No Country for Old Men

No Country for Old Men Chapter 11 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Bell tracks down Moss’s father and goes to visit him. They sit on the front porch and drink iced tea while Bell tells Moss’s father about what happened. Moss’s father tells Bell that Moss was the best rifle shot he’d ever seen, and he was a sniper in Vietnam. Bell assures Moss’s father that Moss was not involved in drugs, and his father says he wasn’t raised that way. Moss’s father tells Bell that he fought in WWII, and explains that when Moss came back from Vietnam he visited the families of the men who had died in the Vietnam. Later, Moss told his father that when he visited those family members that they had wished he, meaning Moss, was dead instead of their loved ones. Bell says he can understand that, and Moss’s father says he can too.
Bell’s assurance that Moss was not involved in drugs is meant to set Moss’s father at ease. Bell’s visit reflects Moss’s actions after Vietnam when he visited the families of the men who were killed, demonstrating a shared guilt in their failure as soldiers and the guilt they experienced as a result of their failures. Being veterans themselves, Bell and Moss’s father understand the anger felt by the families of the deceased. Both men struggle to understand the lack of justice in who dies and who survives in war. The seeming randomness of the universe makes it difficult to put faith in any kind of higher law.
Themes
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Corruption, Greed, and Power Theme Icon
Moss’s father tells Bell about the difference between WWII and Vietnam. When the Vietnam veterans came back they were treated poorly for their involvement in the war, but he suspects it is worse than that. The country that the Vietnam veterans came back to was in pieces, and it still is. Moss’s father says that it wasn’t Vietnam that brought the nation to its knees. The U.S. was in bad shape before the war. A nation can’t go to war without God, he says, and he worries about the next war to come.
Moss’s father notes the way in which war has impacted American Society, and how it was difficult for veterans to return to a changed nation. Vietnam was different than WWII in terms of the moral objectives and nature of the warfare, and Moss’s father suggests that the nation had lost its faith in God and moral compass before the war, and believes this will lead to war in the future.
Themes
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Changing Times: Past, Present, and Future Theme Icon
Corruption, Greed, and Power Theme Icon
On the drive home, Bell reflects on his career as sheriff. He realizes that some part of him always wanted to be in charge, but another part of him just wanted to protect and save people. People aren’t prepared for what is coming. He notes that the old people would have never guess that young people would be walking around Texas with green hair and bones in their noses. He’d always thought that his role as sheriff would allow him to set these problems right, but he understands now that he can’t. He states that he is standing for something he doesn’t have the same belief in anymore.
Bell realizes that his decision to become a sheriff was more complex than the simple desire to serve the community. A part of him wanted to experience the power granted by his position. He sees the way the world, and especially the younger generation, has changed, and thinks it is only going to get worse. He admits defeat in this moment, fully understanding the failure of the justice system.
Themes
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Justice and Higher Law Theme Icon
Changing Times: Past, Present, and Future Theme Icon
Corruption, Greed, and Power Theme Icon
Bell tells Loretta that he is quitting his job as sheriff. He doesn’t feel right taking the people’s money. She says he doesn’t mean that, but he says he truly does; he just can’t do it anymore.
Now that Bell has developed new views of the justice system and sees the corruption involved, he does not feel it is morally right to continue his work.
Themes
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Bell goes to Ozana and talks to the district attorney about the Mexican man they are charging with the murder of the police officer. The D.A. tells him he can testify at the trial, but that was all he could do. He testifies, but the man is given the death penalty anyways. Before the man’s execution, Bell goes to the prison to visit the man. The man asks what Bell brought him. Bell says he brought nothing, and the man says he should have brought him some candy or something. Bell tells him he didn’t come to be insulted, but came to tell the man that he tried to help him, and he is sorry. The man laughs, and suggests that he didn’t think there were people like Bell out in the world. He then admits to the murder.
Before leaving his job, Bell tries to get the man off death row. Because his views of higher law and morality have changed, he considers the death penalty immoral. As a single individual, however, he does not have the power to fight the larger structures of society and the criminal justice system. The way the man treats Bell after the case is closed shows the absence of morals in the new generation. The man does not appreciate Bell’s help, and does not regret his actions.
Themes
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Changing Times: Past, Present, and Future Theme Icon
Corruption, Greed, and Power Theme Icon
On the way out of the visit, Bell runs into the county prosecutor. The prosecutor tells him when he got out of law school he had been a defense attorney, but he grew tired of being lied to. Bell tells him a lawyer once told him that in law school they teach you not to worry about right and wrong, but to simply follow the law. The prosecutor agrees, stating that if you don’t follow the law, right and wrong won’t save you.
Bell’s conversation with the county prosecutor shows how the law in the U.S. does not take morality and ethics into account. Likewise, the law isn’t adjusted for a changing society and changing times. The structures of law, designed by corrupt individuals who hold immense power, have become the reference point for right and wrong, as opposed a sense of morality defined by God’s higher law.
Themes
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Justice and Higher Law Theme Icon
Changing Times: Past, Present, and Future Theme Icon
Corruption, Greed, and Power Theme Icon
Bell asks the prosecutor if he knows who Mammon is. The prosecutor knows it’s in the Bible, but doesn’t know exactly what it is. He asks if it is the devil. Bell doesn’t know either, but he is going 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 there somewhere. The prosecutor states that if Chigurh is a ghost, they have nothing to worry about. On the way out, Bell reflects on this statement, noting that sometimes you encounter something that you are not powerful enough to overcome, and he believes Chigurh is one of those things.
Mammon represents greed. The fact that Bell brings Mammon up in this moment shows his awareness of the greed and corruption everywhere. The prosecutor does not see the significance of spiritual forces in the world, and is unable to understand the true extent of Chigurh’s power. Bell believes there are underlying causes for the violence, greed, and corruption he witnesses in the world. His experience with Chigurh has been humbling, proving that there are things beyond his power to control, and beyond the reach of the law.
Themes
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Corruption, Greed, and Power Theme Icon
When Bell gets home, he notices that Loretta has taken her horse out for a ride. He worries that maybe she has been hurt, and gets his horse. He rides out and sees Loretta in the distance riding along a ridge. He says, “That’s my heart yonder…it always was.” They meet, and get off their horses. They sit beneath a cottonwood tree, talking about the decision he has made to quit. She says she is glad he will be home with her. Bell worries about his decision to quit, but Loretta tells him not to worry, it’s just nice to be there with him.
During the investigation, Bell has not had much time to think about Loretta, but now that he has surrendered he worries about her. He recognizes the importance of Loretta in his life, and acknowledges his love for her. Bell has worried about what she would say about him quitting, but this worry is a projection of his own self-criticism. Ultimately, she is glad they will have time to spend together.
Themes
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Changing Times: Past, Present, and Future Theme Icon