Reading: Tarot in Blood Meridian


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Tarot in Blood Meridian


Demetria Lee


Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian tracks a young man known only as “the kid” through the lawless US-Mexico borderlands in the mid-1800s. The kid, either seeking adventure or seeking pure violence, joined a gang of scalp hunters known as the Glanton gang. Among this brutal coterie were John Glanton, Captain White, Toadvine, two men both named John Jackson, Tobin, the ex-priest, and Judge Holden. The judge, an enormous, hairless man, was a polyglot, a draftsman, a man of incredible knowledge among the uneducated villains. He reproduced everything he saw in a sketchbook before promptly destroying the very thing he drew—be it plant, stone, or animal. The judge practiced a sort of devout nihilism into which he tried to fold the resisting kid. The Tarot cards referred to in the novel allowed the reader to glean meaning from the story, just as the cards allow diviners to glean meaning from the real world. The cards that I will be exploring are the Fool, the Four of Cups, the Chariot, the High Priestess, the Four of Wands, the Hanged Man, the Devil, the Hermit, the Hierophant, Judgment, and Death. While the judge’s philosophy was laid out in his monologues, the taciturn kid’s beliefs must be read through the cards. In applying the symbols of the cards, I propose a reading of the novel in which the judge evangelized a dehumanizing dogma of nihilism while the kid holds out for a more positive philosophy that will give his life meaning.
How to Cite: Lee, D., 2018. Tarot in Blood Meridian. Philologia, 10. DOI:
Published on 30 Apr 2018.
Peer Reviewed


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