The Crossing (McCarthy novel)

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The Crossing
Crossing mccarthy cover.JPG
First edition
Author Cormac McCarthy
Country United States
Language English
Series The Border Trilogy
Publisher Alfred A. Knopf
Publication date
June 1994
Media type Print (hardback and paperback)
Pages 432 pp (first edition, hardback)
ISBN 0-394-57475-3
OCLC 29844718
Dewey Decimal 813/.54 20
LC Class PS3563.C337 C7 1994
Preceded by All the Pretty Horses
Followed by Cities of the Plain

The Crossing (ISBN 0-394-57475-3) is a novel by prize-winning American author Cormac McCarthy, published in 1994 by Alfred A. Knopf. The story is the second installment of McCarthy's "Border Trilogy".

Plot introduction[edit]

Like its predecessor, All the Pretty Horses, it is a coming-of-age novel set on the border between the southwest United States and Mexico. The plot takes place before and during the Second World War, and focuses on the life of Billy Parham, the protagonist, a teenage cowboy, his family and his younger brother Boyd. The story tells of three journeys taken from New Mexico 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. [1]

Most of the protagonists being people of few words, the dialogues are few and concise. In addition, since much of the interaction is with Mexican people, many parts of dialogues are in untranslated Spanish.

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.

Plot summary[edit]

The first sojourn details a series of hunting 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. McCarthy explores themes throughout the action such as the mystical 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 or sextant. 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 harnesses her and, instead of killing her, determines to return it to the mountains of Mexico where he believes her original home is located. He develops a deep affection for and bond with the wolf, risking his life to save her on more than one occasion. Along the way Billy encounters many other travelers and inhabitants of the land who relate in a sophisticated dialogue 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. 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.


  1. ^ Quinn, A. (27 August 1994). "Long shadows passing: 'The Crossing'". The Independent. Retrieved 22 May 2010. 

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