Virtue in the tragic vision of Cormac McCarthy.




Mangrum, Benjamin.

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Cormac McCarthy's novels evoke a more complex perspective than many conventional descriptions—e.g., redemptive or nihilistic, modern or postmodern—allow. Focusing primarily on his Western novels, I demonstrate in contrast that the author's vision is essentially tragic. This vision rejects hopes in the ability of humanity to escape violence and contingency, while it simultaneously affirms that human beings may pursue the good in a tragic world. McCarthy's Western novels evoke this vision through interaction with the virtues, the states of character necessary to endure inevitable tragedy. The social values underlying the American West conceive of these dispositions in problematic ways, but McCarthy affirms the virtuous life in opposition to the cultural wasteland of the region by articulating a concept of the logos. I specifically trace the dialectic between McCarthy's cultural critiques and his tragic vision through the virtues of courage and justice—a dialectic that exposes the discontents of liberal democracy.


Includes bibliographical references (p. ).


American literature., Virtue., Western novels., Cormac McCarthy.