No Country for Old Men

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No Country for Old Men Chapter 10 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Bell reflects on his conversation with Ellis. They talked about growing old, and how being hard on oneself is a sign of aging. Bell then states that he can’t understand why Chigurh killed Carla Jean. Meanwhile, in a separate incident, the police have a Mexican man in custody for shooting a police officer in Huntsville and lighting the car on fire with the officer in it, but Bell knows they have the wrong man, and wonders whether he is obligated to try to get to the truth of the situation. Bell reflects on the way his experience in WWII has driven his career, and led him to believe that if he lived in a strict way, he would not experience that kind of regret again. Now he is about to quit his job as sheriff, and he understands that part of the reason why is so he won’t have to pursue Chigurh.
Bell is beginning to confront the idea of mortality and the legacy he will leave behind. Bell’s choices and failures, which will constitute his legacy, can’t be changed. This understanding is hard on him. Even as Bell considers retirement, he is still dedicated to truth, justice, and morality, as shown by his desire to help the convict. As an older man, Bell has begun to realize that trying to live with strict codes and careful attention to actions has not prevented chance and fate from interfering with his plans. This realization leads to his understanding that he cannot overcome Chigurh; something that Moss and Wells never fully acknowledged.
Themes
Philosophy, Morality, and Ethics Theme Icon
Fate, Chance, and Free Will  Theme Icon
Justice and Higher Law Theme Icon
Changing Times: Past, Present, and Future Theme Icon
Bell thinks about what Ellis said about waiting for God to come into his life. He comments that God comes to those who must need it the most, which is not easy to accept, particularly as it applies to someone like his wife, Loretta.
Bell’s understanding of God has changed through the novel. He does not see the justice in God’s plans. He knows he has put his wife through a lot, and feels she needed God, but he has not been there for her.
Themes
Philosophy, Morality, and Ethics Theme Icon
Justice and Higher Law Theme Icon
Bell then discusses the letters his great aunt sent to his Uncle Harold. She was the one who raised Harold, and it is clear in the letters that she knew the world he would return to after the war wouldn’t be the same. It is clear to Bell that this is true, that the world has changed, in light of all he has seen. He realizes there is nothing he can do about it. He reflects on the medal he was awarded in the war, and realizes that Harold didn’t receive a medal, and neither did his great aunt because she was not Harold’s biological mother. She also didn’t receive Harold’s war pension, but Ellis feels she should have.
Bell recognizes the way in which war and violence have changed the world. He also understands that as the world changes, it becomes more difficult to uphold the older values. Bell sees injustice in the fact that he was given a medal, but his uncle Harold was not recognized, and his great aunt didn’t receive his pension.
Themes
Justice and Higher Law Theme Icon
Changing Times: Past, Present, and Future Theme Icon
Corruption, Greed, and Power Theme Icon
Bell notes that he went back out to the family homestead where Uncle Ellis lives one more time. While he was there, he thought about the United States, and the strange and bloody history of the country. He mentions that sometimes he talks to his deceased daughter, who would be thirty now. He says he doesn’t care if people think it is superstition. He has tried to give her the heart he always wanted for himself, meaning he constructs his imaginings of has around the idea that she is a more courageous, ethical, and moral person than he. He claims to hear his daughter communicating with him, and doesn’t care how that sounds to others. He listens to her, and trusts her voice.
Bell’s recognition of the United State’s strange and bloody history complicates his romantic view of the past. His conversation with Ellis helped him understand that this nation has always experienced violence, greed, and corruption, even if the nature of these things has changed. Bell projects the values he hopes to uphold onto the memory of his daughter. He uses her memory to help him be a better man, almost as if she stands in for his conscience. He is not concerned with what people think about this, as it helps him to be a better man.
Themes
Philosophy, Morality, and Ethics Theme Icon
Changing Times: Past, Present, and Future Theme Icon
Corruption, Greed, and Power Theme Icon
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The narrative then moves back to the past, a short time after Carla Jean has been murdered. Bell gets a call from a detective with the Odessa Police Department. The detective tells Bell they have found the weapon used to kill Carla Jean. The boy who took the gun from Chigurh’s truck sold it, and it ended up in a robbery in Louisiana. The detective tells Bell to call another investigator, and when Bell calls, the man tells him about the car accident, saying three Mexican men were smoking marijuana and ran the stop sign before hitting Chigurh. Two of the men died, the third lived. Bell asks if he can come talk to David DeMarco, the boy who stole the gun. The investigator tells him he can try.
Like the coin Chigurh gives to the gas station proprietor, the gun travels to Louisiana, and is involved in a robbery, another example of fate taking its course. DeMarco couldn’t have known the consequences of his decision to sell the gun, but couldn’t stop them once he made the decision. Though Carla Jean and Moss are dead, Bell continues searching for answers. This last ditch effort to crack the case suggests that Bell remains dedicated to justice, and is continuing his search for closure.
Themes
Philosophy, Morality, and Ethics Theme Icon
Fate, Chance, and Free Will  Theme Icon
Justice and Higher Law Theme Icon
Corruption, Greed, and Power Theme Icon
Bell meets David DeMarco in a café. DeMarco doesn’t seem worried as he sits down. Bell orders a coffee for the boy, and asks if DeMarco remembers what Chigurh looked like. DeMarco says he doesn’t remember. DeMarco pours a quarter cup of sugar into his coffee when it arrives. Bell asks DeMarco if he is aware of how many people Chigurh has killed, but DeMarco claims to know nothing about him. Bell continues to ask questions, but Demarco is uncooperative. Bell understands DeMarco is not going to help him, so he leaves.
DeMarco’s demeanor and refusal to cooperate with Bell conveys the younger generation’s views of morality and disregard of the law. He sides with Chigurh because Chigurh paid him to do so. Like several other characters in the novel, he is negatively influenced by greed. The amount of sugar he uses represents the excesses of the new generation, a small symbolic example of the larger social issues driving the drug trade.
Themes
Philosophy, Morality, and Ethics Theme Icon
Justice and Higher Law Theme Icon
Changing Times: Past, Present, and Future Theme Icon
Corruption, Greed, and Power Theme Icon
The next morning, Bell goes to DeMarco’s school and gets the names of his friends from his teachers. He tracks down the second boy who was at the accident scene and questions him. Bell asks if Chigurh is Mexican. The boy says, he doesn’t know, but he had dark skin. Eventually, the boy tells Bell that Chigurh gave them one hundred dollars to keep his identity secret. Bell asks what Chigurh looked like again, and the boy says he was medium height, medium build, in good shape, dark complexion, but he can’t quite pin him down. He didn’t really look like anybody. He says that when Chigurh talked, you damn sure listened. Before leaving, Bell asks the boy if he know where things will take him in the future. The boy says no, but he has learned his lesson, though he can’t speak for David DeMarco.
Bell continues to search for answers, and remains dedicated to justice and truth. Through this dedication, he hopes to rid himself of the guilt he feels over Moss and Carla Jeans’ deaths, and also the long-standing guilt from WWII. Like others who have confronted Chigurh, the young man is unable to provide a description. Like fate itself, Chigurh is mysterious. The generic description could be applied to any number of people, and metaphorically speaking, suggests Chigurh’s violence and lack of morality are more common than one might think. The young man recognizes that he cannot know his or Demarco’s fate, but he understands that his actions have had consequences, which is one element of the message Chigurh attempts to teach to his victims.
Themes
Philosophy, Morality, and Ethics Theme Icon
Fate, Chance, and Free Will  Theme Icon
Justice and Higher Law Theme Icon
Changing Times: Past, Present, and Future Theme Icon