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The Crossing (novel)

The Crossing (novel)

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The Crossing is a novel
Novel
A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

 by prize-winning American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 author Cormac McCarthy
Cormac McCarthy
Cormac McCarthy is an American novelist and playwright. He has written ten novels, spanning the Southern Gothic, Western, and modernist genres. He received the Pulitzer Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction for The Road...

, published in 1994
1994 in literature
The year 1994 in literature involved some significant events and new books.-New books:*Kevin J. Anderson - Champions of the Force, Dark Apprentice and Jedi Search*Reed Arvin - The Wind in the Wheat*Greg Bear - Songs of Earth and Power...

 by Alfred A. Knopf
Alfred A. Knopf
Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. is a New York publishing house, founded by Alfred A. Knopf, Sr. in 1915. It was acquired by Random House in 1960 and is now part of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group at Random House. The publishing house is known for its borzoi trademark , which was designed by co-founder...

. The story is the second installment of McCarthy's "Border Trilogy
The Border Trilogy
The Border Trilogy consists of three novels written by American author Cormac McCarthy: All the Pretty Horses, The Crossing, and Cities of the Plain....

".

Plot introduction


Like its predecessor, All the Pretty Horses, it is a coming-of-age novel set on the border between the southwest United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

. The plot takes place before and during the Second World War, and focuses on the life of Billy Parham, the protagonist
Protagonist
A protagonist is the main character of a literary, theatrical, cinematic, or musical narrative, around whom the events of the narrative's plot revolve and with whom the audience is intended to most identify...

, a teenage cowboy
Cowboy
A cowboy is an animal herder who tends cattle on ranches in North America, traditionally on horseback, and often performs a multitude of other ranch-related tasks. The historic American cowboy of the late 19th century arose from the vaquero traditions of northern Mexico and became a figure of...

, his family and his younger brother Boyd. The story tells of three journeys taken from New Mexico
New Mexico
New Mexico is a state located in the southwest and western regions of the United States. New Mexico is also usually considered one of the Mountain States. With a population density of 16 per square mile, New Mexico is the sixth-most sparsely inhabited U.S...

 to Mexico. It is noted for being a more melancholic novel than the first of the trilogy, without returning to the hellish bleakness of McCarthy's early novels.
Although the novel is neither satirical nor humorous, its realistic portrayal of an often destitute hero taking part in a series of loosely connected quests in a brutal, corrupt world gives it many of the qualities of a picaro
Picaresque novel
The picaresque novel is a popular sub-genre of prose fiction which is usually satirical and depicts, in realistic and often humorous detail, the adventures of a roguish hero of low social class who lives by his wits in a corrupt society...

.

Plot summary


The first sojourn details a series of hunting
Hunting
Hunting is the practice of pursuing any living thing, usually wildlife, for food, recreation, or trade. In present-day use, the term refers to lawful hunting, as distinguished from poaching, which is the killing, trapping or capture of the hunted species contrary to applicable law...

 expeditions conducted by Billy, his father and to a lesser extent, Boyd. They are attempting to locate and trap a pregnant female wolf which has been preying on cattle in the area of the family homestead
Homesteading
Broadly defined, homesteading is a lifestyle of simple self-sufficiency.-Current practice:The term may apply to anyone who follows the back-to-the-land movement by adopting a sustainable, self-sufficient lifestyle. While land is no longer freely available in most areas of the world, homesteading...

. McCarthy explores themes throughout the action such as the mystical
Mysticism
Mysticism is the knowledge of, and especially the personal experience of, states of consciousness, i.e. levels of being, beyond normal human perception, including experience and even communion with a supreme being.-Classical origins:...

 passage on page 22 describing his father setting a trap:


Crouched in the broken shadow with the sun at his back and holding the trap at eyelevel against the morning sky he looked to be truing some older, some subtler instrument. Astrolabe
Astrolabe
An astrolabe is an elaborate inclinometer, historically used by astronomers, navigators, and astrologers. Its many uses include locating and predicting the positions of the Sun, Moon, planets, and stars, determining local time given local latitude and longitude, surveying, triangulation, and to...

 or sextant
Sextant
A sextant is an instrument used to measure the angle between any two visible objects. Its primary use is to determine the angle between a celestial object and the horizon which is known as the altitude. Making this measurement is known as sighting the object, shooting the object, or taking a sight...

. Like a man bent at fixing himself someway in the world. Bent on trying by arc or chord the space between his being and the world that was. If there be such space. If it be knowable.


When Billy finally catches the animal, he harness
Horse harness
A horse harness is a type of horse tack that allows a horse or other equine to pull various horse-drawn vehicles such as a carriage, wagon or sleigh. Harnesses may also be used to hitch animals to other loads such as a plow or canal boat....

es it and, instead of killing it, determines to return it to the mountains of Mexico where he believes its original home is located. He develops a deep affection for and bond with the wolf, risking his life to save it on more than one occasion. Along the way Billy encounters many other travellers and inhabitants of the land who relate in a sophisticated dialogue
Dialogue
Dialogue is a literary and theatrical form consisting of a written or spoken conversational exchange between two or more people....

 their deepest philosophies. Take for example a Mormon who converts to Catholicism who describes his vision of reality in this way:


Things separate from their stories have no meaning. They are only shapes. Of a certain size and color. A certain weight. When their meaning has become lost to us they no longer have even a name. The story on the other hand can never be lost from its place in the world for it is that place. And that is what was to be found here. The corrido
Corrido
The corrido is a popular narrative song and poetry form, a ballad, of Mexico. The songs are often about oppression, history, daily life for peasants, and other socially important information. It is still a popular form today, and was widely popular during the Mexican Revolution and Nicaraguan...

. The tale. And like all corridos it ultimately told one story only, for there is only one to tell.


In the second border crossing, Billy and Boyd have set out to recover horses stolen from his family spread. Boyd is eventually shot through the chest in a squabble. After he is nursed back to health he disappears with a young girl.

The third crossing features Billy alone attempting to discover the whereabouts of his brother. He learns that Boyd has been killed in a gunfight and sets out to find his dead brother's remains and return them to New Mexico. After finding Boyd's grave and exhuming the body, Billy is ambushed by a band of men who desecrate Boyd's remains and stab Billy's horse through the chest. Billy, with the help of a gypsy, nurses the horse back to riding condition.

The last scene shows Billy alone and desolate, coming across a terribly beat up dog, that approaches him for help. In a marked contrast to his youthful bond with the wolf, he shoos the dog away angrily, meanly. Suddenly, he feels a flood of remorse: he goes after the dog, calling for it to come back—but it has gone. He breaks down in tears—what has been lost will not be found.

The title contributes the notion that it is not just crossing a border, but at one point, the crossing of one's soul between dream and consciousness, reality and narrative, youth and maturity, and life and death.

External links


Travels With A She-Wolf New York Times review from 12 June 1994.