Child of God

Local Perspective in Cormac McCarthy's Child of God College

“The strangeness of the story of Lester Ballard, the child of God, begins not with its subject

matter but with the way the story is told.”

Vereen Bell, The Achievement of Cormac McCarthy

In his 1991 essay, Andrew Bartlett suggests Cormac McCarthy’s Child of God “derives not so much from the force of Lester Ballard as subject or object but rather from the play of positions taken by the narrator through whom we see Ballard” (Bartlett 3). With that being said, much of the novel relies on the descriptions of a third-party narrator intermixed with first-person accounts of Ballard’s fellow Sevier County residents. Characterized by the community as violent, unpredictable, and sociopathic, Lester Ballard is alienated from his peers from a very young age. Surrounded by a tight-knit community situated within the isolated confines of the Appalachian mountains, Ballard is unable to escape the negative characteristics projected onto him by the community he is a part of. With that being said, the novel presents a constant struggle between Lester’s personal choices and his socially determined welfare. By presenting Ballard as a communal scapegoat, McCarthy emphasizes the role of community in deciding moral standards. Furthermore, McCarthy...

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