No Country for Old Men

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Uncle Ellis Character Analysis

Sheriff Bell’s uncle, Uncle Ellis is a retired sheriff who uses a wheelchair since being disabled by a gunshot wound in the line of duty. Ellis lives in the family homestead, and Bell visits him to seek guidance and ask questions about his family history. Bell imagines Ellis as an old-timer who upholds a view of justice, faith, and morality that is fading from society. Although Ellis is a moral man who loves his country, he is not as nostalgic as Bell about the past. He is a realist, noting the way in which this country is hard on its people and God does not seem to meddle in human affairs.

Uncle Ellis Quotes in No Country for Old Men

The No Country for Old Men quotes below are all either spoken by Uncle Ellis or refer to Uncle Ellis . 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 9 Quotes

How come people dont feel like this country has got a lot to answer for? They dont. You can say that the country is just the country, it dont actively do nothing, but that dont mean much…This country will kill you in a heartbeat and still people love it. You understand what I’m sayin?

Related Characters: Uncle Ellis (speaker), Sheriff Ed Tom Bell
Page Number: 271
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, Sheriff Bell talks to an old relative, Uncle Ellis. Ellis challenges Bell's nostalgia for the past, pointing out that the nation of America has always been violent and dangerous, killing its own citizens. Ellis is old enough to remember some of the wars Americans have fought in long ago. Moreover, he's critical of the people who continue to trust their country long after their country proves itself to be corrupt.

In short, Uncle Ellis's words challenge everything Sheriff Bell has been telling us. Bell naively believes that things were better a time long ago in America--a belief that Ellis angrily disputes. Bell continues to feel a deep faith in American law enforcement and government, even if he doesn't like specific law enforcers and governors. Ellis tells Bell that he should throw aside his own love for his country and for the past: life has always been and will always be savage.

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Chapter 10 Quotes

I thought about my family and about [Ellis] out there in his wheelchair in the old house and it just seemed to me that this country has got a strange kind of history and a damned bloody one too.

Related Characters: Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (speaker), Uncle Ellis
Page Number: 284
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Bell thinks about his recent conversation with Uncle Ellis--a conversation that ended with Ellis angrily telling Bell that America has always been a violent, amoral country. Bell has always had a lot of faith in the idyllic past: he sincerely believes that things used to be good in the U.S., and now they're bad.

Now that he's spoken with Uncle Ellis, Bell starts to question his own naive faith in America's past. America has always been dangerous, Bell realizes--therefore, he was wrong to celebrate American history as a model for honor and morality. It would seem that Bell is finally losing his moral faith. After 200 pages of acting as the "moral center" of the novel, Bell is finally surrendering to the darkness and nihilism of life. This is, as the novel's title says, "no country for [loyal, moral] old men."

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Uncle Ellis Character Timeline in No Country for Old Men

The timeline below shows where the character Uncle Ellis appears in No Country for Old Men. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 9
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 narrative jumps to Bell as he visits his Uncle Ellis who still lives in the family homestead. His uncle Ellis is a former sheriff, and... (full context)
Philosophy, Morality, and Ethics Theme Icon
Fate, Chance, and Free Will  Theme Icon
Changing Times: Past, Present, and Future Theme Icon
Bell asks Ellis what his biggest regret in his life is. Ellis tells him he does not have... (full context)
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 and Ellis continue talking while they drink some coffee out of the same porcelain cups that had... (full context)
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
Ellis tells Bell that his grandfather did not ask him, (Ellis) to become a sheriff. Instead,... (full context)
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
Ellis tells Bell that he thought God would come into his life when he was older,... (full context)
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
Ellis tells a story about another relative whom Native American’s killed in 1879. This story clears... (full context)
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 tells Ellis about how we got his decoration as a war hero. He was in an abandoned... (full context)
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
Bell tells Ellis about the shame he feels about receiving the bronze star for his heroics in battle.... (full context)
Philosophy, Morality, and Ethics Theme Icon
Fate, Chance, and Free Will  Theme Icon
Changing Times: Past, Present, and Future Theme Icon
Ellis tells Bell he didn’t have a choice, but Bell says he could have stayed behind.... (full context)
Philosophy, Morality, and Ethics Theme Icon
Justice and Higher Law Theme Icon
Changing Times: Past, Present, and Future Theme Icon
Bell asks Ellis what he thinks his father would have done in that situation. Bell thinks he would... (full context)
Chapter 10
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 reflects on his conversation with Ellis. They talked about growing old, and how being hard on oneself is a sign of... (full context)
Philosophy, Morality, and Ethics Theme Icon
Justice and Higher Law Theme Icon
Bell thinks about what Ellis said about waiting for God to come into his life. He comments that God comes... (full context)