CUP Undergraduate Research


Living with Apocalypse: The Western Novels of Cormac McCarthy

Date of Award

Winter 12-1-2010

Document Type

Restricted Access Thesis


College of Theology, Arts, & Sciences



Degree Name

English, BA

First Advisor

Dr. Richard Hill


I argue that McCarthy’s works (Blood Meridian (1985), the Border Trilogy (his Western novels, including All the Pretty Horses (1992), The Crossing (1994) and Cities of the Plain (1998)), No Country for Old Men, and The Road) are best understood as a progression of America’s deteriorating image rather than individual pieces. His works are an indictment of the American Western myth, arguing that it is no longer a valid means of communicating the truths of America. McCarthy is not wholly nihilistic as some have argued, but critical of the existing myth and urging for a redefinition of America’s story. To do so he first critically dismantles the romanticism that has often plagued the Western and then finally, in The Road, puts the mythic American man back into the wilderness with all the fears of the first American settlers fully realized. At such an end he offers the reader a hint of redemption, the notion that a proper image might be restored and that the world need be destroyed only that it might be rebuilt.

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