Before picking up his talents and moving west to create more renowned intense works of literature, McCarthy was well known for his earlier, new Southern Gothic work, such as "Child of God", that was in congruent to other writers such as Harry Crews's "Feast of Snakes". Both Harry and Cormac paint scenes of rural, mid-late 20th century Appalachia with characters of Jacksonian pioneer temperments trying to find their placement of machismo acceptance with stubborn and violent ends. No doubt these characters were made to be villified for their actions, yet from time to time are written into scenes that show the elusive nature of their psyche, offering us glimpses of empathy that help us connect to the characters and not le us simply go on with our easy disdain.
The scenes, characters, and broken vernacular are reflective of mid 19th to early 20th century period of industrialization of Appalachia with railroads, factories, and most notably coal mining. This abrupt change from isolated small farming communities spread out like islands to large industrialized workforces had a profound impact on the people who sought and lived a very independent lifestyle full of poverty and strife, to a workforce dependent on corrupt business practices (anti-union cronyism, company stores, unsafe working conditions) for meager wages and later finacial support from the Federal government after the marketcrash of 1929. Cormac's character "Ballard" is a connection to the old, harsh world that spawned his animalistic nature and the broken, post industrial world of consumerism that wishes to see him gone. Harmony Korine's "Alone in the Woods: The Legend of Cambo" strikes a similar chord to both McCarthy and Crews's main characters. Link available thru the image.