I am beginning to see reoccurring themes and motifs now that I’m further into the book. One theme is a clear distinction between darkness and light, while at the same time mcCarthy maintains a foggy line dividing good from evil. I guess that is because light and darkness are neither good nor evil themselves but rather more “setting-like” or suggestive. I don’t quite know how to describe it but darkness and light are clear repeated themes. Men, the desert, their leader, the steer carcass, and just about everything on the journey is either dark or light. In addition it is evident McCarthy uses a very vivid description rather than a narration like in The Road. A narration makes the story seem just that: a story. A description makes the book all the more realistic (and it is historical fiction) while at the same time making the literature seem allegorical. An allegory of what I’ve yet to find out.
The more I read, the more I realize how similar Blood Meridian is to The Road. Now the road is a recent novel - less than a decade old - and it was clearly influenced by Blood Meridian. They also share many similar themes such as the significance of names, a foggy separation between good and bad, and an overall feeling that fate is constantly at the heels of the travelers.
After a surprisingly short amount of digging I found the perfect book for this research project. The human capacity for violence has always been an interesting subject for me. It was the subject of my research essay in AP Lang last year and was the essay I submitted with my Honors College application to Grand Valley. That is the first reason why Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy is the perfect book for me. In addition, Cormac McCarthy is the author of The Road, a short book our class read over the summer which means I will be familiar with McCarthy’s literary techniques and style. Now my only concerns were how popular (and thus if criticisms were readily available) the book was and how I would be able to obtain it and start reading it over break. The first was easily answered. Blood Meridian appears to be one of McCarthy’s most popular books and I found two pieces of criticism online within five minutes (one by Harold Bloom who is apparently “ one of the most towering figures in American literary theory and criticism”). The second was the deal sealer for me. Albeit illegal, I torrented a full .PDF version of Blood Meridian and printed out the first fifty pages to get me started while the book shipped to me from Amazon. I just finished the first ten pages before typing this and I am already very pleased with my choice.
For a while I thought I was in luck. I found a book at home titled tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. The book got incredible reviews and I even found a critic who raved about how insightful the book was. Just to be sure I checked with my sister since she had already read it. While she said it was a terrific book that I should read, she emphasized that it probably would not have enough content for the project. Thus the search continues…
I originally planned on doing Laughter in the Dark by Valdimir Nobakov simply because it met the requirements and was on the shelf at home. It turns out, however, that that’s the very book she did her research paper on two years ago. She said it was fine but told me to look for something else. From what it sounded like, finding criticisms seems to be one of the most difficult parts of this project. She recommended many of the popular books that others are already doing so I knew I was on my own for finding another book. I know there’s a book out there that will be the perfect choice, it’s just a matter of finding it. I was really hoping I could do a book I already have at home but that does not look like a possibility any more.
Memories - The weight of my memories sometimes lifts me up and at other times brings me down. Remembrance of past times is a bittersweet relationship: bad memories we want to forget but cannot and memories of great times we want to cling to.
Shooting - My hobbies sadly are a burden I’ve carried all my life because not everyone understands it or society regards it as dangerous, irresponsible or distasteful. This not only weighs me down but is also painful. Everyone enjoys talking about their passions, yet that is one luxury I cannot express. It has changed me to keep to myself more in a feeble attempt to go with the crowd, which is an expectation of high school students: uniformity and equality.
Family - I regard family as a welcomed burden: it is not an easy thing to carry yet I could not imagine a life without it. With a family comes so much stress and expectations but at the same time it comes with love which lightens the load.
College - Most high school seniors today carry the weight of college which is hundreds of pounds. The transition from living with parents, free food, free schooling, and a very structured lifestyle to college is a drastic change that happens so quickly. While it may not worry some, it certainly worries me. The choices I make this year will directly impact, if not control, the rest of my life until retirement.
Expectations - My expectations are probably my heaviest burden I carry, as it is for many high school students who just want to fit in and My parents expect me to get certain grades. Colleges expect to see a well-rounded individual. Peers expect to see certain behaviors.
Responsibility - Something we all carry heavily, some more than others. Responsibility is one of those weights that cannot be set down or readjusted. It must be carried and dealt with because responsibility is my duty to myself and others around me.
iPod - While it only weighs a few ounces, my ipod is a heavy weight on how I spent my time. It’s symbolic of a human characteristic we all share: the need to feel connected.
While Saving Private Ryan seems to glorify war and show how much honor can be obtained in it, there are anti-war undertones throughout the film. For example, the life of the the captain (Tom Hanks) shows how pointless war is. The captain says he will do anything that gets him out of the war and back home quickest. That happens to be letting a German prisoner run away with his life and searching for Private Ryan. Ironically, he dies, putting him farther from home than anything else. In addition, the entire movie is based on a primary objective to save one man which ends up costing the lives of many other men. This shows how enlisted men carry the burden of war while the high ranking officers can sit back and throw orders about as if no one’s lives are attached. The ending of the film wraps up the pointlessness of war by showing how there are no true winners, that even the “victors” have still lost in so many ways
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
I love how this poem describes the dilemmas life has in such a simple metaphor.
Until my trip to Puerto Rico, I believed myself to not fit the “American stereotype”. This is a personal growth story, but one that was not enjoyable. I lived a life of modesty – or so I thought. My clothing always has been modest, my belongings are not fancy, I saved the little money I earned, my parents worked modest jobs and we all live below our means. There was no way I could be categorized as a rich, lazy, spoiled American teenager.
This epiphany happened on the first day we arrived and progressed as our time there progressed. The scariest part was that Puerto Rico is considered a part of the United States; however, it felt like I had just gone to a different country thousands of miles away. The cars. That was the first thing I realized. Almost all of them seemed to be held together by duct tape and made from wood. And the driving was horrible! The side mirrors on most cars were missing because they were ripped off by on-coming traffic since the roads were only 6 feet wide. I realized that anywhere we traveled we were in danger: to church, to the grocery store, to the market. Moreover, I realized how lucky I am that I don’t even consider these things each day I wake up. But for Puerto Ricans it is.
The poverty level was also shocking. We learned in World History class that in less-developed nations there exists a larger gap between the rich and the poor. This was very prevalent in Puerto Rico with beggars next to five star hotels, which are next to cruise ships, which are next to wooden fishing trowels. Literally a stone’s throw away from where we stayed was a section of San Juan known as La Perla, or the slums. Police refuse to patrol that area because it is so dangerous. We stayed clear of that area and we were fine but this just goes to show the irony of how such a touristy city in an American territory can resemble what Americans would regard as disgusting, dangerous and underdeveloped.
These were all passive experiences though. One night, at about eleven o’clock, when just my sister and I were walking back to our home we were approached by a man with a bottle in his hand who was clearly drunk. He asked us what time it was. As I tried to remember how to respond in Spanish he began to curse and swear. With our home 100 yards away I told the man I don’t want any trouble and we passed him on the opposite side of the street. We hustled back to our apartment and lucky he didn’t follow.
Until my trip to Puerto Rico I considered myself an average person. Now I see that I am one of the most privileged people on the planet.
The voice inside my head tells me who I am by becoming an intangible being thy controls my physical being. The voice inside my head is a collage of past events, mistakes, teachings, and memories that come together to guide what I will do in the future. Experience is the greatest teacher of all and it is these experiences and the direction our inner voice takes us which defines who we are.