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Committee Members

Donovan Miyasaki (Committee Chair), Andrew Strombeck (Committee Member), Scott Wilson (Committee Member)

Degree Name

Master of Humanities (MHum)


This thesis examines the work of Cormac McCarthy, in which I will argue against assertions that McCarthy's work is nihilistic in that he presents a world in which life is meaningless. I will analyze three of McCarthy's novels, one from each of the common categorizations of his work: Child of God (Appalachian period), Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West, and The Road (Western period), and The Road. Through this analysis, I will conclude that McCarthy's novels are not nihilistic; instead, McCarthy's novels contain strong allusions to the existential philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre, Friedrich Nietzsche and Soren Kierkegaard. In Child of God, Lester Ballard's madness is analogous to Sartre's idea of living in bad faith. Blood Meridian also contains allusions to Sartre's philosophy while engaging the philosophy of Nietzsche. Blood Meridian's protagonist, the kid, exemplifies Sartre's ideas on essence and morality, whereas the antagonist, Judge Holden, espouses theories on morality akin to Nietzsche's idea of master and slave morality. Finally, in my examination of The Road, I will show how the novel's main characters, the father and son, parallel Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling, in which Kierkegaard discusses the nature of faith in the face of the absurd through his analysis of the biblical story of Abraham and Isaac. Ultimately, I will conclude that McCarthy's work does not suggest that life is meaningless; instead, it suggests that the individual creates meaning, as the existential philosophies of Sartre, Nietzsche, and Kierkegaard assert.

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