• Final Comments: Night
• Author Introduction
• Literary Style
•Q: How is genocide of this magnitude
•Q: What is a product of the
intergenerational trauma of the
Cormac McCarthy is frequently
compared with such southern
writers as William Faulkner, Carson
McCullers, and Flannery O'Connor
(Southern Gothic Literary
"His characters are often outcasts--
destitutes or criminals, or both,"
wrote Richard B. Woodward in the
New York Times Magazine. "Death,
which announces itself often,
reaches down from the open sky,
abruptly, with a slashed throat or a
bullet in the face. The abyss opens
up at any misstep."
• Some critics claim that McCarthy blatantly
imitates Faulkner, although most point out that
his concerns and perspective differ from
Faulkner's. McCarthy's work (like O'Connor's)
reveals his Catholic background in its frequent
emphasis on evil, sin, morality, and retribution.
Structured as a kind of allegory or folk tale, Outer
Dark is marked by both an abundance of violence
and horror and a focus on the notion of
redemption. It exhibits some of the strongest
elements of McCarthy's writing, including his dark
humor, intense characterizations, and
interweaving of the mythic and the naturalistic.
• The novel takes place at an unspecified time in a mountainous area
designated only as Johnson County. Culla and Rinthy Holme are a
brother and sister who live together in an isolated cabin. Their
incestuous relationship results in the birth of a baby that Culla, in
shame and fright, abandons in the woods. He tells Rinthy the baby
has died, but she does not believe him and goes out to find her
child. She suspects that Culla has given the baby to a wandering
tinker who visited the cabin before the baby's birth. Culla later sets
out after Rinthy, although he makes no real effort to find her. The
novel recounts the different experiences of these two travelers:
seemingly protected by her inherent innocence and maternal grace,
Rinthy is treated kindly by those she meets, while Culla encounters
only suspicion and threats.
• Outer Dark is told in a stark style, and dialogue carries
much of the action. This story of guilt and punishment
is told in episodes that center on acts of judgment.
• While the title is certainly the main biblical allusion,
there are numerous others, the most significant of
them coming from the gospels of Christ.
• Despite the bleakness of most of the story, Outer Dark
is not without hope, but it refuses to offer easy
salvation and suggests that grace can be a frightful
Group Discussion: Themes, Characters,
Question, and QHQs
• Culla and Rinthy Holme both live in complete isolation, far from the
influence of any civic or moral authority. Both embark on journeys
through a landscape that is notably mythical—-a spiritual wasteland in
which horrific things happen.
• The tinker, who visits the Holmeses shortly before the baby's birth and
who later finds and saves the child, is an ambiguous figure in the novel.
He straps his cart loaded with pots, food, soap, gadgets, and other
items to his back and pulls it along, suggesting his animalistic nature.
• The three dark men dress in clothing stolen from graves and constantly
commit atrocities. The novel never explains who they are or even
whether they are actual human beings; they may be escaped
murderers or some supernatural manifestation of Satan himself.
Taken from "Overview: Outer Dark." Characters in 20th-Century
Literature. Laurie Lanzen Harris. Detroit: Gale Research, 1990. Literature
Resource Center. Web. 3 June 2014.
• “black sun”
• Key scenes at night: the abandonment of the baby, the sinking of
the ferry, Culla’s two scenes with the mysterious trio.
• The word “shadow” is used relentlessly.
• Describes characters’ eyes as plastic and unseeing.
• Blind seer walking toward the garden of death”
• Rinthy is “pale and disheveled and with such doll’s eyes of
painted china.” The boy who wants to take her to a show is
described as having “cadaverous eyes.” The murderous trio’s
black-bearded leader’s eyes are “shadowed lunettes with nothing
there at all.”
• Rinthy is a sick creature, rarely eating, and healing slowly. An early
description has her “subsiding back among the covers like a
wounded bird.” (11) Later on she “struggled toward him like a
crippled marionette” (32) and combs her “dead yellow hair.” (53)
• The baby is “a beetcolored creature that looked to him like a
skinned squirrel” (14) and had “an old man’s face” (15, 231). “It
was naked and half coated with dust so that it seemed lightly
• Violence is personified by three mysterious men described in short,
italicized interchapters, beginning on the first page. Their violence
is brutal, unjust, unmotivated, and random. They contribute to the
impression that things in this world are erratic and irrational. The
three men seem to follow a few steps behind Culla, killing many of
the people he encounters
Courtesy of Dan Geddes book review “Existentialist Darkness as Mood”
• Outer Dark carries a heavy load of symbolism. Its
characters and their actions seem burdened with
meanings beyond the simple story and action.
What does Rinthy represent? What does Culla
• Q: What does the baby symbolize?
• Q: Who are the three marauders? What is their function in the
• Q: How deeply do the characters lie to each other and themselves?
Is this lying necessary?
• Q: Is the complexity of Cormack McCarthy’s style of writing in Outer
Dark unique or pretentious?
• What are some of the religious allusions in the story?
• Q: Why doesn’t Culla want a midnight woman when Rinthy wants
• Q: Why are so many characters introduced nameless?
• Q: Is there redemption in the story?
• Really Finish Outer Dark
• Post #30 QHQ Outer Dark:
Focus on a close reading of a
passage (or passages) that
you could use to do a critical
reading through a theoretical
lens. Consider New Critical,
Feminist, Psychoanalytic, or
Trauma Theories. You may
use another theory with
which you are familiar.
Please include the passage
you are discussing.
“Then I hit delete. I haven’t actually
eaten any homework in years.”