Blood Meridian


Cormac McCarthy

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Themes and Colors
Warfare and Domination Theme Icon
Witness and Mercy Theme Icon
Fate Theme Icon
Religion and Ritual Theme Icon
Racism and Partisanship Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Blood Meridian, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Fate Theme Icon

The narrator of Blood Meridian says that people involved in hazardous enterprises like warfare often become preoccupied with the idea of fate, which is certainly the case in the novel. The kid encounters several prophets on his journey, all of whom rightly foretell doom and destruction. More uncannily, when Glanton is having his fortune told early on he draws a card from a Tarot deck depicting a cart without wheels adrift on a dark river, which the fortuneteller reads as a portent of war, vengeance, and loss. And sure enough, Glanton loses his life at the hands of vengeful Yuma Indians after having betrayed them to secure control over a ferry on the Colorado River.

The narrator is also something of a fortuneteller: several times the reader is told when and how a certain character will die long before the death comes to pass, as is the case with both Bathcat and Sloat. However, these fortunes are complicated by the possibility that such characters are not so much fated to die as they are agents who choose to lead violent lives rife with danger—and how else can a person who spends their life violently die but violently? At one point, when the gang murders a group of placid muleteers and drives their livestock off a cliff, the narrator attributes the meeting not to fate but to sheer “bad luck.”

The characters of the novel also have conflicting perspectives on the idea of fate. The Judge, for one, understands war to be both a revealer of fate’s preference as well as the ultimate fate of the world. He tells a parable about two sons, one born to a wicked father and one born to an absent and therefore idealized father. Both sons become wicked themselves. The moral seems to be that, regardless of how a person is nurtured, he or she is fated for a life of emptiness, despair, and violence. The Judge himself at one point suggests that it’s only by understanding all of creation, while at the same time having the power to destroy those parts of creation of which one doesn’t approve, that one can dictate the terms of one’s own fate. Glanton, on the other hand, believes that a person’s fate is inalterable and absolute, although he nonetheless claims agency by hurling himself relentlessly into his fated course. The kid seems somewhat skeptical of the idea of fate. At a saloon in Texas, he tells the Judge, “Everybody dont have to have a reason to be someplace.” Blood Meridian as a whole is finally ambiguous as to whether or not the world is governed absolutely by fate.

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Fate Quotes in Blood Meridian

Below you will find the important quotes in Blood Meridian related to the theme of Fate.
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:
Chapter 2 Quotes

You can find meanness in the least of creatures, but when God made man the devil was at his elbow. A creature that can do anything. Make a machine. And a machine to make the machine. And evil that can run itself a thousand years, no need to tend it.

Related Characters: The hermit (speaker)
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 3 Quotes

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:
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:
Chapter 9 Quotes

And so these parties divided upon that midnight plain, each passing back the way the other had come, pursuing as all travelers must inversions without end upon other men’s journeys.

Page Number: 116
Explanation and Analysis:
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:
Chapter 12 Quotes

They rode on. They rode like men invested with a purpose whose origins were antecedent to them, like blood legatees of an order both imperative and remote.

Page Number: 146
Explanation and Analysis:

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:
Chapter 13 Quotes

Above all else they appeared wholly at venture, primal, provisional, devoid of order. Like beings provoked out of the absolute rock and set nameless and at no remove from their own loomings to wander ravenous and doomed and mute as gorgons shambling the brutal wastes of Gondwanaland in a time before nomenclature was and each was all.

Page Number: 168
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 14 Quotes

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:
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:
Chapter 19 Quotes

All else was heaped on the flames and while the sun rose and glistened on their [the Yuma Indians’] gaudy faces they sat upon the ground each with his new goods before him and watched the fire and smoked their pipes as might some painted troupe of mimefolk recruiting themselves in such a wayplace far from the towns and the rabble hooting at them across the smoking footlamps, contemplating towns to come and the poor fanfare of trumpet and drum and the rude boards upon which their destinies were inscribed for these people were no less bound and indentured and they watched like the prefiguration of their own ends the carbonized skulls of their enemies incandescing before them bright as blood among the coals.

Page Number: 268-269
Explanation and Analysis:
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: