Blood Meridian, Chapter 3 – “There is no such joy in the tavern as upon the road thereto”

For me, Chapter 3 was about three things: humor, more characters, and more religion.

HUMOR

Dunce One touched on humor in his post on this chapter, but he skipped over the funniest part to me, which was that the kid starts out this chapter stark naked, and then the conversation that ensues with the recruiter.  The kid is floundering around, grabbing his knife first, but then trying to get his clothes on.  “Hell fire,” says the recruiter “come on out.  I’m white and christian,” the implication to me being that, as such, the kid has nothing to worry about.  We’ll see.  I also thought it was funny later when Captain White, only after finding out the kid was from Tennessee, said that he bet more men from Tennessee bled and died down in northern Mexico than from any other place.  I bet he says that to all the recruits, depending on where they are from.  Typical recruiter.

CHARACTERS

For new characters, we get Captain White and The Mennonite, but we also get more insight into the kid himself.  He really is in a sad state at this point, physical appearance and probably even health and nutrition-wise.  The condition of the military quarters, the soldiers’ mounts, and their gear probably look pretty appealing by contrast.  Of course, it’s a dangerous business.  But the kid isn’t exactly the most risk/violence-averse person around.  We learn that the kid aims to make his mark in the world, at least that’s what he says here when asked.

Dunce One covered Captain White pretty well, typical rhetoric.  I think it’s significant that they sought the kid out solely because of how he acted (and against whom) in the cantina.  It was basically violent criminal behavior, but just what they were looking for.

The other character is the “old disordered Mennonite,” and Dunce One also covered pretty thoroughly what we gain from him.  But the young, dudded up soldiers don’t want to hear what he has to say.

RELIGION

The recruiter announced himself as white and christian.  Later he tells the kid that he was once like him, only worse (a “sorrier sight”), but Captain White raised him up like Lazarus and set his feet on “the path of righteousness.”  If these guys are on the path of righteousness…well…we’ll just have to see what we think about that.  But we know already they are going in with the mental state that the “spoils of war” are going to be their wages.

In Captain White’s recruiting pitch, there is much talk of God and savages, the invading Americans, of course, on God’s side.  “There is no government in Mexico.  Hell, there’s no God in Mexico,” he says.

MISCELLANEOUS

After the kid and the recruiter leave Captain White, and join up with the other soldiers, the recruiter asks them “Ain’t nobody sick is they?”  “No” they answer.  “Thank God for that,” he responds.  This is important foreshadowing.

We talked about the saddle.  We find out the kid was robbed, but he is here very interested in getting a saddle.  He says he had an “old hull” (covering) on the mule, but that’s it.

There is some question about the authority the soldiers have to go on this “mission,” and the Mennonite suggests the army will arrest them if they go.  But they have the “tacit” approval of the governor of California.  Is this a completely rogue operation? 

I liked the image of the soldiers going into town with their new gear, looking for a drink, looking for some fun.  This reminds me of all young men at a certain age.  For the phrase “there is no such joy in the tavern as upon the road thereto,” I think that could have a number of meanings.  For me, it reminds me of this age, up for anything, looking for excitement, looking for fun.  On nights like these, it seems like no matter what you end up doing, it’s never as fun as it could or should be.  And of course this particular night ends worse than any night I ever had. 

How these things end.  In confusion and curses and blood.  They drank on and the wind blew in the streets and the stars that had been overhead lay low in the west and these young men fell afoul of others and words were said that could not be put right again and in the dawn the kid and second corporal knelt over the boy from Missouri…and they spoke his name but he never spoke it back.

The boy lay with his skull broken in a pool of blood, none knew by whom.

VOCABULARY

halms- stems

scantlin- ???

Karakawas- Texas indian tribe, described in the book as blue and almost naked with long spears

ramada- arbor or porch

weskit- waistcoat

wickiups-  frame hut covered with matting, as of bark or brush, used by nomadic Native Americans of North America; temporary dwelling of nomadic Native Americans

6 thoughts on “Blood Meridian, Chapter 3 – “There is no such joy in the tavern as upon the road thereto”

  1. Even the nifty Kindle thing didn’t get scantling and halms. And now we know why it’s called The Ramada Inn…

    I’ve been reading along, but need to read your posts more carefully when time permits, to respond properly. I am intrigued so far – he really paints a bleak picture both of the humanity and landscape.

    What’s struck me so far is the question of what makes someone (the kid) just keeping moving in such a bleak environment when he has nothing to keep moving for? He doesn’t seem to be someone with that internal faith or hope that there’s a better future for him. Probably why Captain White and the promise that he holds out has some interest.

    • You raise some good points. I guess he probably keeps moving because he doesn’t really have any other options. We all keep moving because we all have that instinct for survival. And we should probably keep in mind that this is the only reality he knows; he doesn’t know any different.

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