Incest is a subject that not many like to confront, but, unfortunately, it is real. As odd or strange as it may seem, people do have sexual relations with family members. I did some research on the topic and came across the story of a young woman who fell in love with her brother after he helped her get over her ex. He felt the same and they had unprotected sex. A month later, she was pregnant. And although we don’t understand this, or condone it, incest is a situation that is real, and to confront the real, the macabre, is to break free from the handcuffs of fear.
Incest is the foundation for Cormac McCarthy’s (who you may know as the author of No Country for Old Men and The Road) second novel titled Outer Dark. It is the story of Rinthy, a closed off, hermit girl who bears the baby of her brother, Culla. Culla, desperate and ignorant, leaves the infant baby in the woods to die. The baby is discovered by a tinker, or tradesman. Rinthy, healed from her labors of birth, sets out to find her lost newborn. In a domino effect, Culla sets out to find her. From here, the story follows the separate events that transpire in the lives of the siblings. Rinthy meets those who want to help her, Culla meets those who persecute and accuse him. Eventually, the scariest characters of the story are introduced, and what they eventually do to the baby is not for the weak at heart.
McCarthy’s writing style, as always, keeps you guessing. He lets you decide for yourself how you feel about the characters. His depiction of incest, ignorance, and repulsion is life-like and strikes at the center of the heart. And the characters that come along the way, especially the gang of ruthless outlaws, tug at the underpinning of the soul. These characters seem so far away, not of this world, yet they are our neighbors, our friends, our co-workers, the people that walk around our streets once the masks are removed.
McCarthy is a frontline soldier, one who is willing to meet the darkness that most of us are unwilling to acknowledge. Incest. Who condones it? Who participates in it? We turn our heads and tangle our faces in disgust, but are we worthy enough to cast the first stone? Do our own sins not measure up? And, lastly, who are we to decide, when we are reluctant to encounter the Outer Dark?