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No Country for Old Men | Quotes

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1.

You've been putting it up your whole life.


Anton Chigurh, Chapter 2

The gas station owner tries to refuse a coin toss with Chigurh, saying "I didnt put nothin up." He means he did not bet anything. Chigurh disagrees: the man has been betting his life all along. In Chigurh's philosophy, a brush with violent death reveals the web of fate.

2.

It's a mess, aint it Sheriff?


Wendell, Chapter 3

Wendell comments on the aftermath of the desert shoot-out. Using verbal irony, Bell replies with understatement: "If it aint it'll do till a mess gets here." He means the opposite: the devastation is truly overwhelming.

3.

If you killed em all they'd have to build an annex on to hell.


Ed Tom Bell, Chapter 3

Overwhelmed by the scale of drug violence, Bell makes an ironic overstatement. However, his statement also supports the Gnostic world view that this world is already hellish and a failed creation; the numbers of evildoers would overwhelm hell.

4.

Then there was just the darkness.


Narrator, Chapter 3

While preparing for his showdown with Chigurh, Moss watches the sun go down over a lake. He sees the land turn "blue and cold"; he sees a bird of prey. But then he sees no more living creatures, just "the darkness." It is a quiet and contemplative scene, but it also resonates with the view that this world is ruled by evil; there is no play of light and dark in this world, "just the darkness."

5.

I think I'm goin to commence dedicatin myself twice daily.


Ed Tom Bell, Chapter 6

The deputy Torbert is in the habit of saying "we dedicate ourselves anew daily" to truth and justice. Considering the number of homicides, Bell ironically overstates the number of times he will need to dedicate himself, adding, "It may come to three fore it's over."

6.

You think ... yesterday dont count. But yesterday is all that does count.


Llewelyn Moss, Chapter 8

The hitchhiking girl is focused on her future in California. Moss disagrees with the idea of starting over; he thinks she is wrong to focus only on the future while ignoring the effect of her past choices. However, he also gives her 1,000 dollars for her trip; he is not certain she has no future.

7.

One thing ... you dont look like [is] a bunch of good luck walking around.


Llewelyn Moss, Chapter 8

The hitchhiking girl tells Moss she thinks her life is going to change for the better; she is due for some good luck. Moss sharply disagrees, saying good luck is about the last thing she embodies. He means her luck has to do with who she is: a runaway, a hitchhiker, an uneducated minor. His remark echoes Chigurh's belief in fate.

8.

By the time you figured it out it would be too late.


Ed Tom Bell, Chapter 8

Bell says the truth must be simple; otherwise, understanding would come too late. But understanding does come late in the novel; Bell trails after Chigurh, helpless to stop him or to save Moss. Moss learns too late how inescapable Chigurh is.

9.

He's a ghost. But he's out there.


Ed Tom Bell, Chapter 9

Bell is referring to Chigurh. He is ghostly in his ability to flit away, eluding capture. And yet Bell knows Chigurh is real ("he's out there"), because of the devastation he leaves in his wake.

10.

They pretend to themselves they are in control of events where perhaps they are not.


Anton Chigurh, Chapter 9

Chigurh refers to the way people in the drug trade act when large sums of money are at stake; they fool themselves into thinking they are capable of more than they really are. Chigurh feels he does not suffer from this kind of self-deception. He is often in control of events, and when he is not, as in the accident, he still knows how to roll with the change to come out on top.

11.

We're at the mercy of the dead here. In this case your husband.


Anton Chigurh, Chapter 9

Chigurh told Moss, who is now dead, he was going to kill Carla Jean. Chigurh is wrong to refute what's obvious: Carla Jean is at the mercy of Chigurh. But in a larger sense, Chigurh is right; history weighs on the present. The preceding generations, now dead, made choices that determined present-day conditions.

12.

Somewhere you made a choice. All followed to this.


Anton Chigurh, Chapter 9

Not everything Chigurh says is crazy; he is right about this, to some extent. Looking back at a life from the perspective of death, every choice and chance fits together in a web of fate. Chigurh is excessively strict in his application of this principle; he speaks as if people had only one opportunity in life to make a single, fateful choice.

13.

You're asking that I second say the world. Do you see?


Anton Chigurh, Chapter 9

Chigurh thinks the web of fate is the entire world; to change the fate of even one person, Carla Jean, would be to go against the whole world. McCarthy uses a made-up term, "second say." Chigurh's speech sounds antiquated or countrified, but that is McCarthy's invention, a combination of "second guess" (to put a new interpretation on things) and "gainsay" (to contradict).

14.

Over the years I have give her the heart I always wanted for myself.


Ed Tom Bell, Chapter 10

Bell idealizes his dead daughter. He gives her the kindness and wisdom he would have liked to have, and then he accepts advice from her. He not only talks to her, he listens.

15.

It's a life's work to see yourself for what you really are.


Ed Tom Bell, Chapter 11

Like Chigurh, Bell thinks self-knowledge is crucial. But unlike Chigurh, he examines self-knowledge over the course of a whole life. Bell thinks you cannot know yourself until you have lived your life and made your choices. Chigurh thinks you don't have all that long; a few early choices, entangled with chance, determine one's fate and one's character.

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