The plot of the novel surrounds the aftermath of a drug deal gone bad. It is a situation of the hunter becoming the hunted, literally, when Moss on his hunting mission finds several dead bodies and four trucks. He takes the money and hopes to escape. In the middle of the night, he returns to the scene hoping to assist one survivor he had left there with water. The Mexican drug dealers almost nab him. The novel takes the reader through his life after that and how he tries desperately to escape. Moss acts as a tool of the plot and the entire novel revolves around him. When he is murdered by a psychotic killer contracted to kill him and return the money, the novel slows down before ending.
The psychotic killer is the same man who escapes prison at the beginning of the novel after killing the deputy. For him, murder is a simple affair, and he indeed describes his life as a simple one. Behind him is the Sheriff who says about Chigurh, “Somewhere out there is a true and living prophet of destruction, and I don’t want to confront him. I know he’s real. I have seen his work. I walked in front of those eyes once.” (McCarthy, p2)
The central character is Sheriff Bell. He has always tried to work with devotion and honesty during his entire career as a lawman. In first person, the Sheriff reflects upon his life and expresses himself on what he feels about the present day America. He generalizes his inability to deal with situations. He further concludes that the country has disintegrated. To him, America is no longer a country for old men in terms of both age and the values they hold. He at one point says, “It starts when you begin to overlook bad manners. Any time you quit hearin Sir and Mam the end is pretty much in sight” (McCarthy, p182). His reflections dominate the book. When he fails in his attempts to save Moss and his wife, he resigns.
Moss is not just a character, he is a stereotype. He is the type of person tempted by the desire to get rich quickly and is destroyed by his desire. Moss finds the money of a drug deal gone sore and takes it. He has no idea of the kind of problems he is getting. The Mexican drug dealers pursue him through the active lead of a hit man by the name of Chigurh. His frantic efforts to himself and the money generate the main action of the novel. The novel, therefore, alternates between Moss the hunted, Chigurh the hunter and Bell’s futile attempts to resolve the conflict .
The theme of the novel is ominous. America has degenerated. Crimes such as drug trafficking and violence are a welcome activity. The violence serves to show the loss of values. It is only in this society that murder is so spontaneous. The Sheriff is a sign of the old values of honesty, loyalty, and commitment to law and order. The values of the old men no longer work in the society depicted in the novel.
The narrative in
third-person is a vivid enactment of Bell’s thoughts. Bell fails in saving Moss
and his wife Carl. The confrontation seems far easier for the bad guy, Chigurh,
who watches from his truck as the Sheriff realizes that he has lost the battle,
Moss is dead, and the money gone (McCarthy, 145). The fate of Moss’s wife is
decided with the toss of a coin, and she too is killed. Bell resigns defeated.
McCarthy, C. (2005). No country for old men. 1st ed. New York: Knopf. Available at: http://www.collegeready5.org/apps/download/JkpP8tyHnl11otuWVRAcmhGjZC7K9JRj15YWN5UtNlmv46mB.pdf/Cormac%20McCarthy%20-%20No%20Country%20for%20Old%20Men.pdf
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