No Country for Old Men (novel)  

From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

(Redirected from No Country for Old Men)
Jump to: navigation, search

"[The] “evil man is of little interest to either Cormac McCarthy, the author of the novel, No Country for Old Men, or to Joel and Ethan Coen, the makers of the movie. What is of interest to McCarthy and the Coens is rather what happens when a good, but flawed, man encounters this force of nature in human guise. In this sense, No Country for Old Men recapitulates the patters of ancient Greek tragedy."--Richard Gilmore cited in The Philosophy of the Coen Brothers (2008) by Mark T. Conard

Related e



No Country for Old Men is a 2005 novel by U.S. author Cormac McCarthy. Set along the United States–Mexico border in 1980, the story concerns an illicit drug deal gone wrong in a remote desert location. The title comes from the poem "Sailing to Byzantium" by William Butler Yeats. The book was adapted into the 2007 film No Country for Old Men, which won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture.


  • Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, the main protagonist, a laconic World War II veteran who oversees the investigation and the trail of the murders even as he struggles to face the sheer enormity of the crimes he is attempting to solve. His reminiscences serve as part of the book's narration.
  • Anton Chigurh, the main antagonist, a sociopathic hitman. He is in his 30s, and has eyes as "blue as lapis ... Like wet stones." A man of dark and vaguely exotic complexion.
  • Llewelyn Moss, a welder and Vietnam War veteran in his 30s, whose theft of the millions in cash left at the drug deal site serves as the beginning of the story.
  • Carla Jean Moss, Llewelyn's young wife. She is 19 years old.
  • Carson Wells, another hitman, formerly a lieutenant colonel from the Vietnam War, who is hired to retrieve the money from Chigurh.


The plot follows the interweaving paths of the three central characters (Llewelyn Moss, Anton Chigurh, and Ed Tom Bell), set in motion by events related to a drug deal gone bad near the Mexican-American border in southwest Texas, in Terrell County.

While Llewelyn Moss is hunting antelope, he stumbles across the aftermath of a drug-deal gone bad, which has left everyone dead but a single badly wounded Mexican who pleads with Moss for water. Moss responds that he doesn't have any and searches the rest of the vehicles, finding a truck full of heroin. He searches for the "last man standing" and finds him dead some ways off under a tree, with a satchel containing $2.4 million in cash. He takes the money and returns home. Later, however, he feels remorse for leaving the wounded man and returns to the scene with a jug of water, only to find that he has been shot and killed since he left him. When Moss looks back to his truck parked on the ridge overlooking the valley, another truck is there. As soon as he tries to run, he is seen, which sparks a tense chase by gunmen in the other truck. This is only the beginning of a hunt for Moss that stretches for most of the remaining novel. After escaping from the gunmen at the scene of the drug deal massacre, Llewelyn sends his wife, Carla Jean Moss, to her mother in Odessa while he leaves his home with the money.

Sheriff Ed Tom Bell investigates the drug crime while trying to protect Moss and his young wife, with the aid of other law enforcement. The sheriff is haunted by his actions in World War II, leaving his unit to die, for which he received a Bronze Star. Now in his late 50s, Bell has spent most of his life attempting to make up for the incident when he was a 21-year-old soldier. He makes it his quest to resolve the case and save Moss. Complicating things is the arrival of Anton Chigurh, a hitman hired to recover the money. Chigurh uses a captive bolt pistol (called a "stungun" in the text) to kill many of his victims (and to destroy several cylinder locks to open doors), as well as a silenced shotgun. Carson Wells, a rival hitman and ex-Special Forces officer who is familiar with Chigurh, is also on the trail of the stolen money. After a brutal shootout that spills across the Mexican border and leaves both Moss and Chigurh wounded, Moss recovers at a Mexican hospital while Chigurh patches himself up in a hotel room with stolen supplies. While recuperating, Moss is approached by Wells, who offers to give him protection in exchange for the satchel and tells him his current location and phone number, instructing him to call when he has "had enough."

After recovering and leaving the hotel room, Chigurh finds Wells and murders him just as Moss calls to negotiate the exchange of money. After answering Well's phone, Chigurh tells Moss that he will kill Carla Jean unless he hands over the satchel. Moss remains defiant and soon after, calls Carla Jean and tells her that he will meet up with her at a motel in El Paso. After much deliberation, Carla Jean decides to inform Sheriff Bell about the meeting and its location. Unfortunately for her and her husband, this call is traced and provides Moss's location to some of his hunters.

At the motel, Sheriff Bell arrives to find Moss murdered by a band of Mexicans, who also were after the drug deal cash. Later that night Chigurh arrives at the scene and retrieves the satchel from the airduct in Moss' room. He returns it to its owner and later travels to Carla Jean's house and shoots her after flipping a coin to decide her fate. Soon after, he is hit by a car, which leaves him severely injured but still alive. After bribing a pair of teenagers to remain silent about the car accident, he limps off down the road.

After a long investigation that fails to locate Chigurh, Bell decides to retire and drives away from the local courthouse feeling overmatched and defeated. For the rest of the book, Bell describes two dreams that he had the previous night. In one, he met his father in town and borrowed some money from him. In the second, Bell was riding his horse through a snow-covered pass in the mountains. As he rode, he could see his father up ahead of him carrying a moon colored horn lit with fire, and he knew that his father would ride on through the pass and fix a fire out in the dark and cold and that it would be waiting for him when he arrived. And then he woke up.

Film adaptation

In 2007 Joel and Ethan Coen released a film adaptation of No Country for Old Men, which was met with critical acclaim and a box office success. On January 27, 2008, the film won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. On February 24, 2008, it won four Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director (Joel and Ethan Coen), Best Adapted Screenplay (Joel and Ethan Coen), and Best Supporting Actor (Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh). It also won three BAFTA awards and two Golden Globes.

Ironically, No Country for Old Men was originally penned as a screenplay, which McCarthy subsequently was unsuccessful in marketing.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "No Country for Old Men (novel)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools