A Being of Great Order: Reading Lacan in Cormac McCarthy’s The Crossing


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Cormac McCarthy’s The Crossing follows Billy Parham on a psychologically taxing series of adventures that leave the teenaged would-be cowboy in utter despair by the end of the novel. His unhappiness and dissatisfaction invite a Lacanian reading. This thesis first explores his efforts to trap a pregnant shewolf as an illustration of Jacques Lacan’s treatment of das Ding and the role of the objet petit a. While the she wolf functions as an objet petit a in the trajectory of Billy’s desire, la matriz, a scent used by hunters to lure wolves, is used as a conceptual depiction of das Ding. To follow, McCarthy’s use of maps and emphasis on storytelling throughout the novel are contextualized within Lacan’s understanding of signification, a highly linguistic aspect of the psychoanalytic process. As Lacan insists the analysand be prompted to situate himself within a chain of memories and emotions, McCarthy demands his characters participate in the exchange of narratives to find meaning. Resisting, as Billy does, results in a sense of displacement and complicates any attempt at forming an identity. Finally, the corrido which memorializes Billy’s younger brother is compared to the genre of courtly love poetry as accessed by Lacan. The troubadour’s Lady and the corridista’s hero function in the system of human desire as well as signifiers in the signifying chains of those who write, sing, read, and listen to these ballads. Billy’s resistance to the corrido’s induction of his brother reveals that Boyd has become yet another objet petit a in Billy’s strain of desired objects. By the novel’s end, it would appear meaningful signification and the creation of identity are beyond Billy who will become an itinerant wanderer in a vast landscape of structures outside his purview.