I need to get more into the underlying meanings of Suttree, but right now I’m still taken by the writing and the essentials of place, character, arc, etc. Let me give you an example of McCarthy’s dialogue, between Harrogate (watermelon man) and a junk dealer. Harrogate brings an old Ford hood to be matched if possible at the junkyard, telling the man that he wants another just like it. The man walks away, and when Harrogate goes after him, finds him back in a drunken drowse on his cot:
"Hey, said Harrogate.
I ain’t got time to mess with you, the junkman mumbled.
Listen, said Harrogate. I need two alike to make a boat out of.
The junkman removed his arm from his face and looked at the ceiling.
I wanted to get em welded together and tar up the holes so I could have me a boat.
How do you sons of bitches find me?
It ain’t but just me.
All you crazy sons of bitches. I wish I could catch whoever it is keeps sendin em down here."
This dialogue not only reveals a strange ingenuity in Harrogate, it reveals his admiration of Suttree, his wish to make his little hole in this part of Knoxville extend to the river.
McCarthy progresses his plot not through his descriptive setting. The scene expands as we follow the characters about but remains a constant thread woven as the backdrop to the story. It moves, and yet remains in place; a place for them to fall back on, or into. The characters seem to grow within it, and as they deal with each other, they are changing–both inwardly by the interaction and to the reader as they are revealed.
But they are always grounded in the world McCarthy has set out for them.