No Country for Old Men
From plot debriefs to key motifs, Thug Notes’ No Country for Old Men Summary & Analysis has you covered with themes, symbols, important quotes, and more.
No Country for Old Men (2005) | Written by: Cormac McCarthy
No Country for Old Men
Thug Notes Summary & Analysis
What up y’all? This week we callin’ it with No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy.
Down in the SouthWest side of Texas, country boy Llewelyn Moss rollin strapped through the dessert huntin’ antelope when- “Oh damn. Da hell happened ova’ here?” Bodies EVERYWHERE. And from the look of the gats deez boys was packin, this musta been some kinda drug deal gone HELLA wrong. One dude still breathin and all like “..say, can you hook a brutha up with some water?” But Moss just like ” Psh. bitch I don’t know you!” After scopin’ out da area some mo’, he finds the last brutha standing and a leather case full of BIG FACES- I’m talkin 2.4 MILLION DOLLAS. Oooh baby!
Moss head back home to count his stacks, but start feelin like a real dick leavin that Mexican dude hangin’. So he head back to the spot with a jug of water and gets outta his car, which is about the STUPIDEST damn thing he coulda done. It aint long before he realize he ain’t out in da boonies by himself- there’s some creep lurkin’ round his whip. “Oh. Fuck.” Moss try to bail but dem pushers chase his ass through the desert. Eventually, he manage to shake ’em off, and calls up his lady Carla Jean and tell her she gotta bust ass over to her mama’s house til things cool off.
When wind of this mess comes to old law man Ed Tom Bell, he decide he gonna make SHO dat Moss and Carla Jean make it out alive. Specially since he did some bunk shit back in WW2, and wanna do some good to make up fo’ it. But shit gets real whack when a hitman named Anton Chigur hit da streets to hunt down dat cash. This is one cat you DON’T fuck with. Chigur packin a silenced shotgun and an air-powered stun gun that not only can blow a hole in a brutha’s head, but can rip the locks off doors like it ain’t nuthin’.
Also hot on the trail of dem Benjamins is Carson Wells, anotha’ hit man, who got beef with Chigur. Anyway, Chigur catch up with Moss across the border, and they start bustin’ caps in eachotha’ til both of ’em walk away with gnarly wounds. Chigur patch himself up in a hotel like a real hardass while Moss rest up in a hospital. Wells drop in on Moss and be like “say dawg, you have no idea who you dealin’ with. Chigurh ain’t gonna stop lookin for you even IF he gets the money back- he’ll still find you and put yo ass six feet deep. But.. I’ll take care of him for you if you gimme dat cheddar.”
Wells leaves, and Moss marinate on it fo’ a while, but it’s too late. Chigur corners Wells and mercs his ass right as Moss callin’ Wells to seal the deal. Chigur pick up da phone and tell Moss dat he better cough up da cash or he gonna kill Carla Jean. Shit, son.
Since Carla Jean start to bug out, she call up Sherriff Ed to tell him where Moss is gonna lay low. Guess who traced the call? Das right. Crazy-ass Chigur.
So when Ed Tom’s crusty ass swang over to the motel, he find Moss lyin in chalk. Apparently, he got smoked by a gang of drug pushers also searchin’ fo’ the money. Good lookin’ out ED! Later, Chigur roll up on dat motel room and find the money stashed in the vent and hand it over to the big dawg.
Since Chigur’s a man of his word, he stop by to put a bullet in Carla Jean’s dome. She beg him to jus’ chill, so he flips a coin to decide her life. (gunshot) She dead. On his way outta da crib- BAM, boy get’s TOOKEN out by a car. He still alive, tho. Afta’ bribing two kids to keep they mouths shut, Chigur limp off in to the sunset.
After tryin to bring the law down on Chigur’s ass fo’ a while, Old ass Ed just says “fuck it,” retires, and start talkin bout two trippy dreams he had after his dad died: In one, he gotta borrow some ends from his dad, but jus’ loses em. In da otha, brutha on a horse watching his daddy ahead of him holding a blazin’ horn (massive blunt in dad’s hand), knowin he would light a fire dat would keep on blazin’ in the darkness.
From da first pages of da book, Sherriff Ed Tom Bell lay it on thick: da world has left his ass in the dust. See back in his daddy’s day, the hardest hoods on the block would jus’ boost cattle, and chasin em down wasn’t no thang. But these days, da face of evil got a way meaner mug on it- and Ed Tom and his boys ain’t never seen nothin like it. Deez killas ain’t got no code. They’ll merc anybody without even trippin. Like he say on page 196, “the world is goin’ to hell in a handbasket.” This TRULY is no country for old men.
And speakin of the title, it actually come from an old school poem by my main man WB Yeats called “Sailing to Byzantium.” In da poem, the narrator lay down some sick rhymes bout how how bad it sucks to get old. So he pack up his nuts and head to Byzantium where word is some sages gonna appear in fire and take him outside of time- kinda like da dream Ed Tom’s dream at the end of the book. He could see his pops “carryin fire in a horn the way people used to do… in the dream I knew that he was going on ahead and that he was fixin’ to make a fire somwehere out there in all that dark…. Whenever I got there he would be there (309)
And on top of that, the whole “gettin old, fallin apart, and tryna chunk deuce to a shitty world” thing is da same kinda bullshit Ed Tom Bell and a buncha otha bruthas goin through in the novel. They da old men constantly sweatin’ da coming of the “new man,” and da kinda person you gotta become to stop such stone cold killers. Like Ed Tom say-
“Somewhere out there is a true and living prophet of destruction and I dont want to confront him. I know he’s real. I have seen his work. I walked in front of those eyes once. I wont do it again. I wont push my chips forward and stand up and go out to meet him. It aint just bein older. I wish that it was. I cant say that it’s even what you are willin to do…I think it is more like what you are willin to become. And I think a man would have to put his soul at hazard.” (4)
Ain’t nobody representin’ this “new man” better than Anton Chigur- the baddest muthafucka EVER. Yeah, he cold blooded as hell, but there’s more to it than that. Accordin’ to Wells, “You could even say he has principles. Principles that transcend money or drugs or anything like that.” (153)
Chigur don’t look at life like most people and always be philosophizin like a muthafucka’:
“I got here the same way the coin did…For things at a common destination there is a common path. Not always easy to see. But there…Every moment in your life is a turning and every one a choosing. Somewhere you made a choice. All followed to this. The accounting is scrupulous. The shape is drawn. No line can be erased.” (258-59)
To Chigur, ain’t nobody can really change the world or da shit that happens. In his eyes, asking questions like “Why couldn’t things be different?” just don’t make no sense- things are they way they are and we just passively participating in this cosmic clusterfuck- like little puzzle pieces that all randomly come together to create the here-and-now.
Aight so Ed Tom is the good guy, tryna keep it old school morality, and Chigur is the bad guy- cuz da new man don’t give a shit bout nuthin, right? Well not exactly. There are some pretty interesting similarities between Ed Tom And Chigur. They both always bustin other people’s balls bout not speakin’ clearly enough and both like to go on and on about truth and principle.
Now here’s where shit gets cray: Ed Tom Bell straight up say “I’m not the man of an older time they say I am.” Huh? Turns out ol Ed turned his back on his boys back in WW2 and left them out to die, even though that goes against his code. Chigur on the other hand, always talkin bout how he’s a man of his word, like when he’s havin’ one last talk with Carla Jean-
“You’ve got no cause to hurt me, she said. / I know. But I gave my word…my word is not dead. Nothing can change that. (256)
So NOW who’s the man with no code?
Also, when a book slangin religious imagery, they usually doin it to make da good guy look dat much mo’ righteous. But in No Country, it’s CHIGUR who all holy-like. For real. For starters, when he ghost dat dude on the highway, da book say “he places his hand on the man’s head like a faith healer”. Hmm.. Later, dude actually compares himself to actin like God-
“Even a nonbeliever might find it useful to model himself after God. Very useful, in fact.” (256)
And just think abut his piece: one of Chigurh’s favorite ways to ice somebody is with a stungun used to knock cattle da fuck out. Maybe it’s cuz to someone like Chigur- who da novel paints as mo’ divine than human – errybody else just moo’in sacks of flesh. God Damn.
Yo thanks for checkin’ me out today y’all. Keep it 100 erryday. Peace.