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‘No Way Back Forever’: American Western Myth in Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy

‘No Way Back Forever’: American Western Myth in Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy

Chapter:
(p.128) Chapter 7 ‘No Way Back Forever’: American Western Myth in Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy
Source:
American Mythologies
Author(s):
Peter Messent
Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.5949/liverpool/9780853237365.003.0008

This chapter explores another foundational myth of American civilization, the Western frontier, in Cormac McCarthy's The Border Trilogy. It analyzes the novelist's use of and deviations from classic Western motifs, and shows that ‘Standard American myths of heroic male individualism and national exceptionalism are endorsed, but also increasingly interrogated, in ambiguous texts which both rely on the formulas of Western narrative but also extend and subvert their patternings’. The ambiguities in the texts include questions about autonomous action in a deterministic or otherwise controlling universe; the complications that arise when American exceptionalism interacts with the even older and as deeply rooted national myths of Mexico; and the contrasts between those elements that earn the novels their popularity and those which give them philosophical and allusive depth.

Keywords:   Western frontier, mythology, American civilization, American myths, individualism, national exceptionalism, autonomous action

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