Animals in the Fiction of Cormac McCarthy


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About the Book

The works of Cormac McCarthy have been critically studied as literature of the South and of the Border Southwest. Largely ignored is the omnipresence and presentation of animals in McCarthy’s works. Yet the abundant representations of animals depict a part of the ceaseless battle for survival that is inherent in many of his writings.
McCarthy’s animals exist within the framework of a fictional natural world driven by biological determinism: Wild animals prey upon feral and domestic animals, horses exist as warriors, and the hunt is a ballet between man and hunting hound. Proximity to humans results in mistreatment and death, while distance results in survival and fitness.
McCarthy also utilizes animals as harbingers of specific events; for example, hogs are so frequently a precursor of human death that McCarthy’s narrators and characters wonder whether hogs are joined to the devil for evil purposes. The first chapter here examines animal presentations in The Stonemason, The Gardener’s Son and two short stories, “Bounty” and “The Dark Waters.” The following nine chapters focus on one text, one type of animal—feline, swine, bovine, bird and bat, canine, equine, lupine, and hound—and one particular thesis. Each chapter also briefly examines the specific animal as it exists in other McCarthy works.

About the Author(s)

Wallis R. Sanborn, III, teaches at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, Texas. He has taught at Texas Tech University, the University of Texas of the Permian Basin, Oregon State University, and Angelo State University. His work has appeared in They Rode On: Blood Meridian and the Tragedy of the American West, Gale’s Contemporary Literary Criticism, Harold Bloom’s Modern Critical Views, The Cormac McCarthy Journal, Southwestern American Literature, Texas Books in Review, Iron Horse Literary Review, Harbinger, Elysium, and The Caprock Sun. He lives in San Antonio, Texas.

Bibliographic Details

Wallis R. Sanborn, III
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 200
Bibliographic Info: bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2006
pISBN: 978-0-7864-2380-4
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      vii
Introduction      1

1. Animals and Death in The Gardener’s Son, The Stonemason, “Bounty,” and “The Dark Waters”       15
2. Feline Hierarchy in The Orchard Keeper      27
3. Swine as Harbingers of Human Death in Outer Dark      46
4. Bovines and Levity in Child of God      65
5. Birds and Bats in Suttree      83
6. Canine Hierarchy in Blood Meridian      98
7. Horses as Warriors in All the Pretty Horses      115
8. Wolves as Metaphor in The Crossing      131
9. The Hunt as Ballet in Cities of the Plain      149
10. Following Animal Precedent in No Country for Old Men      168
11. Conclusion      174

Bibliography      183
Index      187