Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West

Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West Quotes and Analysis

"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."

- The Old Hermit, pg. 19

The old hermit says this to the kid when he's traveling from Nacogdoches to Bexar. This encounter takes place after the kid has met Judge Holden, but he has not yet joined the scalp-hunters. In this context, the hermit's quote serves as a warning; he offers a pessimistic view of violence and war, which Judge Holden celebrates, and it also foreshadows the evil that the kid will witness later in his life. All in all, this statement encapsulates the novel's message that violence is inherent in all humanity.

"Hell, there’s no God in Mexico. Never will be. We are dealing with a people manifestly incapable of governing themselves. And do you know what happens with people who cannot govern themselves? That’s right. Others come in to govern for them."

- Captain White, pg. 34

This quote is representative of the ideals of Manifest Destiny that were popular during the era in which Blood Meridian takes place, but it is also possible to connect this statement to contemporary American foreign policy. Captain White believes in his mission wholeheartedly because he believes in the superiority of his race. The quote suggests that the world's violence lies not only in our hearts, but also in our institutions. All of the brutal acts committed in this novel occur are sanctioned to some degree by either the American or Mexican governments. 

"When the Lambs is lost in the mountain, he said. They is cry. Sometime come the mother. Sometime the wolf."

- Mexican 'Leader', pg. 65

When the kid and Sproule, who is injured and sick, are stranded in the desert, they encounter a group of Mexicans who give them water. The quote refers to the unregulated desert where one can never know whether a friend or an enemy will be waiting around the next corner. The Mexicans realize, just like the kid and Sproule do, that if the Indians had arrived first, the Americans would not have gotten out of the desert alive. The quote touches at the unpredictability of the world of Blood Meridian; everyone's life is at risk. 

"I pray to God for this country. I say that to you. I pray. I don't go in the church. What I need to talk to them dolls there? I talk here."

- Old Man in Bar, pg. 103

The old man presents a pessimistic view of what is happening to America as a result of the government's attempts to expand; his statement is a cry for help in a universe with no moral code. He decries religion and idolatry, espousing the belief that God is needed most amongst His people and therefore should not be kept isolated in a church. However, like the readers of McCarthy's novel, he will undoubtedly discover that while God may be able to provide refuge from the world's ills, He cannot fix them. 

"The dried meat was packed in hides and other than the few arms among them they were innocent of civilized device as the rawest savage of that land."

- Narrator, pg. 120

This statement describes Glanton's gang when they are about to cross the border to collect scalps. It is representative of the fact that once they head off on this bloodthirsty mission, these men are leaving all the vestiges of civilization behind; these tools have no purpose in this battle. Out in the open prairie, only the strongest man will persevere, not the man with the most advanced weaponry. 

"For whoever makes makes a shelter of reeds and hides has joined his spirit to the common destiny of creatures and he will subside back into the primal mud with scarcely a cry. But who builds in stone seeks to alter the structure of the universe and so it was with these masons however primitive their works may seem to us."

- Judge Holden, pg. 146

In this statement, the Judge is speaking about the Anasazi ruins that Glanton's gang discovers. His quote is a rare respectful comment on the native civilizations that American expansion rapidly destroyed. The Judge is the only member of Glanton's gang who knows anything about the indigenous people, which is one of the reasons that Judge Holden's brand of evil is also the most dangerous. He understands the consequences of what they are doing, whereas the ignorant men in Glanton's gang are more likely to ascribe to simplistic propaganda that supports the brutal nature of their task. 

"The desert wind would salt their ruins and there would be nothing, nor ghost nor scribe, to tell to any pilgrim in his passing how it was that people had lived in this place and this place died."

- Narrator, pg. 174

This is a descriptive passage that comes right after Glanton and his gang have massacred a peaceful band of Tiguas that were camping on the river. An old woman weeps over the ruins of her life. This is another example of McCarthy drawing attention to the cultures that American expansion annihilated; the destruction was so severe that not even ghosts would survive to tell the tale. 

"After a while, someone asked the ex-priest if it were true that at one time there had been two moons in the sky and the ex-priest eyed the false moon above them and said that it may well have been so. But certainly the wise high God in his dismay at the proliferation of lunacy on this earth must have wetted a thumb and leaned down out of the abyss and pinched it hissing into extinction."

- Narrator, pg. 244

Glanton and his men are not necessarily scalp-hunting because they believe so wholly in their mission. Rather, in many cases, scalp-hunting was the only available job. For example, Toadvine is an outlaw who likely has no other options for employement. Therefore, Glanton's men recognize the lunacy and brutality of their task, but they persevere because they must. Tobin, who turned away from the church, is still the authority on religion amongst Glanton's men. For this reason, the Judge refuses to call him the "ex-priest" and calls him just "priest." Tobin is able to reflect on the wonder of nature and spirituality, but his knowledge also gives him the perspective to understand the tragic extent of man's sins on earth. 

"Men are born for games. Nothing else. Every child knows that play is nobler than work. He knows too that the worth or merit of a game is not inherent in the game itself but rather in the value of that which is put at hazard."

- Judge Holden, pg. 249

Judge Holden is the only person who survives at the end of Blood Meridian, and this quote hints at the reason for that. The Judge sees war as a game. He eschews any moral code and as a result, he can devote himself to violence without compromising his sanity. Furthermore, he has nothing to lose. He puts no value on human life, which means that he does not fear for his own life. The Judge's belief system makes him ruthless and completely unstoppable.

"Pick a man, any man. That man there. See him. That man hatless. You know his opinion of the world. You can read it in his face, in his stance. Yet his complaint that a man’s life is no bargain masks the actual case with him. Which is that men will not do as he wishes them to. Have never done, will never do. That’s the way of things with him and his life is so balked about by difficult and become so altered of its intended architecture that he is little more than a walking hovel hardly fit to house the human spirit at all."

- Judge Holden, pg. 339

The Judge says this to the kid when they meet again at the end of the novel. The Judge argues that the kid has been battered by life, and therefore has no reason to keep living; his spirit has fled his body. In contrast, the Judge ends the novel dancing naked and proclaiming his immortality so that everyone around him can see that he has retained his spirit. However, McCarthy leaves it to the reader to determine the moral cost of such confidence.