Animal presentation in the fiction of Cormac McCarthy



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Texas Tech University


Little textual criticism exists regarding the presentation of non-human creatures in the Cormac McCarthy oeuvre. However, the abundance of zoology in the texts offers more than enough breadth and depth to make scholarly study worthwhile, for McCarthy's literature contains a panoptic ofthe beastly world, and as McCarthy's work deals with an ongoing, ceaseless battle for survival, non-human animals—wild, feral, and domestic— exist in a constant stmggle for survival. As such, the animals in the text exist within McCarthy's fictional natural world, a world driven by biological determinism. Consequently, wild animals prey upon feral and domestic animals, horses exist as warriors, and the hunt is a ballet between man and hunting hound. Furthermore, hierarchies exist within geni, so that proximity to and dependence upon man results in mistreatment and death, while distance from man results in survival and fitness; for instance, both felines and canines can be categorized hierarchically by the degree of their association with man and their domesticity. McCarthy also utilizes non-human animals within a text to serve as harbingers that preface specific textual events. Hogs, for example, are harbingers of human death.

McCarthy uses human treatment of non- human animals to evidence man's absolute desire to control the namral world and the beasts within the namral world. McCarthy repeatedly offers scenes that argue man's obsession for dominion over flying animals, avians and bats in particular, and many passages lament and articulate the expulsion and extinction ofthe Mexican gray wolf from the Southwestem United States; if man cannot control an animal, through capture and domestication, man will attempt to kill that animal. Man's desire to kill or control is also presented in lighter tones; bovines, stubborn and stupid, are devices of levity, with which McCarthy contrasts scenes of gruesome seriousness. Universally, McCarthy's human characters possess a need to control the fauna that exists in the natural world.

In the text, felines, canines and horses are used as devices to present and argue biological determinism; swine are harbingers of human death; birds, bats, wolves, and bovines are receptors of man's obsession with control ofthe natural world.



Novelists -- United States, Human-animal relationships -- Fiction, Animals in literature, McCarthy, Cormac, 1933-