In the novel No Country for Old Men, written by Cormac McCarthy, a perversion of the American dream is presented as the relinquishment of power. Power is defined as the influence one has over people and in McCarthy’s novel he demonstrates three ways to posses this: money, authority, and the ability to strike fear into the hearts of others. Every thing is swallowed by a money-induced apathy lately, leaving nothing else of any importance. Moss, a main character in the novel, uses his new found wealth as a tool to manipulate bystanders into helping him get what he needs.In most cases people are hesitant at first to help this distressed looking man, but as soon as he waves a hundred dollar bill or two there are no more questions asked: Excuse me, he said. Leaning against the chainlink fence.
His bloody footprints on the walk behind him like clues in an arcade. Excuse me. They were stepping off the curb into the roadway to go around him. Excuse me I wondered if you all would sell me a coat. They didnt stop till they were past him. Then one of them turned. What’ll you give? He said.
(p. 117)Money is power, and with this in mind many people do not see or simply just do not care about the people who are affected by their action. As long as the outcome has a nicely figured income it is all the same to them. When Llewellyn Moss stumbles across a leather briefcase containing the better part of 2 million dollars, a payoff intended for some Mexican dope-runners, his life takes a turn for the worst. He’s just too dumbfounded to realize. During a shoot out with the opposing parties, two of mosses bullets pierced threw an old woman’s second floor apartment window blowing her brains out on the back of her rocking chair.When Moss is presented with photographs of the woman he denies the fact that he could have ever done this and says, “You’re full of shit”(p151).
How does a man that carries around a shotgun in a duffle bag not believe he could have killed someone with a stray bullet? The unreal amount of money he posses now blinds him from the cold truth reality has to offer. Power has turned this once sensible man into a reckless killer and a fugitive. This asks the question what good is power if your life is uncontrollably spiraling down the drain.Moss let this power get the better of him and it ended with his death, where as Bell, the Texas county Sheriff, is over powered by the way society is forever changing in the worst ways. He realizes there is not much his authority can do to change the way crime is escalading, but he is still going to give it his best at the end of the day: I read the papers ever mornin. Mostly I suppose just to try and figure out what might be headed this way. Not that I done all that good a job headin it off.
It keeps getting harder. (p. 40)It is people like Chigurh that the Sheriff is talking about if not specifically when he says “They dont have no respect for the law…they dont even think about the law”. This man, whose authority was once well respected by the people, is now just referred to as “a redneck sheriff in a hick town”(p. 151). Even though he had the law, authority, and a taskforce behind him, Sheriff Bell was never even a threat to anyone in this novel. He lost his power a long time ago.
Chigurh, a field worker, is in the business of killing and getting jobs done like the retrieval of stolen drug profit.And thinks of him self as a superior to al of his victims as if they should be thankful he is how he is, he tells one man “ I’m here and you are there. In a few minutes I will still be here…if you don’t respect me what must you think of yourself? Look at where you are. ” (p. 177). It really just relates back to the animal kingdom. Chigurh is a lion and everyone he has ever killed is a gazelle.
If the lion stopped hunting the gazelles they would eventually not fear him anymore and he would no longer be kink of the jungle.Chigurh realizes he only has power because of his murders and becomes a slave to them. Even though he doesn’t want to kill Mosses wife he has to, so he try’s to explain “You’re asking that I make myself vulnerable and that I can never do. I have only one way to live…Do you see? ” (p. 259) No country for old men sends across the message that Power is not everything it is cracked up to be especially in a bad situation. It comes and goes, but if it is your soul purpose in life to find it, you might just look up from your map and find yourself lost.When moss finds the briefcase he might think he is dream at first but he soon realizes it is more of a nightmare.
So does Sheriff Bell, every time he reads the newspaper he thinks back to the way it was when his grandfather was the Sheriff. The only one who has managed to maintain what they consider to be a simple happy life is Chigurh the psychotic killer. So it is really left up to you to decide weather or not we are living the dream or trapped in a never-ending nightmare. By Kyle Dunbar
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