The Orchard Keeper Study Guide

The Orchard Keeper

The Orchard Keeper by Cormac McCarthy

Like much of McCarthy's works, The Orchard Keeper 's central themes are highly Biblical in nature: innocence, the end of days, and the relationship between fathers and sons. Both Arthur and Marion take on mentor relationships with John Wesley, acting as surrogate fathers. Ironically, Marion killed John's father, and Arthur tends to the corpse, which, unbeknownst to John, is concealed in Arthur's spray pit. The dense woodlands of Red Branch, described by McCarthy in gorgeous and elaborate detail, are a kind of Eden, in which characters live in a state of ignorant bliss.

This bliss is slowly eroded over the course of the novel, as violence, death, decay, and modern civilization slowly but inevitably encroach on Arthur, John Wesley, and Marion's way of life. The novel ends with John Wesley returning to Red Branch after spending several years out West, only to find the hamlet abandoned and dilapidated. Like Adam and Eden, John Wesley can never return to his idyllic place of birth; it has been forever lost to him.

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