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American MythologiesEssays on Contemporary Literature$
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William Blazek and Michael K. Glenday

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780853237365

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.5949/UPO9781846312540

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PRINTED FROM LIVERPOOL SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.liverpool.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Liverpool University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in LSO for personal use.date: 27 June 2022

‘No Way Back Forever’: American Western Myth in Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy

‘No Way Back Forever’: American Western Myth in Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy

(p.128) Chapter 7 ‘No Way Back Forever’: American Western Myth in Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy
American Mythologies

Peter Messent

Liverpool University Press

This chapter explores another foundational myth of American civilization, the Western frontier, in Cormac McCarthy's The Border Trilogy. It analyzes the novelist's use of and deviations from classic Western motifs, and shows that ‘Standard American myths of heroic male individualism and national exceptionalism are endorsed, but also increasingly interrogated, in ambiguous texts which both rely on the formulas of Western narrative but also extend and subvert their patternings’. The ambiguities in the texts include questions about autonomous action in a deterministic or otherwise controlling universe; the complications that arise when American exceptionalism interacts with the even older and as deeply rooted national myths of Mexico; and the contrasts between those elements that earn the novels their popularity and those which give them philosophical and allusive depth.

Keywords:   Western frontier, mythology, American civilization, American myths, individualism, national exceptionalism, autonomous action

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