Forty years after publication, Suttree remains McCarthy's most enigmatic novel. The one consistent element of what is by now an expansive body of scholarship is an agreement regarding the centrality of the title character. Yet while critics agree Suttree is the key to Suttree, there exists little agreement about the larger message of the novel. Against this confusion, we argue that it is a quest to reconcile his sense of self and understanding of life that drives Suttree's actions throughout the novel, this quest illuminating not only McCarthy's well-documented critique of Western culture but, more importantly, his own alternative conception of life, this alternative an egalitarian vision of society that brings to light the novel's ethical imperative.

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