Critical responses to Cormac McCarthy's Child of God have tended, in recent years, toward more sympathetic accounts of Lester Ballard, the novel's necrophiliac, serial killer protagonist. Scholars such as Edwin Arnold, Dianne Luce, John Lang, and Alexandra Blair contend that Ballard's behavior is best understood as a reaction to communal and societal pressures. While compelling, this reception focuses, almost exclusively, on Lester and his mistreatment by both the community and social institutions like the state. Yet if Ballard's behavior stems from victimization by large-scale social forces, it follows that every resident of Sevier County must be victimized by these same forces. Hence, this paper offers an analysis of the novel focused on the community of Sevier County as a whole. More specifically, we argue that Child of God asserts a devastating critique of the possibility of community, Lester being an extreme reaction to what is, in actuality, the widespread loss of community brought about by the systematic violence of deindustrialization, individualism, patriarchy, and so forth. Hence, Child of God proves less a tale of the murderous perversions of Lester Ballard and more a horror story of the inability for humans to flourish under existing social relations.

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