No Country for Old Men | Study Guide

Cormac McCarthy

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No Country for Old Men | Chapter 3 | Summary



Section 1

Bell reflects on new law enforcement technology and the death penalty. He is skeptical of both, but he seems undecided about the death penalty. He would not "rule it out altogether," but he would also be reluctant to witness another execution. He reveals he has never killed anyone. He remembers sheriffs who proudly never carried a weapon. He reflects on the oddness of being a county sheriff without any countywide laws to uphold. (The laws are at local, state, or federal levels.)

Section 2

Moss and Carla Jean arrive in Fort Stockton by bus, where they part. Carla Jean is on her way to Odessa. She warns Moss to be careful.

Section 3

Bell and his wife go to examine a burning car. It belongs to Wyrick; Chigurh stole it from him. The next morning Bell and Wendell ride horses to Sanderson Canyon, where they discover the trucks and the dead bodies. Bell then goes to meet Torbert, who is Lamar's deputy. The ballistics report has come back on Wyrick: there is no exit wound and yet no bullet inside his skull either. Bell wonders if they are dealing with a new kind of criminal.

Chigurh breaks into Moss's trailer and steals his mail, including a phone bill with records of calls to Del Rio and Odessa. Moss arrives in Del Rio by bus. He hides the briefcase in an air duct in a motel room. He eats in a restaurant across the Mexican border. Upon returning, Moss sees signs that someone has been in his room, so he sleeps in another motel. The next day he goes to a sporting goods store to buy weapons and supplies. He calls the first motel, the Trail Motel, and asks the desk clerk to hold his room.


Bell's philosophy of law enforcement is about protecting his people rather than chasing down criminals. He also seems somewhat fatalistic about people's behavior. "It takes very little to govern good people," he says, explaining why some sheriffs never carried a gun. "And bad people cant be governed at all." This last statement does not bode well for an encounter with Chigurh.

The mystery of how Chigurh killed Wyrick makes him seem supernatural. He shot a man, apparently without using a bullet. This adds to Bell's apprehension. When he goes to the scene of the desert shoot-out with Torbert, he again asks whether the culprits are a new kind. Judging by the numbers of dead at the scene, the world is perhaps overrun with this new kind of criminal. "If you killed em all they'd have to build an annex on to hell," he tells Torbert.

Chigurh's stalking of Moss has become more intense. Moss is a different kind of prey than Deputy Haskins or the gas station man. Moss knows Chigurh is after him, and he has some inkling how determined Chigurh is. Moss proves himself resourceful; Chigurh does not yet have the money or Moss in his grasp.

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