How will you describe the form and structure of the book No Country for Old Men?In my essay I have to pay "particular attention" to form and structure, but sadly I have forgotten how to do that or...

How will you describe the form and structure of the book No Country for Old Men?

In my essay I have to pay "particular attention" to form and structure, but sadly I have forgotten how to do that or the only structure I can see is how the book jumps from third person point of view to first person point of view when Bell talks about his past and dreams. I'm pretty lost, so it would be nice if I could get some help.

Expert Answers
mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Structure: the novel weaves three story lines: Llewellyn Moss, Anton Chigurh, and Tom Bell.  The story, like The Odyssey, begins "in medias res" (in the middle), and it's all action, except for Bell's story: he's like the Greek Chorus, commenting on the action; he's the voice of the author.

It's a chase: each of the characters chase the other.  Chigurh chases Moss; Bell chases Chigurh and Moss.  The Mexicans chase Moss.  Carson Wells chases Chigurh and Moss.  They all chase the money, except Bell.  It's all about the money; the irony is that no one really cares about the money.  Chighurh certainly does not.  What does Moss buy with the money?  Tent poles, new boots, and hotel rooms?  Is that worth dying over? So, money is essentially a red herring.

For most of the novel, these three never really meet: Chigurh and Moss shoot it out, but never speak; Bell and Chigurh are in the motel room where Moss died, but they never speak.  Instead, they speak through proxies: Chigurh speaks to Wells and later to Carla Jean; Moss speaks to Wells and Carla Jean; Bell speaks to Loretta, Wendell, and the old sheriffs.

The function of characters is fascinating.  Many are archetypal--the kind you see in Westerns and in quest literature.  Chigurh is hard to pin down: is he real?  He seems like a force of nature, fate, the devil, a ghost, and the Terminator all in one.

In form and function, it's a revenge tale, like Othello, in that the villain pursues an unwitting protagonist, and like Iago, Chigurh has no real motive for revenge.  Is he trying to take revenge on Moss for taking the money and, like Wells says, "inconveniencing him"?  Ironically, his pursuit of the money is nobler than Moss'.  In many ways he's taking revenge on Moss (on modern man) for chasing money, for being materialistic.  He's a character of divine evil, like The Misfit from Flannery O'Connor's "A Good Man Is Hard to Find."  Like Wells says:

You don't understand. You can't make a deal with him. Even if you gave him the money he'd still kill you. He's a peculiar man. You could even say that he has principles. Principles that transcend money or drugs or anything like that. He's not like you. He's not even like me.

McCarthy seems to be saying that our society conditions us to doggedly pursue materialism the way cave men used to hunt for food, unthinkingly, out of primordial instinct.  It is a baseless, empty quest; modern man becomes an absurd knight-errant.  McCarthy never even shows us the climax: Moss' death.  It's his quest for money is immoral, meaningless.

In terms of form, McCarthy's style is a lot like Hemingway's: Plain / Tough. Here's the breakdown:

VOCBULARY-high frequency words-monosyllabic words-contractions, articles-1st person pronouns-action verbs, active tense-no dialogue tags-no quotes--colloquial-Anglo-Saxon words

SENTENCES-simple sentences-short, choppy-compound sentences (lots of coordinating conjunctions “and”)

POINT OF VIEW: even though it's third person it's still-1st Person (I –oriented)-subjective-informal (causal)-male (macho) voice

RHETORICAL APPEAL-ethos (credibility)-trustworthiness of the writer or speaker-inductive reasoning-stream of consciousness

CONVENTIONS: -in medias res-irony-metaphor, simile-allegories-double meanings

"It is the language of intimacy, the language of no pretensions. The words are simple and the grammar is simple.  The writing is not planned, but just happens, in a stream of consciousness kind of way—you are there."

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No Country for Old Men

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