang returns to Chihuahua City in triumph the first time, because they bear with them many Indian scalps. The second time they return, however, they bring with them the scalps not of the Indians they were contracted to kill, but the scalps of Mexican citizens, the very people the gang was hired to protect. The government in Chihuahua does not yet know this, however, and so it pays Glanton's men for "the scalps of the slain villagers" – which is what the gang was counting on. 

McCarthy's description of the gang's second return to the city is at once anticlimactic and grisly. The gang is no longer greeted with fanfare, it would seem, after they so abused Chihuahua's hospitality the last time. They are paid from the public funds, or "coffers," and that's it. "The bounty rescinded" means that the government of Chihuahua ended its offer to pay for Indian scalps.

The gang's betrayal of the Mexicans is nowhere more hideously represented than in the detail that slain Mexicans' scalps "were stung from the windows of the governor's house." This goes beyond irony – the governor's house decorated with the skin of those he's supposed to govern – into abject horror.

The government of Chihuahua must eventually discover Glanton's betrayal, for a week after he and his men ride out, the governor offers money to whomever kills Glanton. The hunters have become the hunted.

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Chapter 16 Quotes

The judge emerged from the darkness. Evening, Lieutenant, he said. Are these men the witnesses?
Couts looked at his corporal. No, he said. They aint witnesses. Hell, Captain. You all were seen to enter the premises and seen to leave after the shot was fired. Are you going to deny that you and your men took your dinner there?
Deny ever goddamned word of it, said Glanton.

Related Characters: Judge Holden (speaker), John Joel Glanton (speaker), Lieutenant Couts (speaker)
Page Number: 233
Explanation and Analysis:

While eating with the gang in Tucson, the black Jackson murders the racist proprietor of the place, a man named Owens. Lieutenant Couts confronts the gang and announces that he needs to arrest Jackson. However, the Judge complicates what should be a rather clear-cut case by pointing out that nobody actually witnessed the shooting (or at least nobody outside the gang...).

The fact that the Judge emerges "from the darkness" has a faint symbolic charge here. The Judge himself avoids being seen, because when one goes unobserved, one can act freely without consequences. He is also someone who muddies and darkens what should be clear. Couts appeals to a very commonsense understanding of Owens's murder: the gang went into his premises with no one else there, a shot was heard, and the gang was seen to leave. But the Judge, and under his influence Glanton, explode this commonsense understanding by appealing to extreme skepticism. Without witnesses, they suggest, no one can really know what actually happened in Owens's place. By undermining the plain sense of things like this, the Judge gets the gang off of many hooks.

The novel, though, as a whole seems sympathetic to Couts's point of view; after all, it bears witness to the fact that Jackson killed Owens. 

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John Joel Glanton Character Timeline in Blood Meridian

The timeline below shows where the character John Joel Glanton appears in Blood Meridian. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 6
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...go to the governor’s palace, where their small black-haired leader, later identified as John Joel Glanton, gains entry. (full context)
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...kid. Toadvine explains later that night that the Governor of Chihuahua, Angel Trias, is paying Glanton and his gang to kill Apaches, a hundred dollars per scalp, one thousand dollars for... (full context)
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Three days later, Glanton and his gang, which now includes the kid, Toadvine, and Grannyrat, ride out of Chihuahua,... (full context)
Chapter 7
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...a Jewish arms dealer from Prussia named Speyer. Speyer produces and opens a box for Glanton, who lifts from it a huge pistol. He loads it and levels the pistol at... (full context)
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...same place, only to have been slaughtered by Apaches and then partly eaten by hogs. Glanton orders a goat killed for supper. (full context)
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...come out and watch them pass with wonder. The gang camps in the town plaza. Glanton, the Judge, and two other members of the gang, David Brown and his brother Charlie... (full context)
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...of Janos. A member of the family, an old man, tries to explain this to Glanton despite not speaking English, going so far as to have the company put on part... (full context)
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Glanton asks the old man if he tells fortunes; he does, and produces a pack of... (full context)
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Finally the Judge instructs the old magician to offer a card to Glanton. Glanton accepts, but as the magician reaches for the card drawn that he might see... (full context)
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...journey and reach the crumbling walls of Janos in the afternoon. In the town square, Glanton meets up with two Delawares and a man named Marcus “Long” Webster who had ridden... (full context)
Chapter 8
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...rides on, through mountain and forest. By evening they come to a mesa, from which Glanton looks out before deciding to ride on into the “problematical destruction of darkness.” (full context)
Chapter 9
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...from the gang at Janos return, bringing with them the horse that belonged to Grannyrat. Glanton burns Grannyrat’s saddle, blanket, and other effects. Then the gang rides on. (full context)
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...carriage drawn by six horses. The horses are shy and skitter away when approached, but Glanton eventually gains access to the carriage. Inside he finds two dead men and a dead... (full context)
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...the Apaches. There they come across a large triangular building, from which smoke is rising. Glanton knocks on the door and tells whoever’s inside to come out if they’re white. A... (full context)
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...to eat it and don’t want it to rot too quickly. As the sun rises, Glanton sees that there’s a young Mexican or multiracial boy in the room, mostly naked. The... (full context)
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...is clear. Toadvine and the Judge make small talk on the weather. The squatters inform Glanton that they want to join the gang, but Glanton ignores them. (full context)
Chapter 10
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...deputy in the gang, David Brown, wanted to leave the Judge on his rock, but Glanton overruled him and decided to equip the Judge to travel with the gang. As they... (full context)
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...him, which he chopped to a powder when presented with it. He loaded it into Glanton’s pistol, and told Glanton to fire into the cauldron of the volcano: with a strange... (full context)
Chapter 11
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...mountains. At dusk, a bear rises out of the vegetation and, despite being shot by Glanton, manages to carry off in its jaws one of the Delawares. For three days the... (full context)
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...where bats feed. They camp, and the next day ride through a tattered village where Glanton finds a dog which he tames with a piece of jerky. The gang takes the... (full context)
Chapter 12
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...the south only four hours away. By early morning, the gang has ridden upon them. Glanton tells his men to leave no Indian alive, and to spare their bullets only for... (full context)
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...rise overlooking the massacre. Webster shoots their leader from a long distance with his rifle; Glanton whoops and rides forward. After threatening off the remaining Apache warriors with his pistol, Glanton... (full context)
Chapter 13
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Governor Trias invites Glanton and his officers to dine with him, but Glanton says that he does not dine... (full context)
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...at the table continue to scream out toasts of their own and demand more drinks. Glanton dumps the gold paid to the gang for their scalps out onto the table among... (full context)
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The gang rides on toward Texas, where Glanton is wanted by the law. Four hundred miles to the east, in the U.S., live... (full context)
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...the gang returns to Chihuahua City, where two soldiers stop Toadvine at the gate and Glanton announces, “I aint got nobody’s teeth.” Two days later, about a hundred Mexican soldiers escort... (full context)
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...them. The Americans fire on them; many Mexicans die, and some retreat into the darkness. Glanton personally kills the Mexican captain, and orders five men to pursue the survivors into the... (full context)
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Glanton discusses with the Judge and David Brown whether the Americans can overtake the Mexican soldiers... (full context)
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...of the gang leaving the city, a bounty of eight thousand pesos is posted for Glanton’s head. (full context)
Chapter 14
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...ride through meadows and forests, down a mountain trail into the town of Jesús María. Glanton knocks at the door of an inn and the men are permitted to enter. By... (full context)
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The next day Glanton is drunk and crazed; he lurches into a courtyard and fires his pistols. He is... (full context)
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In the late afternoon, Glanton wakes and breaks free of his bindings. He cuts down a Mexican flag, ties it... (full context)
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...leading mules to a nearby mine. “Bad luck,” the narrator observes. Despite being cordially greeted, Glanton rides past a muleteer and almost pushes him off a cliff. The muleteer draws a... (full context)
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...into a jungle, where after nine days they meet an old man with two donkeys. Glanton tries to question him, but the man is incommunicative. The men leave him and ride... (full context)
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...the Americans are dancing and debauched; dogs begin fighting in the courtyard of the hostel. Glanton goes out and kills them. In the morning, Glanton and the Judge have a boy... (full context)
Chapter 15
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...of Sonoran cavalry led by one General Elias. A firefight ensues, in which three of Glanton’s men are killed and seven wounded, four so badly that they can’t ride. At night,... (full context)
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While the gang prepares to ride out, Glanton holds a lottery to determine which of the gang members will kill the four men... (full context)
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...Shelby that he’ll just leave him if that’s what Shelby wants. After reminding him that Glanton will kill him for this act of mercy, Shelby asks the kid to hide him... (full context)
Chapter 16
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...hermit is soon found; he is imbecilic and not altogether sane. The gang leaves him. Glanton says they ought to have shot that hermit too, because he does not “like to... (full context)
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...twenty or so of the Apaches rides out to meet the gang. Their leader asks Glanton where the Americans are headed, but immediately thereafter Glanton’s horse bites the ear of the... (full context)
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...injury to the Apache horse’s ear, Mangas demands whiskey, which can be procured in Tucson. Glanton asks Mangas how much gold he has; “bastante [enough],” Mangas replies. So Glanton promises to... (full context)
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...Tucson full of Apaches, who have been disruptive and demanding whiskey. Very formally, Couts greets Glanton, who asks where the Americans can get a drink. All the bars are closed, but... (full context)
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Glanton and the Judge go out into the town square to recruit some new gang members.... (full context)
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...to eat at a different table; he thinks that the gang members are not white. Glanton defies him, but Owens insists, saying that he knows for a fact that black Jackson... (full context)
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...to a cantina where Lieutenant Couts and some of his soldiers confront them. Couts tells Glanton that he needs to arrest Owens’s murderer. Glanton denies that any of his men shot... (full context)
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Glanton succeeds in recruiting two men into the gang. In the cantina sits Cloyce, whom Glanton... (full context)
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...dogs has four eyes in its head. The merchant tries to sell the dogs to Glanton, but Glanton warns the man away and threatens to shoot the mutant dogs. More debauchery... (full context)
Chapter 17
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...Cloyce and the idiot, and also the barrel of whiskey stolen the night before, which Glanton promised to Mangas Colorado. The barrel has been drained, refashioned, and now holds only three... (full context)
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The gang rides west, past little towns and through a saguaro forest. They camp; Glanton stares thoughtfully into the fire. The narrator describes him as a man full of resources,... (full context)
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...Colonel Garcia. They are seeking a band of Apaches led by a man named Pablo. Glanton exchanges rudimentary civilities with Garcia but rides on, the gang in tow. The narrator says... (full context)
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The next day the gang is again on the move. Glanton’s dog (the one he tamed with jerky in Ch. 11) falls to the back of... (full context)
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...by cholera. Scouring through the wreckage are Yuma Indians, some ferrying livestock across the river. Glanton speaks to an old man, who tells him that his party aims to cross the... (full context)
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Later, Glanton, the Judge, and five men ride downriver to where the Yuma Indians are encamped. They... (full context)
Chapter 18
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In the early morning, Glanton, the Judge, and their five men ride out of the Yuma camp. They’ve conspired with... (full context)
Chapter 19
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Glanton, the Judge, and two other gang members sit drinking tea with Doctor Lincoln, who runs... (full context)
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...on the hill with the howitzer and fire at them, killing some dozen Indians. Then Glanton and his men ride upon them and attack; the Indians are outraged by the betrayal.... (full context)
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Glanton takes charge of the ferry, charging people not one dollar to cross as Lincoln did,... (full context)
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Not wanting to barter with Glanton, a company of U.S. soldiers led by General Patterson builds their own ferry downriver. Once... (full context)
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Time passes. By now, Glanton has enslaved many Sonorans to work at the fortifications by the ferry; the gang is... (full context)
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Days later, after Toadvine and Webster return to the ferry and tell Glanton what befell them, Glanton leaves the Judge in charge of the ferry and rides with... (full context)
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Glanton returns to the ferry, despite warnings from refugees he meets on the way, to find... (full context)
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...including the drunken Gunn, Wilson, and Henderson Smith. The Yuma leader Caballo en Pelo, whom Glanton earlier betrayed, discovers Glanton lying in a big brass bed. Glanton wakes and glares wildly... (full context)
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That night, the Yuma Indians hold a bonfire where Glanton and Lincoln’s corpses, along with eight others, are burned. The Indians also burn Lincoln’s dog... (full context)
Chapter 20
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...explains that the Yumas took the ferry and killed most of the gang members, including Glanton. Brown learns that the Judge survived and is nearby, unarmed. He fingers the necklace of... (full context)
Chapter 23
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...speaks with him. He notes that he and the man are the last survivors of Glanton’s gang. The Judge asks the man if he’s there for the dance, but the man... (full context)