No Country for Old Men | Study Guide

Cormac McCarthy

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No Country for Old Men | Chapter 10 | Summary

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Summary

Section 1

Bell reflects on his conversation with Ellis; they talked about old age, and Ellis said at least old age is short. Bell also considers his philosophy that "whatever you do in life it will get back to you." The Mexican man is in prison for killing a state trooper and setting his car on fire. Bell believes he is innocent of that crime (because he thinks Chigurh did it). But the Mexican man killed Moss. Bell wonders what his duty is toward the Mexican man.

Bell reflects on his war experiences. He says he thought no other experience "would eat on me thataway" again, especially if he lived an upright life. But he was mistaken. Chigurh bothers him that way, and he is retiring as sheriff so he "wont be called on to hunt this man."

Bell continues to think about Harold, who died at age 17 in World War I. Harold's Aunt Carolyn had raised Harold; Bell read her letters to him. He sees in the letters that Carolyn and Harold could not imagine the world that was coming after the war. He too has "no more idea of the world that is brewin out there than what Harold did." He thinks about the fact that Carolyn never got a "Gold Star" medal for losing Harold, who was not her son, and never got his pension.

Bell reflects on the wars and the bloody past of "this country." Bell reveals he still talks to his deceased daughter. She would be 30 years old, if she had lived. He does not tell his wife he talks to their daughter.

Section 2

Detective Cook of the Odessa police calls Bell about the murder of Carla Jean. The murder weapon was traced to a teenage boy, DeMarco, in Midland, Texas. He sold it, and it was used in another crime. Bell calls Roger Catron, who investigated Chigurh's car accident. The driver of the other car and his two passengers were Mexican youths, stoned at the time. Bell travels to Odessa to talk to DeMarco, who says Chigurh was in his "late thirties" and "sort of medium" height, but he refuses to give any other information. Bell tracks down a friend of DeMarco's, who reveals Chigurh bribed them to stay silent. Of Chigurh he says, "He looked like anybody." The friend also recalls Chigurh's apparent indifference to pain.

Analysis

The theme of Bell's reflections in this chapter is the rarity of justice in this life. The army treats Carolyn according to regulations but unjustly. The Mexican man is arrested for the wrong crime; Bell wonders whether it is just to let him serve a prison sentence. And "this country" has a long bloody past; "this country" probably means the United States, but it also means Texas. His family was involved in settling Texas, in fighting Native Americans, and in the Mexican-American War.

Another theme of Bell's reflections is aging. "If you live long enough," your past acts come back to you. But things change so much in a lifetime that Bell has no idea of the world he will live in, in the future. Having children is a way of believing in that future, but Bell and Loretta's daughter died. Bell now idealizes his daughter; he gets wiser advice from her than he could give himself.

The two teenage boys Bell talks to look at their actions differently. DeMarco is indifferent, but his friend is sorry they aided a murderer. The friend's description of Chigurh plays with several senses of the word anybody. At first the friend says Chigurh looked "like anybody": an ordinary person, nothing stood out about him. But Chigurh is also extraordinary in "not looking like anybody"—he doesn't resemble anyone else. Finally the friend adds, "he didn't look like anybody you'd want to mess with." The contradictory descriptions of Chigurh emphasize his ghostly, elusive nature. (In fact, in Chapter 9 Bell specifically calls Chigurh a ghost.)

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