Blood Meridian BY McCarthy, Cormac

The word appears 39 times.

In Blood Meridian, the word nigger is used to refer to any person the troop consider "sub-human". So it is used to refer to Indians, to blacks, to Mexicans, etc. It is ironic because the troop itself is as disgusting group of sub-human characters as you would ever want to meet.

The dramhouse was a long narrow hall wainscoted with varnished boards. There were tables by the wall and spittoons on the floor. There were not patrons. The barman looked up when they entered and a nigger that had been sweeping the floor stood the broom against the wall and went out.

I come from Mississippi. I was as a slaver, don't care to tell it. Made good money. I never did get caught. Just got sick of it. Sick of niggers. Wait till I show ye

He turned and rummaged among the hides and handed through the flames a small dark thing. The kid turned it in his hand. Some man's heart, dried and blackened. He passed it back and the old man cradled it in his palm as if he'd weigh it.

They is four things that can destroy the earth, he said. Women, whiskey, money, and niggers.

They asked him no questions, a ragged lot themselves. Crossbreed some, some free niggers, an Indian or two.

The captain squinted one eye at him. Were they Mexicans?

Some. Mexicans and niggers. They was a white or two with em. They had a bunch of cattle they'd stole. Only thing they left me with was a old piece of knife I had in my boot.

The captain leaned back and folded his arms. What we are dealing with, he said, is a race of degenerates. A mongrel race, little better than niggers. And maybe no better. There is no government in Mexico. Hell, there is no God in Mexico. Never will be. We are dealing with a people manifestly incapable of governing themselves.

Andale, said Glanton. You and your halfassedlookin niggers.

There's a game for ye, said Toadvine. Play monte in the dark with a pack of niggers. He raised the cup and drained it and set it on the bar and counted the remaining coins.

Toadvine propped his elbows on the tiles behind him. he looked at the old man and spat on the floor. Craziern a runaway nigger, aint ye? he said.

We'd been on the plain all night and well up into the next day. The Delawares kept callin halts and dropping to the ground to give a listen. There was no place to run and no place to hide. I dont know what they wanted to hear. We knew the bloody niggers was out there and speakin for myself that was already and abundance of information, I didn't need more. (NOTE: In this reference the "niggers" are indians that are tracking them and looking to kill them.)

Gentleman. That was all he said. He had the pistols stuck in his belt at the back and he drew them on in each hand as he is as either-handed as a spider, he can write with both hands at a time and I've seen him to do it, and he commenced to kill indians. We needed no second invitation. God, it was a butchery. At the first fire we killed a round a dozen and did not let up. Before the last poor nigger reached the bottom of the slope there was fifty-eight of the lay slaughtered among the gravels.

(Discussing old indian ruins) They was passable masons, I'd say that. These niggers hearabouts now aint no kind.

Now as he was concluding this speech there passed in the road a nigger drawing a funeral hearse for one of his own kind and it was painted pink and the nigger was dressed in clothes of every color like a carnival clown and the young man pointed out this nigger passing in the road and he said that even a black nigger...

Here the judge paused. He had been looking into the fire and he raised his head and looked around him. His narration was much in the manner of a recital. He had not lost the thread of his tale. He smiled at the listeners about.

Said that even a crazy black nigger was not less than a man among men. And then the ole man's son stood up and began an oration himself, pointing out at the road and calling for a place to be made for the nigger. He used those words. That a place be made. Of course, by this time the nigger and the hearse had passed on from sight.

How many is there, John?

Did you learn to whisper in a sawmill?

There's enough to go around, said the judge.

Don't waste powder and ball on anything that caint shoot back. If we don't kill every nigger here we need to be whipped and sent home.

This was the extent of their counsel.

(In this scene, the judge is asking after a member of their party who happens to be a black man.) When they rode up out of the ford the judge stepped forward and took Carroll's horse by the jaw.

Where's the nigger? he said.

He looked at the judge. They were all but at eyelevel and he on horseback. I dont know, he said.

The judge looked at Glanton. Glanton spat.

How many men did you see in the square?

I didn't have time to take no headcount. There was three or four shot that I know of.

But not the nigger?

I never saw him.

Sanford pushed his horse forward. There was no nigger in the square, he said. I seen them shoot them boys and they were ever one of white as you and me.

They set out leading both horses. The damaged animal kept wanting to stop. Tate coaxed it along. Come on fool, he said. you aint goin to like them niggers a bit more than me. (Referring to indians that were following them and who would kill the horse.)

(In this instance a barman thinks that some of the troop are black simply because they are dirty and tanned) Toadvine looked down the table to where Jackson sat. Several looked toward Glanton. His hands were at rest on the board in front of him and his head was slightly bent like a man at grace. The judge sat smiling, his arms crossed. They were all slightly drunk.

He thinks were niggers.

They sat in silence. The old woman in the court had commenced wailing some dolorous air and the man standing with his hand out held. (At this point the captain says, no one is moving and if the barman won't serve them then it will be his life)

(The barman persists) She won't bring you nothin without I tell her to. I own this place.

Harlan was calling out the open door.

I know for a fact that man yonder's a nigger, said Owens.

Jackson looked up at him.

Brown turned to the owner.

Have you got a gun? he said

A gun?

A gun. Have you got a gun.

Not on me I aint.

Brown pulled a small fiveshot Colt from his belt and pitched it to him. He caught it and stood holding it uncertainly.

You got one now. Shoot the nigger.

Wait a goddamn minute, said Owens.

Shoot him, said Brown.

Jackson had risen and he pulled one of the big pistols from his belt. Owens pointed the pistol at him. You put that down, he said.

You better forget about givin orders and shoot the son of a bitch.

Put it down. Goddamn, man. Tell him to put it down.

Shoot him.

He cocked the pistol.

Jackson fired. The big pistol jumped and a double handful of Owen's brains went out the back of his skull and plopped on the floor behind him.


Brown rose and retrieved his pistol and let the hammer back down and put it back in his belt. Most terrible nigger I ever seen, he said. Find some plates, Charlie. I doubt the old lady is out there anymore.

(On coming across a group of Mexican soldiers) Brown spat on the ground in disgust and Glanton shook his head.

Ain't you a crazylookin bunch of niggers, he said.

(Glanton, the leader of the murderous troop is finally cornered...) Cabballo en Pelo mounted into the actual bed with him and stood there while on of the attending tribunal handed him at his right side a common axe with the hickory helve of which was carved with pagan motifs and tasseled with the feathers of predatory birds. Glanton spat.

Hack away you mean red nigger, he said, and the old man raised the axe and split the head of John Joel Glanton to the thrapple.

(Asking after the fate of the troop, the kid says,) The rest gone under? Smith? Dorsey? The nigger?

All, said Tobin.

(Inspecting a necklace of ears that the kid keeps with him.)
They pressed about and felt the strange dried pendants.

Niggers, aint it? they said.

Docke them niggers' ears so they'd know em when they run off.

How many is there, mister?

I don't know. Used to be near a hundred.

They held the thing up and turned it in the firelight.

Nigger ears, by god.

They aint niggers.

They ain't?


What are they? Injins.

The hell they are.

Elrod you done been told.

How come them to be so black as that if they aint niggers.

They turned that way. They got blacker till they couldn't black no more.


Them ears could of come off of cannibals or any other kind of foreign nigger. They tell me you can by the whole heads in New Orleans. Sailors bring em in and you can buy em for five dollars all day long them heads.