In "The Crossing", does Cormac McCarthy believe that we can control our destiny or is it fate that leads us along our journey of life?

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durbanville | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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In The Crossing, Cormac McCarthy has the ability to challenge the reader's concept of free will and how much a person's attitude can change what and the way things occur. The reader sees Boyd, Billy's brother who Billy tries to protect but who will die needlessly and who represents something that Billy cannot hold on to. Billy, who seems to represent an ideal rather than a real person, changes through all his poor decision-making. The fact that Billy does not make concrete decisions but seems to drift from one intention to the other is what makes The Crossing seem like perhaps Billy is not in control and that he is almost manipulated by the situation he finds himself in each time. Billy's inability to set concrete goals for himself hampers his ability to succeed, real achievement being always out of his reach. As the blind man says:

..."like every man who comes to the end of something there was nothing to be done but to begin again."

The futility resonates with the reader as we wonder, "If people knew the story of their lives how many would then elect to live them?" (Quijada) To suggest that even God may be surprised by the outcomes, not being instrumental in people's lives although his presence is never doubted or disputed, would support an existential viewpoint, where man is responsible for the life he builds. This then is the problem with Billy. He tries to do what he thinks is right but is constantly thwarted by his own actions and decisions; he has no real drive, no future and even if he arrived at a crucial point in his life "he would not know it when he got there." Ironically, Billy's success comes when he is able to bring his brother's remains home. It is up to the reader to interpret McCarthy's views but it would seem (in my opinion) that, in The Crossing, he supports the existential viewpoint and man must make the best of his own situation. 

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