Introduction

No Country for Old Men cover image

The novel No Country for Old Men follows three central characters: Llewellyn Moss, a young hunter who happens upon a drug deal gone bad; Anton Chigurh, a psychopathic killer; and Ed Tom Bell, a local Texas sheriff. The seemingly simple plot is that Moss finds (in the midst of a lot of dead bodies) a suitcase filled with over $2 million in cash. He takes the suitcase and is on the run throughout the story. Chigurh, who is somehow involved in the money exchange with the drug dealers, has one purpose in mind: getting the money back, no holds barred. Bell is the unlikely and unsuccessful hero of the story. He tries to save Moss’s life.

Considering the way the novel is written, readers might find themselves rooting for Moss. He is the “little guy” in the company of some very “big” criminals. Moss is also young and thinks he can outsmart the big guys. Through the use of his intelligence and a bit of good luck, Moss keeps slipping away. However, he realizes that there is no turning back. He has entered an underground world from which there is only one exit—his death.

Sheriff Bell, meanwhile, has committed himself to protecting the people who live within his jurisdiction. He knows that Moss is in over his head. Bell, along the way, realizes that he too is in over his head. He tries to get Moss to turn himself in. But Moss is slippery, and Bell cannot quite get to him in time.

Chigurh is at least as intelligent as Moss and Bell and a thousand times more evil. Chigurh is a coldhearted man, eager to kill anyone who tries to cross his path. A Washington Post reviewer hit the nail on the head when he called McCarthy’s book, a “profoundly disturbing and gorgeously rendered” novel.

No Country for Old Men Extended Summary

Readers are provided a quick glimpse of Anton Chigurh, the psychopathic killer, at the opening of No Country for Old Men. He has recently been captured and is standing in a police station with a deputy, who is totally unaware of how vicious Chigurh is. Within minutes, the deputy is dead, and Chigurh has escaped in the deputy’s car. A few minutes later, Chigurh uses the police car to pull a random driver off the road. He kills the driver and drives off in the new car.

The story then switches to a Texas desert, where Moss is hunting antelope. In the process, Moss comes across several dead bodies and a carload of cocaine and a suitcase full of money. The next day, Moss (for some unexplained reason) returns to the scene. This time there are witnesses, and the race begins. Moss takes off across the desert and is chased.

Moss makes it back to his trailer and tells his wife, Carla Jean, she needs to pack up and get out as soon as she can. Then Moss takes off in another direction.

As Moss runs away, he realizes his life will never be the same. The sum of money (over $2 million) is too much. People will be looking for him. He plans each of his steps as if he is being constantly followed, always on the lookout and ready for a showdown. One night he discovers a homing device inside the suitcase with the money, which explains how the drug runners are tracking him. He discards it, but somehow the bad guys always show up.

The biggest showdown occurs at Eagle Pass. Chigurh shows up at the hotel where Moss is staying. Chigurh shoots the hotel clerk to keep him quiet and sneaks up to Moss’s room. But Moss is ready for him. They shoot one another but Moss gets away, only to run into another group of drug runners who are shooting one another in the street. Bullets are flying everywhere as Moss limps across a bridge, throws the suitcase in a bunch of weeds at the river’s edge, and goes into Mexico to find a...

(The entire section is 762 words.)