Ideology and Symbolism in the Novels of Cormac McCarthy

Sammanfattning: This study homes in on the ideological significance of American author Cormac McCarthy’s literary symbolism. Focusing in particular on the author’s tendency to merge hu­manity and the environment by way of metaphor, simile, and personifica­tion, the study demonstrates how the ethical and political import of this aesthetic is open to dispute. Some critics have celebrated McCarthy’s environmen­tal imagination as an opportunity for the reader to cultivate a more re­sponsible way of being in the world, some have criticized it as a relativiza­tion of human agency, and some have retooled it into a political commen­tary designed to challenge late capitalist reification. Acknowledging the validity of many of these readings, but also stressing their insufficiency, the study suggests—with support from the autoreferential aspects of the author’s later novels—that McCarthy’s symbolism may be made to resonate with many contrasting sentiments at once. By realizing different aspects of the novels’ various affordances, that is, their multiplicity of po­tential uses, critics have been able to think of McCarthy either as a pro­gressive or a conservative writer. Basing its reasoning on this finding, and drawing on the Marxist perspective of Pierre Macherey, the study makes the claim that a literary work never produces meaning on its own and that the role of the critic is never entirely apolitical.