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Humanities 2017, 6(2), 38;

“Sot’s Skull Subsiding, Sweet Nothingness Betide Me”: Suttree and Sartrean Bad Faith

Department of English, Texas State University, San Marcos, TX78666, USA
Academic Editor: Krzysztof Ziarek
Received: 28 March 2017 / Revised: 29 May 2017 / Accepted: 31 May 2017 / Published: 5 June 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue New Encounters Between Philosophy and Literature II)
Full-Text   |   PDF [262 KB, uploaded 5 June 2017]


Cormac McCarthy’s Suttree is a literary representation of existentialism. The eponymous protagonist seeks his meaning and purpose in a universe that offers none. Jean-Paul Sartre’s existentialism proposes that people must fill the blank slate of the self and establish their own values through their actions. However, instead of establishing his values according to his constantly becoming self, Suttree restrictively bases his values on his material, monetary, functional and social existence. Sartre’s theory of bad faith provides a means to understand Suttree’s identity conflict and argues that the individual should identify not with any particular state of being, but rather with the constant process of becoming. Bad faith is a mode of self-deception in which one believes he is something he is not, or believes he is not something that he is. Suttree’s many forms of bad faith—material, monetary, functional, and social—hinder his ability to live a more meaningful and fulfilling life and embrace his responsibility to create himself. Of all the forms of bad faith Suttree suffers, perhaps the most detrimental to his project of self-creation is his failure to let go of the past. His obsession with past failures and deaths impedes his progress to a new, productive self. By transcending his oppressive past and realizing that he is a combination of his constituent parts and never solely one of them, Suttree understands his responsibility to embrace his past and propel himself into new identities in the constant quest of becoming. Suttree exemplifies a responsible embrace of the project of self-creation in the midst of materialism and nihilism. View Full-Text
Keywords: Suttree; Cormac McCarthy; existentialism; Jean-Paul Sartre; bad faith Suttree; Cormac McCarthy; existentialism; Jean-Paul Sartre; bad faith
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Guerra, E. “Sot’s Skull Subsiding, Sweet Nothingness Betide Me”: Suttree and Sartrean Bad Faith. Humanities 2017, 6, 38.

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