Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

One of the key features of Cormac McCarthy’s fiction is his vivid and precise description of specific geographic locales. How do particular places affect the action in the story and shape the fictional characters involved in the action?

McCarthy’s work is often described as “naturalistic.” What, if any, philosophical views can be extracted from his work, particularly with respect to free will and destiny, the nature of evil, and the forces responsible for creation, destruction, and the course of events?

Journeys are an important component, and even an organizing principle, in McCarthy’s fiction. What specific journeys take place, and how do those journeys affect those who take them?

At the heart of much of McCarthy’s fiction is a transgressive act, or some kind of border crossing. What function do these crossings serve? How do readers respond to those crossings and transgressions?

“Each man is the bard of his own existence,” a character pronounces in Cities of the Plain. McCarthy’s fiction displays a keen interest in the act of storytelling, the role of the witness, and the process by which tellers and listeners construct meaning from stories. How does this work in specific novels?