Blood Meridian

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The novel’s protagonist, if it can be said to have one, is the kid, but McCarthy shows us very little of the kid’s actions and thoughts. Born in 1833 to a poor family in Tennessee, the kid has an innate “taste for mindless violence,” and by the age of fourteen runs away from home to lead a dissolute and vicious life. Early on he falls in with Captain White’s army during its unauthorized invasion of Mexico, which results in the army’s destruction and the kid’s imprisonment in Chihuahua City. However, he is soon set free to ride with Captain Glanton’s gang of scalp hunters, contracted by the Chihuahuan government to hunt the Apaches. The kid proves himself an effective killer, yet, unlike his fellow scalp hunters, he also retains a shred of his humanity. He endangers his own life on several occasions to help and accommodate his comrades-in-arms, as when he removes the arrow from David Brown’s thigh when none else would, or spares Dick Shelby’s life in defiance of Glanton’s orders. For these small acts of mercy, the Judge accuses the kid of violating the gang’s amoral spirit of war for war’s sake, of poisoning its enterprise. In 1878, at the age of 45, the kid (by then called the man), is discovered brutally murdered in a Texas outhouse after an encounter with the Judge.

The kid Quotes in Blood Meridian

The Blood Meridian quotes below are all either spoken by The kid or refer to The kid . 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 1 Quotes

He can neither read nor write and in him broods already a taste for mindless violence. All history present in that visage, the child the father of the man.

Related Characters: The kid
Page Number: 1
Explanation and Analysis:

This quote is among the earliest descriptions of the Kid presented in the novel. Although born to a schoolmaster in Tennessee, the Kid is, ironically, illiterate, which suggests the extent to which culture has decayed in the novel's America by the time of the Kid's birth in 1833. The Kid cannot even read the Bible, and indeed throughout the novel McCarthy suggests that spiritual ignorance has in large part given rise to the world of rampant cruelty and violence represented throughout the book.

The Kid, with his "taste for mindless violence," is little more than a beast in a man's skin. The Kid's "visage" is his facial expression, and based on that expression one could predict that he will lead a spiritually empty, violent life. In that sense, the Kid's history is "present in that visage," and the violent child he is will metaphorically give birth to the violent man the Kid grows up to be.

Surprising as it may sound, this one little quotation holds three allusions: one to Milton's Paradise Lost where God "dove-like satst brooding on the vast Abyss"; one to Shakespeare's Macbeth, where Lady Macbeth tells her violent husband, "Your face, my thane, is as a book where Men / May read strange matters"; and one to Wordsworth's little poem "My heart leaps up when I behold," where we find the line, "The Child is father of the Man." The first two allusions, to the war in heaven and fall from grace depicted in Milton, the violence, betrayal and revenge in Macbeth, have natural connections to the themes of the novel. The pious hopefulness and love of beauty in Wordsworth's poem seem to be connected to the novel more by their almost complete absence rather than their presence. It's worth noting, also, that McCarthy's supreme knowledge in being able to make such allusions as an author stands in stark contrast to the Kid's intellectual and spiritual degeneracy, and therefore serves as a kind of emphasis of all that has been lost in that degeneracy.

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Chapter 4 Quotes

The survivors lay quietly in that cratered void and watched the whitehot stars go rifling down the dark. Or slept with their alien hearts beating in the sand like pilgrims exhausted on the face of the planet Anareta, clutched to a namelessness wheeling in the night.

Related Characters: The kid
Page Number: 44
Explanation and Analysis:

Many days into Captain White's march through the Sonoran Desert, as part of his mad plot to conquer Mexico, his soldiers begin to fall ill with cholera and die. The landscape becomes more hostile and alien; wolves come to lope behind the army.

This quote gives a description of the soldiers as they lie down at night, as well as the desert around them. The landscape is at once empty – what we'd expect of a "void" – but also deeply menacing, with stars moving hot and swift as bullets spinning (or "rifling") through the barrel of a gun. This is nature at its most hostile, terrifying, and meaningless.

It is ironic that the narrator refers to the soldiers as "pilgrims," because pilgrims are people on journeys to holy places, while the soldiers ride out to death and destruction. The novel often associates war and religion, as though to suggest that man has indeed made war into a religion, as the Judge would wish for us. The soldiers' hearts are alien in two ways. First, they are alien because the soldiers are more and more coming to fear death, so that they see their hearts not only as a source of life but also as a vulnerability, something that puts them at risk. Second, the soldiers are alienated from their hearts in a spiritual sense: they can no longer hear the call of conscience and follow their hearts, so to speak.

Anareta is from the Greek meaning "destroyer," and it is an astrological term for any planet that portends doom. This is appropriate, considering that most of the soldiers sleeping in this passage will be soon slaughtered by the Comanches.

Chapter 21 Quotes

There’s a flawed place in the fabric of your heart. Do you think I could not know? You alone were mutinous. You alone reserved in your soul some corner of clemency for the heathen.

Related Characters: Judge Holden (speaker), The kid
Page Number: 293
Explanation and Analysis:

After the surviving gang members flee from the Yuma Indians into the desert, the quiet antagonism between the Kid and the Judge becomes explicit. The Judge hunts the Kid; the Kid hides from the Judge. While searching for his quarry, the Judge cries out that the Kid was "mutinous," or rebellious, against the gang by having "clemency," or mercy in his heart, for the "heathen," or the Indians and Mexicans the gang hunted.

The Kid is mutinous in the sense that, in his meager mercy, he could not 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 was hoping that the Kid might be a spiritual son to him, a god of war, but the Kid's mercy prevents this. That he couldn't absolutely support the gang in its mass murdering is for us, the reader, the only unflawed aspect of the Kid's heart. This shows how perverted the Judge's judgment of human character can be, as he condemns the Kid for the one thing for which the reader can (slightly) admire him.

Chapter 23 Quotes

The judge watched him. Was it always your idea, he said, that if you did not speak you would not be recognized?
You seen me.
The judge ignored this. I recognized when I first saw you and yet you were a disappointment to me. Then and now. Even so at the last I find you here with me.
I aint with you.

Related Characters: The kid (speaker), Judge Holden (speaker)
Page Number: 319
Explanation and Analysis:

The Kid grows up and becomes the Man. In Fort Griffin, he goes into a local saloon where he meets, after all these years and for the last time, the Judge. The Judge approaches the Man, and it is during their conversation that we find the exchange quoted here.

The Kid is silent in the face of the Judge's questions. He knows that the Judge can out-talk anyone, and that silence is the only viable form of resistance to his powerful rhetoric.The Judge, after all, wants everything to stand naked before him; he wants to understand in order to control. The Kid defies him by concealing his mind in silence, rendering himself unknowable.

The Judge claims to have always recognized the Kid as "a disappointment," someone who could not entirely serve the god of war. The Kid again defies the Judge. "I aint with you" means something like, "I don't want to have anything to do with you, we're not in any way related, and I don't support your cause." This is the ultimate declaration of the Kid's independence from the Judge's party of war, and it echoes his claim earlier in the novel that he is in no way kin to the mad Captain White.

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The kid Character Timeline in Blood Meridian

The timeline below shows where the character The kid appears in Blood Meridian. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
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The novel’s protagonist, if it can be said to have one, is the kid, born in 1833 during the Leonid meteor shower. His mother died in childbirth, and he... (full context)
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At the age of fourteen years, the kid runs away from his family, never again to see his father, sister, or his childhood... (full context)
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One night, a Maltese boatswain shoots the kid in the back during a tavern brawl, then in the heart. Even as the kid... (full context)
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By now, the kid has lost almost all memory of his childhood and his youthful state of innocence. In... (full context)
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In Nacogdoches, the Reverend Green is delivering a sermon in a ratty, rain-pelted tent. The kid ducks in and stands in the back, listening; he is the only person unarmed in... (full context)
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...with Green, a man in the tent draws his pistol and fires. Violence breaks out. The man the kid spoke to earlier cuts an opening in the tent and the kid follows... (full context)
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The Judge is already at the bar of the hotel drinking when the kid and his companion enter. The two order drinks, and the bartender tells them that the... (full context)
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Days later, the kid finds himself in the same bar, having spent all of his money on drink. He... (full context)
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The kid wakes in the hotel to find Toadvine’s branded face looking over him. The two agree... (full context)
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...Sidney’s door. Sidney emerges; Toadvine attempts to gouge his eye out and, at Toadvine’s urging, the kid also begins to attack Sidney. By now a large part of Sidney’s room is on... (full context)
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Toadvine and the kid escape into the Texas morning while the hotel continues to burn. Toadvine runs through the... (full context)
Chapter 2
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The kid begins to live by begging and theft. He rides across a barren prairie, where the... (full context)
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One day, the kid sees smoke rising from among the hills and rides toward it. He finds a hut... (full context)
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The kid thanks the hermit, but the hermit predicts that a storm is coming and tells the... (full context)
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Inside, the hermit asks the kid if he lost his way, and the kid responds in the affirmative. The two begin... (full context)
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The kid and the hermit eat together while thunder booms overhead. Eventually the kid makes his bed... (full context)
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In the morning, the kid gathers his things and leaves, riding out through a forest at first, and a day... (full context)
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In the morning, the kid breakfasts with the cattle drovers before saddling up his skinny, sore, and balding mule. The... (full context)
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Four days later, the kid arrives in Bexar, a town of adobe houses and a wagon-filled plaza. The sun is... (full context)
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The kid ties up his mule and enters a cafe. He tells the bartender that he would... (full context)
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After sweeping, the kid re-approaches the bartender for his drink. The bartender ignores the kid, then shoos him away.... (full context)
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The kid wakes up the next morning in a ruined church, the floor filthy with animal feces... (full context)
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Very faintly in the dust, the kid discerns the tracks of his mule and follows them down to a ford. There, several... (full context)
Chapter 3
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The kid is lying naked under some trees when a man on horseback, later identified as Sergeant... (full context)
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While the kid studies the Trammel’s white horse, beautifully equipped with fine leather and silver, the sergeant goes... (full context)
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Together, the kid and Sergeant Trammel ride back into Bexar, to the pretty hotel where Captain White keeps... (full context)
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Captain White then asks the kid what he thinks of “the treaty” (presumably the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which formally ended... (full context)
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Captain White then turns to his plans. He tells the kid that the U.S. will eventually take the Mexican state of Sonora as part of its... (full context)
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...at the edge of town. After bathing, shaving, and dressing in his new clothes there, the kid looks like a new man. Later that night, he on his mule and two other... (full context)
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The kid and his two comrades wander the streets before entering a cantina. They order whiskey, drink,... (full context)
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The kid and his two companions berate the Mennonite who moves away, muttering. The three drink and... (full context)
Chapter 4
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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... (full context)
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...from hell and rain down arrows on the army of filibusters. The filibusters fire back. The kid ’s horse sinks down underneath him with a sigh, and the kid finds himself next... (full context)
Chapter 5
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The kid “wondrously” survives the massacre; at night he rises and steals away under the moonlight, even... (full context)
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...he climbs the tumbled boulders of the Bolson de Mapimi (a drainage basin in Mexico), the kid hears a voice call to him. At first he can’t see who is calling, but... (full context)
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The next morning, the kid and Sproule take to the plain again. They come upon turf trampled by the Indian... (full context)
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In the afternoon the kid and Sproule reach a village in smoking ruins, all of its inhabitants dead. The men... (full context)
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The kid and Sproule sit in the plaza and decide what to do next. Sproule tells the... (full context)
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The kid returns to find Sproule in a church where forty scalped, naked, and partly eaten corpses... (full context)
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Come morning, the kid and Sproule leave the ruined village and set out across cruel terrain littered with “slag.”... (full context)
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...his lips are blistered and a foul fluid has seeped from his now swollen arm. The kid sees someone in the distance, and as he and Sproule discuss what to do they... (full context)
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The people the kid saw earlier in the day turn out to be Mexican men on horseback, seven or... (full context)
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The kid asks the leader of the Mexicans for water, which is granted. A canteen is produced,... (full context)
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The kid and Sproule descend the mountain and reach the valley floor by dusk. There they march... (full context)
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In the morning, the kid and Sproule find a seep of water. The kid absorbs water into his shirt and... (full context)
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In the afternoon, Sproule and the kid come to a crossroads. From there, they follow what seems to be the path most... (full context)
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In the morning, the kid wakes to find Sproule dead in the wagon. He exits to urinate, but as he... (full context)
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The kid is imprisoned in a stone corral with three other refugees from the filibustering mission. He... (full context)
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Children from the village try to urinate on, and throw rocks at, the prisoners, but the kid retaliates and with a stone drops a child from the wall. The Georgian warns that... (full context)
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...buildings and churches, vultures, and meat hanging from hooks. Once deposited in a prison there, the kid sees a fellow prisoner walk to a bucket on the floor and urinate—it is Louis... (full context)
Chapter 6
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...filth. Their overseer is a “goldtoothed pervert” whom Toadvine wants to kill personally. Toadvine assures the kid that they’ll get out of the prison. During the day, a cart passes in the... (full context)
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In the prison, the kid sleeps next to Toadvine and a man from Kentucky called Grannyrat Chambers who had served... (full context)
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The kid tells the two men about the massacre of the filibusters at the hands of the... (full context)
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...a century, and attempted to sell the scalps in Durango. At story’s end, Toadvine asks the kid how much money they could get for their prison overseer’s gold teeth. (full context)
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...next day, the Judge studies the prisoners while they work. He seems to smile at the kid . Toadvine explains later that night that the Governor of Chihuahua, Angel Trias, is paying... (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, led by Governor Trias. Girls throw flowers to... (full context)
Chapter 7
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After a day of riding, the gang makes camp. The narrator explains that Toadvine, the Kid , and Grannyrat are replacements for three scalp hunters who died earlier in the desert.... (full context)
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The Judge instructs the old magician to offer a card to the kid, who draws the Four of Cups. The Judge smiles. The kid orders the old magician... (full context)
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...gang leaves the square and makes camp in a nearby grove. From there, Toadvine and the kid watch the family of magicians announce their entertainments to the beat of a drum. Bathcat... (full context)
Chapter 8
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...cards, called Monte. Out of the gloom, an old man shuffles toward Toadvine, Bathcat, and the kid . After some linguistic misunderstanding, the old man makes it clear that he welcomes the... (full context)
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As the scalp hunters leave the cantina, Bathcat tells the kid that the old man they just spoke with is the father of the man moaning... (full context)
Chapter 9
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...take cover under bushes while arrows fall, and they begin to fire at their attackers, the kid calmly as though he’s done this before in a dream. After more shots are exchanged,... (full context)
Chapter 10
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Some nights later, Tobin and the kid are sitting together around a campfire, the kid rather efficiently mending a strap. The two... (full context)
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...who are silent, and that He also speaks to the least of creatures, including men. The kid says he’s never heard the voice of God, but Tobin says that when the voice... (full context)
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Tobin then begins to tell the kid about how the Judge first fell in with Glanton’s gang and saved them all. The... (full context)
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Tobin’s story is ended. The kid asks what, exactly, the Judge is a judge of, but Tobin hushes him, explaining that... (full context)
Chapter 12
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...and the Indians’ Mexican slaves, hacking at their skulls for scalps. When McGill is lanced, the kid attempts to help him, but Glanton orders him not to and shoots McGill in the... (full context)
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...massacre and asks for help, but none, not even Doc Irving, will help him—none save the kid . The kid succeeds in removing the arrow’s point and shaft, but when he returns... (full context)
Chapter 13
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The day of the massacre comes. Toadvine tells the kid that the Tiguas aren’t bothering anyone, but no one responds. Bathcat notices that Toadvine is... (full context)
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In the cantina, someone mutters an insult about the Americans. The kid demands to know who issued the insult, but is interrupted when another rocket explodes outside.... (full context)
Chapter 15
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...a quiver, four of which have red flannel tied to them. When selecting his arrow, the kid begins to draw one, sees that the Judge is watching him, then choose a different... (full context)
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The kid and Tate discuss who will kill whom; the kid tells Tate that he can ride... (full context)
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The kid decides not to kill the wounded Mexican, who will die soon anyway. Shelby, however, is... (full context)
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The kid, as he rides to catch up with the gang, comes upon Tate, whose horse has... (full context)
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Morning finds the kid crouched under a promontory. He walks all day, bitterly cold, and continues walking through the... (full context)
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After some time, the kid sees smoke; he heads toward it, to find a tree burning in the desert, ignited... (full context)
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The kid finds a horse, which, after some difficulty, he mounts and rides. The two are soon... (full context)
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...firelight, he asks for help in killing it; none rise to help him. Tobin tells the kid to ignore the Judge and places “a cautionary hand upon the kid’s arm,” but the... (full context)
Chapter 19
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On Easter of that year, Toadvine and the kid and another gang member, Billy Carr, are going upstream to cut willow poles when they... (full context)
Chapter 20
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Pursued by the Yumas, Toadvine and the kid escape into the desert. The kid has taken an arrow to his leg, but keeps... (full context)
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...up with the two Americans and begin throwing spears at them and raining down arrows. The kid and Toadvine make a stand, killing one Indian before resuming their trek, pursued by the... (full context)
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At the wells of Alamo Mucho (a lake basin in Baja California), the kid and Toadvine meet up with Tobin. They drop down into one of the wells together... (full context)
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The Judge invites the kid and Tobin to join him down the slope for meat and water, but the two... (full context)
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The Judge offers the kid $500 for his pistol, gunpowder, and ammunition. Tobin urges the kid to shoot the Judge... (full context)
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Tobin and the kid soon come across David Brown in the desert. Brown asks about what’s happened to them,... (full context)
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As Tobin and the kid trek through the desert the following day, they encounter the ruins of caravans before reaching... (full context)
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At night, the kid and Tobin reunite; the ex-priest is bearing a cross fashioned from the shins of a... (full context)
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Not fifty feet away, wading upstream despite the swift current, the Judge calls out to the kid, ordering him to surrender his pistol as punishment for killing the horses. He says he... (full context)
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That night, Tobin and the kid set off across the dunes, looking back one last time to see the Judge’s fire... (full context)
Chapter 21
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Tobin tells the kid to leave him and save himself, but the kid declines and the two end up... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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Tobin and the kid discuss where to go, but as they do the Judge returns. He addresses the countryside,... (full context)
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The kid and Tobin would have died in the sands had a band of Diegueño Indians not... (full context)
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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... (full context)
Chapter 22
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Back in town, the kid goes into a tavern where he is promptly arrested by four soldiers who don’t even... (full context)
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One morning, the kid wakes to find the Judge standing before his cage for a visit. The Judge tells... (full context)
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The Judge tells the kid to come closer. He tells him that he would have loved him like a son... (full context)
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That night, the kid calls over the corporal who mans the jail and tells him about the gang’s hoard... (full context)
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The kid finds a surgeon in town who agrees to remove the arrow from the kid’s leg... (full context)
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While etherized, the kid deliriously dreams of the Judge, whom the narrator describes as having no knowable origins. The... (full context)
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The operation is a success, and within a week the kid is able to hobble through town on crutches. He seeks Tobin, but no one knows... (full context)
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In June of that year, the kid is in Los Angeles and witnesses a public hanging. Later that evening, he discovers that... (full context)
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Later, in the same city, the kid beats senseless a man who thinks he is a male prostitute, and sometime after the... (full context)
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With his last two dollars, the kid buys the necklace of ears that Davy Brown wore to the scaffold. The next morning,... (full context)
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During his travels, people defer to the kid as one who has experienced more than his years can account for. He acquires a... (full context)
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At the age of 28, the kid is escorting, along with five other men, a family through the desert eastward. He abandons... (full context)
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The next day, the kid continues trekking, leading his horse over the difficult terrain. At one point, the horse refuses... (full context)
Chapter 23
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In the winter of 1878, the kid, now referred to as the man, is on the plains of North Texas. At night... (full context)
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Riding through barren country for three days, the man comes upon a great many people filling wagons high with bones. At night, five young... (full context)
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Later in the night, Elrod returns to the man ’s camp bearing a rifle. The man kills him. At dawn, Elrod’s companions from the... (full context)
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The next day, the man rides to Fort Griffin. He arrives at dark, and enters a local saloon. A little... (full context)
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Fate Theme Icon
Racism and Partisanship Theme Icon
The Judge approaches the man and speaks with him. He notes that he and the man are the last survivors... (full context)
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
Fate Theme Icon
Religion and Ritual Theme Icon
The Judge tells the man that all of the people are gathered in the saloon for the dance, and have... (full context)
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
Witness and Mercy Theme Icon
The man leaves the Judge and goes into another room where he hires a prostitute. After they... (full context)