Discovering the Romantic in a Necrophile: The Question of Misogyny in Child of God

Hillary Gamblin


Lester Ballard is a Romantic, and his Romantic qualities go beyond the well-accepted Gothic underpinnings in McCarthy’s Child of God of Ballard as the necrophiliac, the “crazed mountain troll,” and the perverse anti-hero (McCarthy 152). By understanding the more complex Romantic elements of Ballard’s character and actions it is possible to better reconcile Lester Ballad the murdering necrophiliac and child of God.  Many scholars address this ethical dilemma of reconciling Ballard as a murderer and child of God by attempting to understand the reasons for his necrophilia. In No Place for Home: Spatial Constraint and Character Flight in the Novels of Cormac McCarthy, Jay Ellis suggests that Ballard’s necrophilia is a symptom of his mental and physical “unhousing.” Other critics condemn Ballard; Nell Sullivan’s article “The Evolution of the Dead Girlfriend Motif in Outer Dark and Child of God” considers Ballard an example of a misogynistic character that fears living women and prefers them dead. While Sullivan provides a much-needed feminist critique of Child of God, her conclusion that Ballard is a misogynist simplifies the ethical dilemma by discounting feelings of empathy for the protagonist; however, tempering Sullivan’s feminist-driven theory with Ellis’ emphasis on space and exploring Ballard’s Romantic interactions with his victims provides a more profitable feminist apparatus to understand this seemingly irredeemably misogynistic character.

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