Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West

Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

Destruction of Civilization (Motif)

McCarthy uses destroyed buildings throughout Blood Meridian to signify the crumbling civilization. He often juxtaposes descriptions of fallen man-made structures with some major plot point in which one of the characters does something particularly brutal. Right after the judge knowingly makes the false accusation that Reverend Green is a pedophile, "the tent [in which Green was leading a religious revival] began to sway and buckle and like a huge and wounded medusa it slowly settled to the ground trailing tattered canvas walls and ratty guyropes over the ground" (7). Later on, the kid kills the barkeep in Bexar. Soon thereafter, the kid finds himself in "the nave of a ruinous church" (26). Another example of this motif is when the kid and Sproule come across a "village where smoke still rose from the ruins and all were gone to death" (57) right after the grisly attack on Captain White's gang. 

Dismembered Body Parts (Motif)

McCarthy frequently employs imagery of dismembered human body parts to show how the desert marauders of Blood Meridian develop the ability to dehumanize their victims. The most significant example of this motif is the way that Glanton's gang reduces human beings to the value of their scalps. Earlier in the novel, the old hermit who gives the kid a place to stay for the night shows him the heart of one of his slaves - thus drawing a parallel between scalp hunting and the slave trade (18). Later, the Comanches who attack Captain White's men are holding flutes made from human bones (52). Finally, when the kid sees Captain White's head in a bottle at a market in Chihuahua, he says of his old leader, "he ain't no kin to me" (70). This shows that the kid is now capable of separating himself from seeing human body parts as belonging to real people, a dissociation which will prove to make him a deadly assassin. 

Four of Cups Tarot Card (Symbol)

The Four of Cups card in Tarot can mean a number of things. Upright, it represents meditation, contemplation, apathy, and re-evaluation; reversed, it signifies boredom and missed opportunities. This particular card appears for the first time when Sproule and the kid arrive at a torched village where there are no survivors. They find the Four of Cups in one of the houses, right near the corpse of a murdered man. The card appears again when the juggler tells the kid's fortune. This symbol seems to indicate that the kid should be considering the consequences of his choices and alliances more carefully because he is on a deadly path. 

The Snakebit Horse (Symbol)

When Glanton and his gang arrive at the presidio, they find that the squatters have kept a snakebitten horse alive. The horse, which McCarthy describes as a "thing" (115), causes ruckus in the yard of the presidio, swinging at the other (healthy) animals. Irving tells the squatters that they should kill the horse, but the squatters seem to think that the horse will simply die on its own. This horse symbolizes the way that greed and bloodlust has infected all of these men; neither the squatters nor Glanton's troops want to kill the horse but they all know that it needs to die. 



Tree of dead babies (Symbol)

After the Apaches attack Captain White's gang, the kid and Sproule are left alone to fend for themselves. At one point, they stumble upon a "bush that [is] hung with dead babies" (57). This is a symbol for the way that human beings have brought death and destruction to the land, infecting the natural landscape with their ghosts.