Asterisk denotes entries on real places.
Caves. Series of caves located in the limestone country of eastern Tennessee. As they do in McCarthy’s novel Suttree (1979), caves play a major role in Child of God. Ballard’s descent is not only a mental phenomenon but also a physical one that takes him from the hills to the fields to the underground caves where he seeks his ultimate withdrawal. Like a pack rat, he collects and hides his “trophies” alongside the bones of other animals. That he had finally reached the underbelly of nature is driven home by the author, when he describes the walls of the cave as having “an organic look to them, like the innards of some great beast.”
Frog Mountain. Mountain located in the heart of the hill country where Ballard spends much of his time searching for prey. It also is the site of a road turnaround, which serves as a symbolic collision point of local civilized society and the natural world. It also serves as a prime stalking ground for Ballard to carry out his wanton assaults on unsuspecting residents.
*Sevierville. Small town in eastern Tennessee that serves as the county seat of Sevier County. The city represents the civilized elements from which Ballard becomes totally estranged. Again, his mental isolation is as pronounced as his physical separation, as illustrated in his visit to the local blacksmith shop to have an ax sharpened. As Ballard watches, the blacksmith carefully explains to him each step of the sharpening process, which concludes with him suggesting that Ballard now was able to do it himself. “Do what?” is Ballard’s response. It is one of several awkward interactions with the local citizenry, when he is forced to visit the city for supplies.
Ballard’s farm. Farmhouse located deep in the Tennessee hills where Ballard lives. The home represents the high point of his existence until the forced sale of his property by county authorities.
Cabin. Abandoned clapboard structure situated on a neighbor’s property. Ballard’s move into the cabin following the loss of his home represents the first downward step in his journey into degradation. “Were there darker provinces of night he would have found them.”
Hospital. County hospital that Ballard checks into after being flushed from the depths of his cave. Choosing not to return to the woods, he instead enters this emblem of civilization, in which he cryptically tells a nurse that he is where he is “supposed to be.”