Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 448
The she-wolf in the novel helps focus attention on one of the novel's important themes — the question of human nature. At least one reason that the wolf fascinates Billy Parham is its wildness. Though the wolf is occasionally mistaken for a dog, Billy recognizes that the wild wolf is worlds apart from domesticated dogs. As Billy examines his own connections to the animal kingdom, he may be wondering if the nature of humanity is primarily wild or domestic. When he forsakes the comfort of home life for the trail to Mexico, tethered to a symbol of predatory power, he seems to answer his own call of the wild.
McCarthy also returns once again to an initiation theme in The Crossing. At different points in the novel both Billy and Boyd by their actions declare their independence. Billy sees the prima donna (which aptly means "first lady") naked, after which "nothing was the same nor did he think it ever would be." Billy and Boyd both encounter cruelty and death, and Billy's youthful idealism is constantly challenged by the harshness of reality. His idealistic quests each time end ultimately in failure, and he must settle for trying to salvage something through the noble, although perhaps futile, gesture of properly burying the remains of what he had been entrusted with protecting — whether that be the she-wolf or his brother, Boyd. Ironically, Billy achieves more independence than he probably bargained for, ending up without family, without home, totally alone.
Billy's aloneness, together with the journey motif, suggests that the novel also grapples with some existential themes. Because of the problem of unforeseen...
(The entire section contains 448 words.)
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