In Blood Meridian, Cormac McCarthy presents the reader with a surprisingly realistic narrative that is devoid of heroes and full of violent, imperfect, and evil characters. McCarthy is highly read on the subject of the Old West and depicts plot and characters that are much more realistic than the characters portrayed in a lot of other works in the Western genre.
McCarthy typically does not explain the reason behind many of the violent acts of his characters; instead he portrays violence as inherently necessary to basic survival in a world moving from barbarity to civilization.
The theme of violence is philosophically juxtaposed by two characters: Judge Holden and Tobin, the former priest. As a believer in predestination, Judge Holden views violence as the ultimate proof of existence. When a man takes another man’s life, it is simply one man exerting his existence over another. Since all actions are predetermined, there is no reason to not participate in violence.
On the other hand, Tobin rejects predestination for the idea of free will and the existence of a knowing God. Tobin believes in making decisions in order to serve a higher power while Judge Holden believes a person can become a god on earth by dominating others.
The theme of fate in intertwined, and it appears at several points in the narrative as the kid encounters multiple prophets and Glanton has his fortune told.
Ultimately, McCarthy is commenting that all humans are capable of violence and in believing they can become gods on earth through war and domination, and these dark, inherent, human feelings arise in settings devoid of civilization.