Blood Meridian

Judge Holden Character Analysis

Often called “the Judge”, a totally bald, toweringly gigantic, supernaturally strong, demonically violent, and profoundly learned deputy in Glanton’s gang, second in command to none but Glanton himself. The Judge fell in with the scalp hunters after he helped them to massacre their Apache pursuers with gunpowder he manufactured utilizing little more than bat guano and human urine. He is a studious anthropologist and naturalist, a polyglot, an eloquent lecturer in fields as diverse as biological evolution and jurisprudence. He is an expert fiddler and nimble dancer. He is also a liar, a sadistic killer, and very possibly a rapist and murderer of young children. The Judge has pledged himself absolutely to the god of war, going so far as to claim that war itself is God. Fatally severe on those who break partisanship with the god of war, the Judge finds his wayward yet antagonistic spiritual son in the kid, whom he accuses of poisoning the gang’s enterprise by reserving a measure of mercy in his heart. The Judge is the only member of Glanton’s gang to survive the novel; he claims that he will never die.

Judge Holden Quotes in Blood Meridian

The Blood Meridian quotes below are all either spoken by Judge Holden or refer to Judge Holden. 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 numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of Blood Meridian published in 1992.
Chapter 7 Quotes

The judge smiled. It is not necessary, he said, that the principals here be in possession of the facts concerning their case, for their acts will ultimately accommodate history with or without their understanding. But it is consistent with notions of right principle that these facts…should find a repository in the witness of some third party. Sergeant Aguilar is just such a party and any slight to his office is but a secondary consideration when compared to divergences in that larger protocol exacted by the formal agenda of an absolute destiny. Words are things. The words he is in possession of he cannot be deprived of. Their authority transcends his ignorance of their meaning.

Related Characters: Judge Holden (speaker), The John Jacksons, Sergeant Aguilar
Page Number: 78
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 11 Quotes

If God meant to interfere in the degeneracy of mankind would he not have done so by now? Wolves cull themselves, man. What other creature could? And is the race of man not more predacious yet? The way of the world is to bloom and to flower and die but in the affairs of men there is no waning and the noon of his expression signals the onset of night… This you see here, these ruins wondered at by tribes of savages, do you not think that this will be again? Aye. And again. With other people, with other sons.

Related Characters: Judge Holden (speaker)
Page Number: 141
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 12 Quotes

The trailing of the argonauts terminated in ashes and…the expriest asked if some might not see the hand of a cynical god conducting with what austerity and what mock surprise so lethal a congruence. The posting of witnesses by a third and other path altogether might also be called in evidence as appearing to beggar chance, yet the judge…said that in this was expressed the very nature of the witness and that his proximity was no third thing but rather the prime, for what could be said to occur unobserved?

Related Characters: Judge Holden, Ben Tobin
Page Number: 147
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 14 Quotes

Only nature can enslave man and only when the existence of each last entity is routed out and made to stand naked before him will he be properly suzerain of the earth.

Related Characters: Judge Holden (speaker)
Page Number: 195
Explanation and Analysis:

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The man who sets himself the task of singling out the thread of order from the tapestry will by the decision alone have taken charge of the world and it is only by such taking charge that he will effect a way to dictate the terms of his own fate.

Related Characters: Judge Holden (speaker)
Page Number: 196
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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Chapter 17 Quotes

War is the truest form of divination. It is the testing of one’s will and the will of another within the larger will which because it binds them is therefore forced to select. War is the ultimate game because war is at last a forcing of the unity of existence. War is god.

Related Characters: Judge Holden (speaker)
Page Number: 247
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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Chapter 22 Quotes

It is this false moneyer with his gravers and burins who seeks favor with the judge and he is at contriving from cold slag brute in the crucible a face that will pass, an image that will render this residual specie current in the markets where men barter. Of this is the judge judge and the night does not end.

Related Characters: Judge Holden
Page Number: 303
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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He dances in light and in shadow and he is a great favorite. He never sleeps, the judge. He is dancing, dancing. He says that he will never die.

Related Characters: Judge Holden
Related Symbols: The Dance
Page Number: 327
Explanation and Analysis:

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Judge Holden Character Timeline in Blood Meridian

The timeline below shows where the character Judge Holden appears in Blood Meridian. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
Witness and Mercy Theme Icon
Religion and Ritual Theme Icon
A giant man, later revealed to be Judge Holden, enters the tent; he has a serene, childlike face and small hands. Addressing the... (full context)
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
Witness and Mercy Theme Icon
Religion and Ritual Theme Icon
An ugly thug in the back of the tent proposes that the crowd hang Green. Judge Holden, playing on the increasingly violent mob mentality, levels another accusation at Green, that he... (full context)
Witness and Mercy Theme Icon
Racism and Partisanship Theme Icon
The Judge is already at the bar of the hotel drinking when the kid and his companion... (full context)
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
Fate Theme Icon
...heads out of town. As he passes the burning hotel one last time, he sees Judge Holden watching the flames. The Judge meets the kid’s eyes and smiles. (full context)
Chapter 6
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
Fate Theme Icon
...and packing weapons of every description. Riding foremost among them is the giant and childlike Judge Holden. The men go to the governor’s palace, where their small black-haired leader, later identified... (full context)
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
The next day, the Judge studies the prisoners while they work. He seems to smile at the kid. Toadvine explains... (full context)
Chapter 7
Fate Theme Icon
Racism and Partisanship Theme Icon
...Mexican soldiers ride into the courtyard and demand to know what’s wrong; Speyer and the Judge assure them, despite the dead animals, that everything is fine. A Mexican sergeant, Aguilar, is... (full context)
Witness and Mercy Theme Icon
Fate Theme Icon
Racism and Partisanship Theme Icon
The black Jackson ignores Aguilar’s attempts to shake hands, and he asks the Judge what he’s told Aguilar. The Judge responds, in quasi-legal terminology, that Jackson doesn’t need to... (full context)
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
Racism and Partisanship Theme Icon
The Judge’s speech is received with silence from the gang, a few smiles, a half-witted guffaw. The... (full context)
Racism and Partisanship Theme Icon
...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 Brown, ride... (full context)
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
Fate Theme Icon
Jackson then asks the Judge to tell him what the woman is saying. The Judge is picking “small life” from... (full context)
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
Fate Theme Icon
The Judge instructs the old magician to offer a card to the kid, who draws the Four... (full context)
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
Fate Theme Icon
Finally the Judge instructs the old magician to offer a card to Glanton. Glanton accepts, but as the... (full context)
Chapter 8
Racism and Partisanship Theme Icon
...only sheets of meat and hide remain. They ride on. While stopping for supper, the Judge asks Toadvine what’s become of Grannyrat Chambers—Toadvine says that he’s separated from the gang, and... (full context)
Chapter 9
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
...and with multiple healed war wounds. Toadvine has shot this man in the chest. The Judge searches the dead man’s warbag and corpse, taking a madstone (a stony concretion, like a... (full context)
Racism and Partisanship Theme Icon
...sees that there’s a young Mexican or multiracial boy in the room, mostly naked. The Judge asks who the boy is, but the four squatters just shrug. (full context)
Religion and Ritual Theme Icon
In the afternoon, the Judge explores the works of the mine and holds an impromptu lecture on geology. He says... (full context)
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
Racism and Partisanship Theme Icon
...campfire while outside a storm rages. Someone reports that, despite the lightning and rain, the Judge is standing naked outside reciting or composing aloud in the mode of epic poetry. In... (full context)
Chapter 10
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
...a campfire, the kid rather efficiently mending a strap. The two begin talking about the Judge, whom Tobin says is very gifted. The Judge even speaks, rather improbably, Dutch, which he... (full context)
Witness and Mercy Theme Icon
Religion and Ritual Theme Icon
Tobin suggests that perhaps the Judge’s immense learnedness just goes to show how little God cares about learning. Tobin believes that... (full context)
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
Fate Theme Icon
Tobin then begins to tell the kid about how the Judge first fell in with Glanton’s gang and saved them all. The gang was being pursued... (full context)
Fate Theme Icon
A 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... (full context)
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
The Indians pursuing the unarmed gang were catching up. Even so, the Judge remained cheerful, taking notes on the bats flying about by night and even collecting plants... (full context)
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
Racism and Partisanship Theme Icon
...must have known by then that the gang in general had no gunpowder. Meanwhile, the Judge and a Delaware had set up a kiln; they distilled nitre from the guano and... (full context)
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
Religion and Ritual Theme Icon
...wolves in the night, the gang reached a malpais, very unforgiving volcanic terrain. There the Judge delivered a sermon about how the earth contains “all good things” in itself, like an... (full context)
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
...the volcanic cone of the malpais, with the pursuing Indians only ten miles away, the Judge began to chip away at the stone with his knife and encouraged others to do... (full context)
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
Racism and Partisanship Theme Icon
...base of the malpais and greedily began to climb up to kill the gang. The Judge told the men to bring their concoction to him, which he chopped to a powder... (full context)
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
Tobin’s story is ended. The kid asks what, exactly, the Judge is a judge of, but Tobin hushes him, explaining that the Judge will hear him... (full context)
Chapter 11
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
Witness and Mercy Theme Icon
...find pieces of pottery and Spanish helmets. They make camp among ancient ruins, which the Judge explores, sketching the small artifacts he find till dark. All the next day he continues... (full context)
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
Witness and Mercy Theme Icon
Webster asks the Judge what he intends to do with his sketches. The Judge says that he will expunge... (full context)
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
Witness and Mercy Theme Icon
The Judge rises to Webster’s defense. He tells of an old Hueco Indian whom he drew, who... (full context)
Witness and Mercy Theme Icon
...then discuss the Indians who long ago inhabited the ruins they’re presently camped in; the Judge tells another story, about a man who owned a harness shop along a road with... (full context)
Witness and Mercy Theme Icon
The Judge goes on to say that the harness maker’s family members all regarded him as mad... (full context)
Racism and Partisanship Theme Icon
Around this time, a black man came down the road drawing a funeral hearse, the Judge says, then scans his audience for a moment before resuming the tale. The harness maker’s... (full context)
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
Witness and Mercy Theme Icon
...she could find and told people that it was actually her son’s grave, which, the Judge concludes, perhaps by that time was so. (full context)
Witness and Mercy Theme Icon
Fate Theme Icon
Many of the men dispute the facts of the Judge’s story, but the Judge says there’s more to the story. He says that the murdered... (full context)
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
Witness and Mercy Theme Icon
The Judge then explains that the Indians who lived in the ruins the gang is camping in... (full context)
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
...of the murderous father and of the ideal father came to ruin, and asks the Judge how one should raise a child, then. The Judge earnestly proposes that a child should... (full context)
Chapter 12
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
Witness and Mercy Theme Icon
Fate Theme Icon
Religion and Ritual Theme Icon
...party of witnesses diminishes the idea of such a meeting ocurring by chance, but the Judge responds that witness is not some third thing but the very foundation of such a... (full context)
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
Racism and Partisanship Theme Icon
...and stringing them on leather cords; their former comrade-in-arms McGill has also been scalped. The Judge tells Glanton that the head he’s taken is not Gómez’s. (full context)
Witness and Mercy Theme Icon
The gang rides from the villages of the Gileños, which is in ashes. The Judge has taken from the village a live human infant. At night, though pursued by Apaches,... (full context)
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
Witness and Mercy Theme Icon
The scalp hunters ride on. One night at camp, the Judge is sitting with the Apache infant he took in his lap; the men play with... (full context)
Chapter 13
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...Trias, accordingly, invites all of the scalp hunters to a great feast. Trias and the Judge sit next to one another and speak in a language no one else there understands. (full context)
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...their scalps out onto the table among the bones and rinds of the feast. The Judge arranges for musicians to play dance music, and while the other scalp hunters lurch and... (full context)
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...Apache. At Hueco Tanks (an area of low mountains and boulders with water-collecting fissures), the Judge sets to copying hieroglyphics painted on the wall into his ledger before destroying one of... (full context)
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...The Americans, led by gang members John Dorsey and Henderson Smith, soon followed by the Judge and Charlie Brown, rush to the doorway, to be followed by a drunk Mexican with... (full context)
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Glanton discusses with the Judge and David Brown whether the Americans can overtake the Mexican soldiers who escaped before they... (full context)
Chapter 14
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...have found a bodega run by a man named Frank Carroll and are drinking. The Judge throws a coin to the fiddler and begins to dance “with a strange precision.” (full context)
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...borne on a wooden platform winds its way through town, led by the priest. The Judge sits alone in the cantina offering children candy death’s heads, but they shy away from... (full context)
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...pistols. He is taken to lie down and is bound to his bed, and the Judge comforts him and cools his forehead with rags doused in water. Meanwhile, the villagers discover... (full context)
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A young boy approaches the Judge and offers him dogs for sale. The Judge buys two puppies for much more than... (full context)
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Away from the scene of carnage, the Americans dismount. The Judge asks where the black Jackson is. No one knows. The Judge and a Delaware ride... (full context)
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...the man is incommunicative. The men leave him and ride deeper into the jungle, the Judge shooting birds to study and stuff by night. He also collects exotic leaves, sketching and... (full context)
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Toadvine asks the Judge what the purpose of his studies is. The Judge explains that only nature can enslave... (full context)
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...of the hostel. Glanton goes out and kills them. In the morning, Glanton and the Judge have a boy fetch the gangs’ horses, which, with another boy, he hastily does. (full context)
Chapter 15
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...to them. When selecting his arrow, the kid begins to draw one, sees that the Judge is watching him, then choose a different arrow. Nonetheless, the kid draws a red-tasseled arrow,... (full context)
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The gang rides all day. At night, the Judge selects the weakest horse to kill for meat. Standing beyond the firelight, he asks for... (full context)
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...rides and the men find in the desert a ring of eight human heads. The Judge kicks one as if to make sure that it’s not attached to a body buried... (full context)
Chapter 16
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...men ride past a church at San José de Tumacacori, the architecture of which the Judge lectures on expertly. In the church live two hermits, one of which gang member John... (full context)
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...Glanton’s horse bites the ear of the Apache leader’s horse. Weapons are drawn, but the Judge assures the Apache that his party is peaceful. (full context)
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...to meet the gang, including a tribal chief with even more authority, Mangas Colorado. The Judge speaks with him as well, and soon Mangas is convinced that the Americans are friendly.... (full context)
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Glanton and the Judge go out into the town square to recruit some new gang members. They meet a... (full context)
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...to arrest Owens’s murderer. Glanton denies that any of his men shot Owens, and the Judge goes further and claims that the gang never even ate in Owens’s establishment. Couts curses... (full context)
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...the cantina 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... (full context)
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Lieutenant Couts confronts the gang once more. He sits with the Judge, who learnedly explains points of law to him. The Judge translates Latin terms of jurisprudence,... (full context)
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...they entrusted to his care. Pacheco has for his anvil an enormous meteorite, which the Judge lifts on a wager. On a further wager he lifts it over his head. While... (full context)
Chapter 17
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...its final darkness as if he ordered it at the beginning of time. Meanwhile, the Judge sits scribbling in his ledger, watching the idiot tirelessly. (full context)
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The next night, the gang is sitting around the fire, the Judge off on some mission. Someone asks Tobin if there used to be two moons in... (full context)
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Someone else asks if there are humans or like creatures on other planets. The Judge has returned to the fire and answers in the negative. He says that the universe... (full context)
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The Judge smiles and kneels beside Davy Brown with a coin in his hand. “Where is the... (full context)
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While the gang camps one night, the Judge discourses on warfare. He says that what people think about war doesn’t matter, because war... (full context)
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Davy Brown studies Judge Holden and dismisses him as crazy. Another gang member, Doc Irving, says that might doesn’t... (full context)
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The Judge asks Tobin what he thinks. “The priest does not say,” Tobin replies. The Judge counters... (full context)
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...a lakebed of lava and some granite hills. The next they find water, and the Judge finds a mysterious bone. Consequently, he gives a lecture on paleontology to some new recruits,... (full context)
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Later, Glanton, the Judge, and five men ride downriver to where the Yuma Indians are encamped. They are met... (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 the Indians... (full context)
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...water, but soon loses his footing and sinks from sight. At just this moment, the Judge is walking by, “such encounters being commoner than men suppose.” The Judge steps into the... (full context)
Chapter 19
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Glanton, the Judge, and two other gang members sit drinking tea with Doctor Lincoln, who runs the ferry... (full context)
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...and Webster return to the ferry and tell Glanton what befell them, Glanton leaves the Judge in charge of the ferry and rides with the five men to San Diego, straight... (full context)
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...“That man,” he says pointing to the fortifications on the hill, presumably referring to the Judge. Glanton rides up the hill to find the Judge “like some great balden archimandrite” and... (full context)
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The Yumas enter the Judge’s quarters, where they find the idiot, a young girl cowering naked on the floor, and... (full context)
Chapter 20
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...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 the well, where... (full context)
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The Judge invites the kid and Tobin to join him down the slope for meat and water,... (full context)
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The Judge offers the kid $500 for his pistol, gunpowder, and ammunition. Tobin urges the kid to... (full context)
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...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 human ears around his neck,... (full context)
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...As the kid drinks, a shot is fired at him; he turns and sees the Judge armed with a rifle on horseback, dressed in Toadvine and Brown’s clothing. The kid draws... (full context)
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...out in a foreign language. The kid rises from his hiding spot and witnesses the Judge shoot Tobin. The kid shoots back, but misses, and the Judge disappears. The kid rushes... (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... (full context)
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...the kid set off across the dunes, looking back one last time to see the Judge’s fire flickering in the valley behind them. Wolves and jackals cry all night. After another... (full context)
Chapter 21
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...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... (full context)
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The Judge passes soon enough, with the idiot on a leather leash. He has rifles, canteens, and,... (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, telling the kid that he should show himself; he also... (full context)
Chapter 22
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One morning, the kid wakes to find the Judge standing before his cage for a visit. The Judge tells him that Tobin has gone... (full context)
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The Judge tells the kid to come closer. He tells him that he would have loved him... (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 kid dreams that with the... (full context)
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...witnesses more violence in his life, never sees Tobin again, and hears rumors about the Judge everywhere he goes. (full context)
Chapter 23
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...The man orders a whiskey when he notices that sitting at a table is the Judge, who looks unchanged. The man pays, and when he turns the Judge is speaking to... (full context)
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The Judge approaches the man and speaks with him. He notes that he and the man are... (full context)
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The Judge tells the man that all of the people are gathered in the saloon for the... (full context)
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The man leaves the Judge and goes into another room where he hires a prostitute. After they have sex, the... (full context)
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...his instrument and the music resumes and the dance continues. Towering over everyone is the Judge, who dances expertly, bowing to the ladies, laughing, a great favorite. He takes possession of... (full context)