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No Country For Old Men focuses largely on the theme of violence and evil as being an inherent quality of mankind. I think a good starting point for connections to this theme is another of McCarthy's works, Blood Meridian.
- Blood Meridian can, in some ways, be treated like an introduction or a prelude to NCFOM. Judge Holden, the "villain" of BM, serves as an embodiment of violence and fate; he kills The Kid (the protagonist) in a manner that implies it was The Kid's inability to confront him that ensured his death. The message is that Holden's view is the winner, and this fits in with NCFOM: violence is indeed omnipresent, and our fates depend upon how we react to it.
- Jack London's The Sea Wolf and Call of the Wild both explore the idea of violence as a natural part of life, competition, struggles for dominance, and the need for the civilized person to recognize the power of uncivilized violence and adapt to it in order to survive.
- Poe's short story "The Masque of the Red Death" carries the message that running from death/violence will not protect you; death is a supernatural force that exerts its will regardless of your own.
- You might also try to compare Llewelyn Moss to Macbeth, to explore the idea of how power/wealth corrupts. The drug money in NCFOM is like the kingdom of Scotland; Llewelyn and Macbeth both know that they didn't really "earn" it, and try to rationalize to themselves why it's nevertheless ok for them to possess these things. Ultimately they lose what they have gained, leading to their deaths, and the deaths of their families.
Two complementary works that you can use in your essay are A Gathering of Old Men by Ernest J Gaines and East of Eden by John Steinbeck.
Gaines establishes the motif of "characters within their society" in A Gathering, of the titular old men taking up guns and standing as a united force against oppression by the white landlords and overseers in Bayonne, Louisiana. This establishes that even peace-loving retirees have a streak of violence in them.
In a stark scene when one of the characters first comes across this "brick wall" of old men with shotguns, helps characterize them into one cohesive unit.
“But I had only gone to the front of her car when I suddenly stopped again. Like I had run into a brick wall. It was a wall, all right, but a wall twenty, thirty feet away from me. Not a wall of brick, stone or wood, but a wall of old black men with shotguns. I don’t know how many there were – fifteen, eighteen of them; standing, squatting, sitting – scattered all over the place. And waiting. Waiting. But not for me. That was obvious. Some of them acted as though I was not even there.”
(A Gathering of Old Men, P 62)
In Steinbeck's East of Eden, he plays with the Cain and Abel motif and shapes the characters of the Hamiltons (part-autobiographical) and the Trasks (Cain and Abel motif, fictional, all characters' names begins either with 'C' or 'A') to represent the two aspects of good and evil, and as the novel progresses, teases out the areas of grey in many of these characters.
“I believe that there is one story in the world, and only one. . . . Humans are caught—in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too—in a net of good and evil. . . . There is no other story. A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well—or ill?”
(East of Eden, Ch 34)
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