Saturday, November 7, 2009

Symbols_Part 1

Blood Meridian's symbols resonate with a power that leaves the reader in awe of their strength. The first group of symbols I encountered point to the godlessness of the Wild West and the destruction that followed. A prominent symbol that I came across was the "dead baby bush." To me, it was an obvious reference to the Burning Bush in the Bible. But instead of a holy bush, it was an unnatural mark upon the land. Whereas Moses looked away in respect, the Kid and Sproule stare shamelessly at it. The babies are even described as "larval to some unreckonable being," meaning that they were so young they couldn't even be considered individual humans. Then, the tremendous amount of defiled churches with vultures and buzzards in them, eating at a slaughtered human or animal, which represents the church as a place for the forsaken rather than the blessed. In one church,  American soldiers had practiced their shooting on the statues of saints that left the saints decrepit and deformed. In another, many murdered people "lay in a great pool of communal blood" with a "dead Christ" on the floor. In short, G-D had no presence in this country.

A family of jugglers tags along with the Kid's group for a while, and, one night, begins to tell fortunes via tarot cards. These cards give great insight into three of the characters:

     1) The Kid picked the four of cups, which symbolizes a self-reflective (sometimes selfish) attitude. The card itself is a picture of a young male pondering over three cups in front of him, while ignoring a fourth cup beholden by a floating hand, possibly G-D. The reversed or upside down version of the card means a failure to self-reflect. It is hard to pin down where he self-reflects because there are no thoughts expressed in the novel. But he always seems to survive while those around him perish, which suggests a survival instinct or a self-preserving attitude. Also, the card can mean something undesirable will happen to the querent (person having their fortune told) unless they contemplate and open themselves to other possibilities. Currently, he is with people who scalp Indians for profit, so that must be what he should rethink.

2) The Black John Jackson (there's a white one named John Jackson, too) chose the fool, a special card in tarot reading. The fool represents the self-actualized person; the person who can be anything he wants. It signifies the start of a new journey. Due to the bad relationship between the black and white Jacksons, when the white one shooed the black away from his campfire and the black refuses, a fight starts. It ends with the beheading of the white Jackson and, therefore, the beginning of a new life for the Black Jackson.

3) The last person to get a tarot card is Glanton, the boss on the Indian hunting expedition. He picks the chariot, which he subsequently drops. The chariot symbolizes overcoming inner demons and the need to attack something from the side rather than directly. The fact that the card is lost in the night, according to the wife of the juggler (who is also the diviner), means that a curse has befallen Glanton. She goes on to recite seeing a chariot with "no wheels on a dark water" and a "carriage of the dead, full of bones." It is unknown whether or not Glanton remembered something from his childhood and dropped the card or if it was an accident.

It is interesting to note that other tarot cards appear as characters in the book. So far, a hermit, which represents enlightenment or introspection has harbored the Kid and advised him on the evils of man. The jugglers themselves are the juggler/magician that has the ability to bridge the gap between heaven and earth, which they do when divining. The judge represents the devil tarot card that represents lust, earthly passions, and ambitions. This is not necessarily bad, but in the book I believe it to be so.

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