Blood Meridian

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The intellectually and developmentally disabled brother of Cloyce Bell, kept in a filthy cage and treated like a freak-show attraction. His real name is James Robert Bell. The Judge rescues the fool from drowning in the Colorado River, and in the aftermath of the Yuma massacre leashes him like a dog, leading him along as the Judge pursues Tobin and the kid. The idiot’s fate is unknown.

The idiot Quotes in Blood Meridian

The Blood Meridian quotes below are all either spoken by The idiot or refer to The idiot . 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 18 Quotes

The Borginnis woman waded out with her dress ballooning about her and took him deeper and swirled him about grown man that he was in her great stout arms. She held him up, she crooned to him. Her pale hair floated on the water.

Related Characters: The idiot , Sarah Borginnis
Related Symbols: Bathing
Page Number: 254
Explanation and Analysis:

In Tucson, the gang agrees to escort Cloyce Bell and his brother James Robert, referred to throughout the novel as the idiot because of his severe disability, to California. The idiot travels in a filthy cage. One morning, on the banks of a river, a group of women sees the idiot, and they resolve to clean him and burn his cage. Sarah Borginnis is one of these women.

Women are a rare sight in the novel; they are usually mourners or prostitutes, and are very seldom named. As such, Sarah stands out. She achieves high moral dignity when she rebukes Cloyce for mistreating his brother, and with strength of character she takes charge of James Robert's care. McCarthy is careful in his diction to point both to Sarah's power and her tenderness. She has "great stout arms," but these arms don't do violence, like the Judge's massive arms, but rather they cradle. Her dress delicately balloons on the water. She has delicately "pale hair." Sarah is also something of a maternal figure – she even tucks James Robert in to bed later – and as such she acts as a strong foil to both the war-monger judge and to Mother Nature, who is painted as alien and bloodthirsty in the novel.

The bathing of the idiot is also, symbolically, a baptism. This is a physical and a spiritual cleansing, and for one brief moment in this novel strewn with abominations we see what a good society might look like: selfless, with a respect for human dignity and liberty.

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The idiot Character Timeline in Blood Meridian

The timeline below shows where the character The idiot appears in Blood Meridian. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 16
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
Fate Theme Icon
...first see him. Glanton asks if Cloyce lets women see the imbecile—hereafter referred to as the idiot —and Cloyce replies that none have ever asked. (full context)
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
Fate Theme Icon
...sits Cloyce, whom Glanton offers a drink. Cloyce explains to him and the Judge that the idiot he owns was left in his care once their mother died. Upon learning that the... (full context)
Chapter 17
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
Racism and Partisanship Theme Icon
...dusk, the gang rides out of Tucson. With them are five new recruits, Cloyce and the idiot , and also the barrel of whiskey stolen the night before, which Glanton promised to... (full context)
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
Fate Theme Icon
...it at the beginning of time. Meanwhile, the Judge sits scribbling in his ledger, watching the idiot tirelessly. (full context)
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
...he gives a lecture on paleontology to some new recruits, answering their questions thoroughly. Nearby, the idiot is tethered near a campfire, where he sits with hands outheld as if yearning for... (full context)
Chapter 18
Witness and Mercy Theme Icon
Meanwhile, that morning, a group of women at the ferry crossing have discovered the idiot in his cage. One “huge woman” named Sarah Borginnis seeks out Cloyce and shames him... (full context)
Witness and Mercy Theme Icon
While singing hymns, the women bathe the idiot and dress him in clean clothes. Sarah orders, while she wades in the water with... (full context)
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
Witness and Mercy Theme Icon
In the night, the idiot wakes, and naked he wanders to the river. He enters the water, but soon loses... (full context)
Chapter 19
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
Fate Theme Icon
Religion and Ritual Theme Icon
Days and nights of drunken debauchery and violence follow. Someone gives the idiot whiskey one night and he dances “with great gravity.” A few mornings later, black Jackson... (full context)
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
The Yumas enter the Judge’s quarters, where they find the idiot , a young girl cowering naked on the floor, and the Judge himself, also naked,... (full context)
Chapter 20
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
...the three Americans look out, they spy two figures moving through the desert: it is the idiot and the Judge, who is draped with meat. The two rendezvous with their fellows at... (full context)
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
Racism and Partisanship Theme Icon
...and Brown’s clothing. The kid draws his pistol and hides, watching as the Judge and the idiot move toward the creek. He and the Judge exchange gunfire, but no one is hit.... (full context)
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
...wake up and see pursuing them over the plain the figures of the Judge and the idiot . (full context)
Chapter 21
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Chapter 22
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
Witness and Mercy Theme Icon
Racism and Partisanship Theme Icon
...a kimono, and behind her is a person in a pen similar in appearance to the idiot . Without a word the kid leaves the building. (full context)