No Country for Old Men

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Anton Chigurh Character Analysis

The novels main antagonist, Anton Chigurh is a remorseless hit man who kills without hesitation. Anton Chigurh lacks a clear personal history, and is often described in the novel as looking exotic because of his tan skin and blue eyes. Though Chigurh is ruthless in his killing, he is described as a man with principles. He is the only person in the novel who doesn’t care about the money in the briefcase. He perceives himself as the arbiter of fate, and operates outside of conventional understandings of justice and morality. As opposed to an orientation that posits God as the ultimate judge, he believes only in choice, chance, and fate. He sometimes preaches his philosophy before killing his victims, leaving the ultimate decision of whether the individual lives or dies to a coin toss. While Chigurh often seems above the law, he is subject to the laws of choice, chance, and fate like the other characters, as shown through his injuries in the car accident at the end of the novel. Chigurh’s chosen weapon is a bolt gun used for killing cattle in slaughterhouses because of its effectiveness and simplicity, though he doesn’t hesitate to utilize an arsenal of guns through the novel to complete his work. In the end, Chigurh disappears the way he entered the narrative, seemingly into thin air.

Anton Chigurh Quotes in No Country for Old Men

The No Country for Old Men quotes below are all either spoken by Anton Chigurh or refer to Anton Chigurh . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Philosophy, Morality, and Ethics Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Vintage edition of No Country for Old Men published in 2006.
Chapter 2 Quotes

Anything can be an instrument, Chigurh said. Small things. Things you wouldnt even notice. They pass from hand to hand. People dont pay attention. And then one day there is an accounting. And after that nothing is the same…you see the problem. To separate the act from the thing. As if parts of some moment in history might be interchangeable with the parts of some other moment. How could that be? Well, it’s just a coin. Yes. That’s true. Is it?

Related Characters: Anton Chigurh (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Coin
Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Anton Chigurh, the novel's main antagonist, challenges a man to bet on the outcome of a coin toss. Chigurh spares the man's life, it's strongly implied, because the man correctly guesses the result of the toss. Chigurh gives the man a flavor of his life philosophy: as he sees it, major events can be determined by the tiniest of events. Here, for example, a man's life has been spared due to something as minor as a coin flip. Chigurh leaves the man to puzzle over his own fate: was it destiny that led him to correctly predict the toss, sparing his own life? Or was it just random chance?

The themes Chigurh raises in this passage are crucial to the plot of the novel. Chigurh seems like the embodiment of evil, and yet he also seems to abide by a strict moral code that respects the basic uncertainty of the universe. Instead of choosing to kill his victim, Chigurh honors the results of the coin toss. Even if he's dangerous, Chigurh himself is just a cog in the "machine" of life--as we'll come to see, he has no real control over his own fate.

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Chapter 6 Quotes

If the rule you followed led you to this of what use was the rule?

Related Characters: Anton Chigurh (speaker), Carson Wells
Page Number: 175
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, Anton Chigurh tracks down Carson Wells and prepares to murder him. Before he kills Wells, Chigurh taunts his victim. He wants to know: if the "rules" by which Wells lived his life brought him to this point (i.e., brought him to be murdered by Chigurh), what was the point of following the rules?

Chigurh's question is more profound than it might seem. As Chigurh sees it, the only reason to live according to a moral "code" (a religion, a philosophy, etc.) is that the code brings you some kind of success. There's no point in being, say, a Christian, if your Christian beliefs lead you to death. In short, Chigurh sneers at all of society's values and laws. Where most human beings delude themselves into following useless rules, Chigurh follows his own religion--the religion of random chance--and breaks all other rules.

You’ve been giving up things for years to get here. I dont think I even understood that. How does a man decide in what order to abandon his life? We’re in the same line of work. Up to a point. Did you hold me in such contempt? Why would you do that? How did you let yourself get in this situation?

Related Characters: Anton Chigurh (speaker), Carson Wells
Page Number: 177
Explanation and Analysis:

In this complex scene, Anton Chigurh continues to talk to Carson Wells before murdering him. Chigurh makes a complicated, contradictory point, simultaneously distinguishing himself from Carson and identifying with him.

Chigurh criticizes Wells for living his life according to other people's rules. Wells obeys his bosses, and--crucially--he "worships" money. Chigurh, by contrast, seems not to care about money or authority--he's "his own boss," and can't be bought or paid off. In the end, Chigurh claims, Wells's love for money has been utterly futile--his love hasn't led to wealth or prosperity; it's led to his death at Chigurh's hands.

And yet Chigurh insists that he and Wells are alike, "up to a point." Both Chigurh and Wells would be considered criminals by society's standards. But according to Chigurh, Wells doesn't go far enough in rejecting conventional law and order. Wells breaks the law all the time, but he's allowed himself to be controlled by money--the ultimate symbol of society. Chigurh, by contrast, is totally amoral and totally nihilistic. He doesn't let anyone or anything control what he does--even himself. Instead, he submits to random chance.

Chapter 7 Quotes

Chigurh thought it an odd oversight but he knew that fear of an enemy can often blind men to other hazards, not least the shape which they themselves make in the world.

Related Characters: Anton Chigurh (speaker)
Page Number: 198
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Anton Chigurh hunts down the man who sent Carson Wells to kill him. Chigurh sneaks into the man's building and waits for his victim to arrive. When Chigurh's victim enters, the man's own shadow lets Chigurh know that his victim is there. Chigurh finds it bizarre that his victim could have given away his presence so clumsily. Counterintuitively, fear makes his victim less cautious and more likely to die.

As the passage suggests, human beings sometimes become clumsy and careless when they're blinded by fear of another person. More to the point, people forget "the shapes they make in the world." Literally, the passage is referring to the shape of a man's shadow, but the passage could also be interpreted more symbolically. People forget how easy it is for others to follow them--Llewelynn Moss, for example, forgets how easy it is for Chigurh to track him down and kill him. Thus, the passage foreshadows the ugly fate that's coming to Moss.

Chapter 9 Quotes

Not everyone is suited to this line of work. The prospect of outsized profits leads people to exaggerate their own capabilities. In their minds. They pretend to themselves that they are in control of events where perhaps they are not. And it is always one’s stance upon uncertain ground that invites the attentions of one’s enemies. Or discourages it.

Related Characters: Anton Chigurh (speaker)
Page Number: 253
Explanation and Analysis:

In this chapter, Anton Chigurh returns the drug money to its "rightful" owner, a quiet man who works in an office. As he leaves, Chigurh warns the man not to believe that he controls his own destiny--no one does. Chigurh even suggests that the belief that one controls destiny is a sign of weakness--an invitation for failure and defeat.

The passage is arguably Chigurh's most coherent explanation of his own philosophy. Chigurh believes that fate (or random chance) is the ultimate authority in the universe--nobody can control it or master it, Chigurh included. Even powerful drug lords, who control millions of dollars, have no real control over their own destinies--at any given time, they could lose their money or be killed. The only source of power, paradoxically, is accepting one's own powerlessness. Chigurh has long since accepted that randomness governs his own life--and ironically, his acceptance is what makes him such a dangerous enemy for Moss and the other characters (for example, he refuses money and bribery, and can't be bought or pleaded with).

Every moment in your life is a turning and every one a choosing. Somewhere you made a choice. All followed to this. The accounting is scrupulous. The shape is drawn. No line can be erased. I had no believe in your ability to move a coin to your bidding. How could you? A Person’s path through the world seldom changes and even more seldom will it change abruptly. And the shape of your path was visible from the beginning.

Related Characters: Anton Chigurh (speaker), Carla Jean Moss
Related Symbols: The Coin
Page Number: 259
Explanation and Analysis:

In this disturbing scene, Anton Chigurh tracks down Carla Jean and prepares to murder her, claiming that Llewellyn Moss has doomed her by refusing to part with his money. He gives her the chance to save her life by flipping a coin--when Carla Jean makes the wrong call, Chigurh prepares to shoot her. Before dying, Carla Jean asks Chigurh how he can choose whether or not to kill someone based on a simple coin toss.

Chigurh offers Carla Jean a long, contradictory explanation for his own behavior. As Chigurh sees it, humans go through life with free will--they exercise their freedom thousands of times. And yet all these free choices can't save a human being from the inevitable act of dying, which no one can choose to escape. Chigurh sees himself as an executor of fate, neither good nor evil. Paradoxically, he describes Carl Jean's death as both fated and a product of her free will: she "made a choice" that led her here, and yet cannot escape her predetermined fate ("visible from the beginning") in the present moment.

Chigurh's philosophy, in short, is contradictory and baffling. What makes Chigurh so maddening is that Chigurh himself refuses to exercise any free will: he just lives out his dark philosophy, obeying his own word and the "law of the coin toss."

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Anton Chigurh Character Timeline in No Country for Old Men

The timeline below shows where the character Anton Chigurh appears in No Country for Old Men. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
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The narration then moves to the past, and cuts to Anton Chigurh who is handcuffed in the police station. The deputy, who has his back to Chigurh,... (full context)
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Chigurh unlocks the cuffs, and puts the officer’s gun in his waistband. He cleans the wounds... (full context)
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Chigurh steals the deputy’s cruiser and drives down the interstate. He pulls over a Ford Sedan,... (full context)
Chapter 2
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...the man’s head looks as if it came from a .45. They don’t know about Chigurh’s bolt gun yet. They talk about the next move. Bell tells Torbert to take the... (full context)
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...he doesn’t know, he just got there. Bell finds Lamar inside, at the scene where Chigurh killed the deputy. They walk outside, and Lamar notes that as a child he used... (full context)
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The narrative cuts to Chigurh as he pulls into a filling station. He makes a phone call, fills his tank,... (full context)
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Chigurh asks the proprietor about the most he’s ever lost in a coin toss. The man... (full context)
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The proprietor resists, saying he hasn’t put anything up for bet. Chigurh tells him he has been putting it up his entire life. He tells the man... (full context)
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Chigurh tells the proprietor well done and hands him the coin, telling him it’s his lucky... (full context)
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Chigurh drives down Highway 90 before turning off onto a ranch road. He pulls up in... (full context)
Chapter 3
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...scene together. When they arrive, they realize that the burned car belonged to the man Chigurh killed on the highway. They wonder why someone would set fire to it, but decide... (full context)
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Bell and Wendell find the two men Chigurh murdered the night before, and Bell notes that they have been executed. He looks at... (full context)
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The narrative moves to Chigurh as he drives to Moss’s trailer. He knocks on the door, waits, and when no... (full context)
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Chigurh drives up to the trailer park’s front office and asks the receptionist about Moss. She... (full context)
Chapter 4
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...a café, reading the newspaper. There is a picture of Lamar’s deputy (the one whom Chigurh killed) on the front page. He notes that the deputy’s wife was only twenty years... (full context)
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The narrative shifts to Chigurh. He picks up a signal on the tracking device as he crosses the Devil’s River... (full context)
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As Moss attempts to get the briefcase through the vent, Chigurh drives through the motel parking lot with the tracking device in his lap. He goes... (full context)
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Chigurh walks by the doors, listening to the signal from the tracking device. After he finds... (full context)
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Chigurh searches the room, finding Moss’s machinegun resting on the sink. He wipes the blood from... (full context)
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...coroner’s report on the desk in front of Bell. Bell tells him he knows how Chigurh killed the man on the highway. He asks Torbert if he’s ever been to a... (full context)
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Moss hides under the bed and waits with the shotgun facing the door. Chigurh enters the room, and pauses. Moss realizes Chigurh is not going to go into the... (full context)
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Moss pushes the bed to the side, and grabs the briefcase. Moss notes that Chigurh doesn’t even seem to notice. Keeping his gun on Chigurh, he tells him to leave... (full context)
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By the time Moss reaches the other side of the street, Chigurh is on the motel balcony. Moss feels a bullet tug at the bag on his... (full context)
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A short while later, Chigurh comes out of the motel with a towel wrapped around his bullet-wounded leg. The Cadillac... (full context)
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Chigurh goes down to the corner and shoots the remaining man in the back. He picks... (full context)
Chapter 5
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...window. When the man turns in his chair, he asks Wells if he would know Chigurh by sight. Wells says he would. He last saw him on November 28th of last... (full context)
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...gives Wells a credit card to cover his expenses. The man asks for Wells’ opinion Chigurh. Wells tells him nobody is invincible. The man says that, statistically, the most invincible man... (full context)
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...of what towels were used, and notices the soap in untouched. Then he goes to Chigurh’s former room. The bed had not been slept in. The bathroom door is open, and... (full context)
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...and Wells tells him his name is Carson Wells. Wells tells Moss he can make Chigurh go away. Moss says he can do it himself, but Wells tells him that is... (full context)
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...he likes to do one thing at a time. Wells asks if Moss knows who Chigurh is. Moss says no, and Wells tells him he is not somebody he wants to... (full context)
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Wells asks Moss how he knows Chigurh is not on his way to Odessa to Kill Carla Jean. Moss says Wells doesn’t... (full context)
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...only took three hours to find him, and Moss won’t be so lucky next time; Chigurh will catch him. Defiantly, Moss suggests he will just cut a deal with Chigurh. Wells... (full context)
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Moss asks Wells why he would even tell him about Chigurh. Wells says that he is hoping to make his job easier. He says Moss is... (full context)
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...works for people who won’t give up on finding the money. Even if Moss killed Chigurh, the people who lost their heroin and money in the deal will continue looking for... (full context)
Chapter 6
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The narrative then moves to Chigurh. He looks up a veterinarian in the phonebook, and drives to Uvalde, Texas to get... (full context)
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Chigurh gets a motel room, and fills the bathtub. He cleans his leg, finding the entry... (full context)
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Chigurh stays in the motel for five days. He keeps the television on, but doesn’t change... (full context)
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Meanwhile, Chigurh is driving toward Eagle’s Pass when suddenly the tracking device beeps in the passenger seat.... (full context)
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Chigurh gets a room and takes a nap. He wakes at ten-thirty and goes to the... (full context)
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Wells comes in at 11:13. Chigurh wraps his shotgun in a newspaper, and follows him upstairs. When Wells notices Chigurh in... (full context)
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Chigurh tells Wells getting shot by Moss changed his perspective. He speaks about an experience he... (full context)
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Wells asks Chigurh if he knows how crazy he is. Chigurh doesn’t answer, but asks Wells a question:... (full context)
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Wells stares Chigurh down, and Chigurh asks if he thinks he can stall his death with his eyes.... (full context)
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Wells asks Chigurh what time it is. Chigurh tells him it is 11:57, and Wells tells him that... (full context)
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Moss calls Wells’ phone and Chigurh picks up. He tells Moss he needs to come see him. Chigurh tells Moss that... (full context)
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...motel because a second clerk was killed. Bell says that the reason nobody knows what Chigurh looks like is nobody lives long enough to give a description. The sheriff says Chigurh... (full context)
Chapter 7
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The narrative shifts to Chigurh as he goes to the Matacumbe Petroleum Group office to kill the man who sent... (full context)
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That night, Chigurh goes to the house where Carla Jean was staying with her Grandmother. He searches the... (full context)
Chapter 8
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Later that evening, after the officers have left the scene, Chigurh goes to the motel where Moss and the young woman were killed. He knocks the... (full context)
Chapter 9
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...from the present tense, and back to the events of the narrative in the past. Chigurh returns the briefcase and its money to its rightful owner, an unnamed man working in... (full context)
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...sits at the kitchen table crying over her grandmother. When she goes upstairs, she finds Chigurh sitting in the bedroom. She tells him she doesn’t have the briefcase, but Chigurh tells... (full context)
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Carla Jean tries to reason with Chigurh. She tells him that her husband is dead, and the promise Chigurh made to Moss... (full context)
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Chigurh asks Carla Jean if she has any final words. She says she has nothing to... (full context)
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Chigurh pulls a coin from his pocket and holds it up for Carla Jean to see.... (full context)
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Before shooting Carla Jean, Chigurh tells her that every moment in her life is a turning and every one a... (full context)
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As Chigurh drives away from the house, a Buick runs a stop sign and strikes his truck.... (full context)
Chapter 10
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...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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 11
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...to look it up. Before Bell leaves, the prosecutor asks him what he knows about Chigurh. Bell says he knows nothing, calling him a ghost. He knows that Chigurh is out... (full context)