Date Approved


Graduate Degree Type


Degree Name

English (M.A.)

Degree Program



Language, spirituality, and the natural world are all prominent themes in the novels of Cormac McCarthy. This thesis examines the relationship between the three themes, arguing that McCarthy empowers the natural world with a spiritual significance that may be experienced by humanity, but not completely understood or expressed. Man, being what Kenneth Burke describes as the “symbol-using” animal, cannot express reality through language without distorting it. Language also leads to the commodification of the natural world by allowing man to reevaluate the reality around him based on factors of his own devising. Many of McCarthy’s protagonists struggle against the rapid urbanization taking place in the majority of his novels in order to find truth not in the words of man but in the animals and landscape of the natural world, rediscovering a spiritual reality that is mystical, powerful, and true.