No Country for Old Men | Study Guide

Cormac McCarthy

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No Country for Old Men | Chapter 7 | Summary



Section 1

Bell recalls his experiences in World War II. He was awarded a medal, but his squad was killed. After the war, some veterans went to college in Austin on the GI Bill and learned to despise "rednecks." Bell reflects on changing student behavior; he says schools in the 1930s had to deal only with gum chewing and copied homework, but schools today have to deal with arson, rape, and murder. He reveals he is against abortion, which he likens to euthanasia of the elderly.

Section 2

Chigurh climbs the stairs to the drug kingpin's high-rise office, avoiding the elevator's security measures. Climbing 17 stories causes him no more exertion "than if he'd just got up out of a chair." Chigurh shoots the drug kingpin in the throat with small-gauge buckshot, to avoid breaking the windows. He talks to the kingpin as he bleeds out and dies.

Carla Jean and her mother arrive at a bus station. Her mother is sick with cancer and complains. She tells the cab driver they are headed to El Paso. She berates Carla Jean for having married Moss, and she tells her she foresaw this: "I knowed this is what it would come to. I said it three year ago." She tells Carla Jean anyone could have predicted this about Moss, and so she gives herself "no credit" for the prediction.

Chigurh arrives in Odessa. He breaks into Carla Jean's house. He takes a nap there and reads her mail. The phone bill shows the number for the Terrell County sheriff.

Moss hires a cab driver to take him to the border bridge. He retrieves the money from the river bank. He pays the driver to take him to San Antonio (150 or so miles away). Moss rents a motel room, and he buys a gun and a pickup truck. At a highway on-ramp he picks up a hitchhiker, a girl of 15 or so. He lets her drive.

Carla Jean calls Bell. She says she will tell him where Moss called from if Bell promises Moss won't be harmed. Bell promises. The drug runners have tapped Bell's phone; a man monitoring the line notes Carla Jean's words and turns the information over to another man ("the Mexican"), who jumps into a black Plymouth Barracuda and heads toward Moss.


The pattern of Bell's remarks in Chapter 7 reveals something about his internal struggle. He starts opining about the decline of contemporary moral standards only after he mentions World War II. Later he will reveal how troubled he is by his guilt. Bell is also deeply attached to his Texas roots and to the people others call "rednecks" and "right wing."

The reason Chigurh gives for using small-gauge buckshot and the shotgun seem suspect. It's unlikely he cares about hurting passersby; he might want to avoid drawing attention to his crime. He also chooses not to use the bolt pistol, which would have protected the windows as well. Whatever his motive, he gets extra mileage out of it by describing his killing technique to his victim. He seems determined to make the kingpin's death difficult: slow and burdened with his own words.

There is verbal irony in Carla Jean's mother's statement "I give myself no credit." She says the opposite of what she means: she does give herself credit, in the form of an "I told you so" rant. But her statement also touches on the novel's theme of fate. She believes Moss was always destined to come to a bad end.

Chigurh's nap in Carla Jean's bed foreshadows his later intrusion in her bedroom in Chapter 9, when he kills her. His ability to sleep in a house he breaks into demonstrates his lack of worry or remorse.

Although Bell promises Carla Jean he will not harm Moss, he indirectly delivers Moss to his death. This is an example of situational irony; Carla Jean expects safety and help from Bell, but in fact he brings her disaster. Because Carla Jean's and Bell's efforts to help make things worse, the novel holds out the possibility that Moss is fated to be killed by Chigurh.

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