The kid is the novel’s primary protagonist, although, like Ishmael in Moby Dick: Or, The Whale (Herman Melville’s 1851 classic, echoed throughout Blood Meridian), he disappears for considerable periods in the narrative. Although he is almost instinctively capable of violence and appears to be undisturbed by the brutality of the life he pursues, McCarthy sets him apart from the other men of Glanton’s gang. The reader is never given insight into the kid’s thoughts; he must be judged solely by his actions and occasional statements. Nevertheless, the book does dramatize its concept of moral struggle through the kid. Judge Holden chooses him as disciple or victim from the first time he sees him, and their final encounter, though delayed for almost thirty years, is, according to the judge, predetermined. In the judge’s words, only the kid, of all the group, holds back from giving himself fully to the act of bloodletting. Throughout, the kid performs acts of minor mercy, which the other members of the group refuse to do. Yet he is never able to confront the judge. After the massacre at Yuma Crossing, the kid seems increasingly haunted, finally sated with murder and gore. Still, when the judge approaches him in the Fort Griffin saloon, the kid, now the man, continues to hold back, refusing either to join the judge or stand against him. His subsequent death seems a consequence of his failure to make a choice.
Judge Holden is the most intriguing, fascinating, and horrifying of this appalling band of killers. Based on a historical figure, he is well over six feet tall, monstrous in build, and completely hairless. Yet the judge seems almost supernatural, invested with marvelous powers and knowledge, which makes his numerous acts of carnage all the more terrible. Indeed,...
(The entire section is 735 words.)