Cormac McCarthy's "Outer Dark" reflects our inner darkness (Spoilers)
Updated: Nov 26, 2019
We walk through life, passing one another on the street, unaware of the inner worlds and narratives of the personal Id. The person who prepares your coffee, pumps your gas, solicits work are often beholden to the spell of some impetus that we are unaware of. We move on with our lives, never questioning and unassuming. As a New York City Firefighter, the veil is often lifted and we are thrust into the real life world of these ordinary people, and their helplessness is often the breaker of those chains.
Cormac McCarthy's novel "Outer Dark" is loaded with symbolism, but it also reflects that inner drive of human frailty that is so often shielded by the world. The novel begins with an incestuous union between brother and sister, Culla and Rinthy Holmes. They conceive a child in the dilapidated cabin secluded in the woods. Culla takes the child and leaves it for dead in the woods and tells Rinthy that the child has died. The child has not. It has been found and taken by a tinkerer--a traveling salesman. Throughout the novel, Rinthy embarks on a journey to find the nameless child, and Culla embarks on a journey to find Rinthy. They find themselves interacting with the people in McCarthy's existentially dark dystopian world, and their true motivations remain hidden throughout the story.
In 2009, a suspected burglar called 911 which resulted in my company being dispatched to the scene of a DOA in a home. You read that right; burglar with a conscience. We found the skeletal remains of a woman in her bed. She had been there for six years. The whole time her son, Thomas Prusik-Parkin, collected her social security. He went as far as to disguise himself to look like her. Imagine walking past this man dressed convincingly as an old woman. Imagine helping him with the groceries or walking across the street. You have gone about your day never knowing, never questioning, and unassuming; all the while this man with the spirit of Norman Bates walks amongst you.
This is the darkness in Mcarthy's fiction that creates that chilling catharsis. It's the realism in the horror that is horror. The Culla Holmes and the Rinthy Holmes exist in the real contemporary world, but McCarthy packages that realism in a fictional world and narrative. Monsters are real...They just don't always bare fangs.