Outer Dark Analysis
by Cormac McCarthy

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Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Outer Dark is told in a spare style, with much emphasis on dialogue to carry the action. The story is episodic but, as one critic has noted, many of the episodes center on acts of judgment as is appropriate for this tale of guilt and punishment. There are numerous biblical echoes beyond the title itself, the most significant of them coming from the gospels of Christ, and the book reads almost as an extended parable. Despite the bleakness of most of the story, Outer Dark is not without hope, but it refuses to offer easy salvation and suggests that grace can be a frightful gift.

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Outer Dark is not set in a definite time or locale, but it appears to take place in the Southern Appalachian mountains during the late nineteenth or early twentieth centuries. Basically, however, the story is more like a folk tale than a realistic rendering of events, and the uncertain, sometimes nightmarish quality of the world it portrays adds to its almost surrealistic style. The book tells the story of Rinthy and Culla Holme, a sister and brother who live together in an isolated mountain cabin. Although McCarthy indicates their poverty and lack of learning, he is more interested in their moral state than in their social or economic condition.


(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Aldrich, John W. “Cormac McCarthy’s Bizarre Genius: A Reclusive Master of Language and the Picaresque, on a Roll.” The Atlantic Monthly 274 (August, 1994): 89-97. Traces the evolution of McCarthy’s fiction, from the publication of Orchard Keeper in 1965 to All the Pretty Horses in 1994. Offers brief analyses of Outer Dark and Suttree.

Arnold, Edwin T. “Blood and Grace: The Fiction of Cormac McCarthy.” Commonweal 121 (November 4, 1994): 11-14. Arnold asserts that McCarthy’s novels often explore the more negative aspects of the human condition in meaningful, religiously significant ways. He discusses several of McCarthy’s works.

Arnold, Edwin T., and Diane C. Luce, eds. Perspectives on Cormac McCarthy. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1993. This collection of ten essays explores the historical and philosophical influences on McCarthy’s work, the moral center that informs his writings, and the common themes of his fiction. Includes an extensive bibliography.

Jarret, Robert J. Cormac McCarthy. New York: Twayne, 1997. Jarret offers a detailed examination of all seven of McCarthy’s works, including Outer Dark and Suttree . His masterful study...

(The entire section is 589 words.)