“The dying man sang with great clarity and intention and the riders setting forth upcountry may have ridden more slowly the longer to hear him for they were of just these qualities themselves.” (125)
Cormac McCarthy masterfully paints a picture of the west being a warzone in which no one is capable of avoiding death in his novel Blood Meridian. He creates this picture of the west by masterfully using foreboding. McCarthy uses a gratuitous amount of foreboding in his novel but my personal favorite example is when the company of men trekking through the desert leave behind a man that is fatally wounded. To describe the scene McCarthy writes, “The dying man sang with great clarity and intention and the riders setting forth upcountry may have ridden more slowly the longer to hear him for they were of just these qualities themselves” (125). With this one sentence McCarthy lays the stage for the rest of book. He explains to the reader that all of the characters are approaching death and that it is important for the reader to know this in advance because the characters themselves are aware of it.
Another section of the novel that I read as having a strong feeling of foreboding is the scene in which the juggler and his wife tell the fortunes of the men. During this scene the juggler tells the fortune of the African American Jackson but nobody can understand it because of the language barrier between the juggler who is speaking Spanish and the men who speak English. The feeling of foreboding that I got while reading this section came when Jackson asked the judge what the juggler was saying and the judge smiled and replied “I think she means to say that in your fortune lie our fortunes all” (97). After reading this sentence it seemed to me as if the judge, who was able to converse with everyone that he encountered due to his expansive knowledge of languages, was aware of something that the rest of the men weren’t able to grasp at the moment, and that was the amount of violence and death that awaited them.
In McCarthy’s Blood Meridian death is around every corner and it feels as if no matter what the men do they will perish in the vast desert otherwise known as the west. This feeling is derived from McCarthy’s expert use of foreboding.