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At the very beginning of Chapter VI of Cormac McCarthy’s novel No Country for Old Men, Sheriff Bell describes the extremely positive impact his wife has had on some of the prisoners Bell has arrested and jailed over the years. By treating these men with kindness and in particular by making good food for them, Loretta Bell has in some cases helped transform their views of themselves and of life in general. Many of them come back, years after being released from jail, to express their thanks to her. As Bell puts it,
We’ve had em to come back even years later and they’d be married and doin good. Bring their wives. Bring their kids even. They didnt come back to see me. I’ve seen em to introduce their wives or their sweethearts and then just go to bawlin. Grown men. That had done some pretty bad things. She knew what she was doin. She always did.
Here, as so often elsewhere in the book, Loretta symbolizes the goodness of which humans of capable, as well as the goodness they are capable of inspiring in others. She thus stands in stark contrast to such characters as Anton Chigurh, who seems the embodiment of relentless evil. Without the presence of such characters as Loretta Bell and Sheriff Bell, No Country for Old Men would be almost unbearably bleak.
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