The book was much denser than either The Road or No Country For Old Men, the only other McCarthy works I've read. It took me hours upon hours to get through the book (over the span of 3 days, so that I could finish it in time to write about it), and often times I had to go back and reread sentences. So in that sense, it's decidedly different from The Road.
Like The Road, it's freaking bloody. No. Way bloodier. The gore is so much that after a certain point, I found myself completely desensitized to it (much in the way that the inhabitants of the world probably were, hmm?).
I found it a dazzling, epic read, yet really really bleak in its outlook due to the senseless death and the way goodness pretty much is unrewarded. The judge, the devil incarnate, pretty much wins in the end, and that in itself was so depressing.
Also, I know this book is based upon a real gang of scalphunters that lived. This book depressed me so much, thinking about how terrible we were to the people who originally lived on this land, all in the name of "manifest destiny".
I was talking to E. about this book vs. The Road a lot via facebook the other day. Here is some of what we said (I'm posting this mostly because I'm too lazy to try to sort through all my thoughts on this book again):
Me: im writing my essay on pretty much how the two books are antitheses of each other, and how while BM reveals hopelessness/the dominance of violence in human nature over morality, TR does the opposite. speaking of the religion aspect of it though -- would u say that BM represents a perversion of God? I felt like I read it that way when I read it and I was going to write a para on how it's like that in BM versus TR (where at first you think God has abandoned them but then the father kinda sees the boy as an embodiment of God-ish), but I can't seem to find the citations I need for it and now I'm wondering if I just imagined it.
E: I think the key to thinking about religion and BM and TR is through these relationships. Arguably the Kid and the Boy are both the "christ figures" in the horrible stereotypical literary theory sense. But the question is what happens when they are taught by "good" or "evil". BM can actually be seen as really positive because The Kid, despite all the influence of the Judge, eventually rebels and goes from being someone of a questionable nature to someone of pretty solid moral character. The evil made him good. In BM the judge functions as the Devil. In TR it's the world. The world functions as the excuse people have for depravity, so in some ways it's a more slippery character. Both books look at religion through a moral perspective. In BM it's religion being warped that helps the Kid find a true sense of righteousness. In TR it's the world being warped that leads the Boy to religion... which may or may not be a savior depending on how you read it.
Me: i ♥ mccarthy. though (as you very well know), i find the road hopeful as all hell and i found BM to be depressing stabby stabby, and that's what my thesis is about. i mean the kid, sure, he starts getting a backbone, but he still kills that random kid in the forest at the end and anyway his "goodness" is unrewarded when the judge decides to axe him in the bathroom or whatever. creepy dude that judge.
E: I know what you mean. The Judge is the Devil! But he's just amazing that way, alternately fascinating/horrible/wonderful. The whole making gunpowder bit was incredible. We had such opposite reads. I find BM totally inspiring, while TR I had to like... look for some uppers afterward. HA!
Me: haha. i wonder what that says about us, that we read the same two books and read them in the complete opposite direction. i took the judge's triumph in the end as a final, the-devil-has-won-and-quashed-you-silly-
moralists sort of win. hee!
E: I think that Blood Meridian is the more complex of the two books; The Road proposes a more black and white morality. Doubt also plays a really quiet, subversive role in BM that as far as religion goes delves into some of the more uncomfortable parts of Christianity. TR sort of whacks you over the head with it. I do love the starkness of the prose in TR tho... But I'm just a sucker for the over the top of BM. BTW a fabulous character study could be done comparing the role of the Judge in BM with the antagonist in Oates' short story Where are You Going, Where Have You Been. Same Devil, same seduction, two wildly different approaches. Not that I ever thought about that or anything... nooo.
Me: BM is definitely more complex in its layers, but i think the stark black and white quality of TR is exactly its point. here is a world in which morality is absolute and above circumstance, which of course is not the way the real world works, but perhaps in a world as stripped of civilization as the one in TR is, it's the only way humanity can ... survive. i think it makes a case against bending the rules, and how once u do that, things can quickly devolve to where everything becomes a free for all. BM to me is the flipside of the coin -- this idea that morality is simply a manmade construct, and that in fact, humans are governed by a survival for the fittest and a bloodlust inherent in all of us.
Okay, I know I really should take the time to write more about this. And perhaps I will. Later. I'm seriously burned out, guys.