Bell reflects on his service in WWII. He says he is supposed to be a decorated war hero, but he lost his whole squad in battle. He thinks about it every day. Some men came back from war with negative views of their families and community members, calling them rednecks, and looking down on their political leanings. Bell states that two generations in this country is a long time, and he used to try to tell these men that their ancestors’ wives and children were scalped and gutted as they settled the land, which is enough to make anyone irritable, but the men didn’t know what he was talking about.
In this monologue, Bell provides a glimpse of the guilt he feels about losing his squad in WWII, an event has shaped his identity, philosophy, and belief in justice in a significant way. Bell recognizes the role of history in the present moment. He does not look down on the people of his community because he understands their past. He tries to explain this to the returning veterans, but they are unable to see the people of their community in a larger context.
Bell states that the sixties sobered some of these men. He talks about a survey sent out to schoolchildren around the country after WWII. The biggest problems they faced were other students talking in class, running in the hallway, copying homework, or chewing gum. Forty years later, the same survey revealed children are dealing with rape, arson, murder, drugs, and suicide. When Bell says the world is going to hell, people just smile and say he is getting old. Once at a conference, Bell sat next to a woman bemoaning right wing politics. She tells Bell she wants her granddaughter to be able to have an abortion if she needs one. Bell told her not to worry, The way things are going, her granddaughter will be able to have an abortion, and she will also be able to euthanize the woman if she wants. That ended the conversation.
The surveys show the way in which American society has changed. Children are now growing up in a violent world, which is shaping their values and sense of morality. People don’t want to recognize these changes, so they brush Bell off. Bell’s moral and ethical orientation in reflected in his conversation with the woman. In his mind, if American people become lenient toward an issue like abortion, they are likely to open the door to other issues that he views as unethical, such as the euthanasia.
The narrative shifts to Chigurh as he goes to the Matacumbe Petroleum Group office to kill the man who sent Wells after him. He climbs the steps to the seventeenth floor, and walks down the hallway, noticing the doors are open. He thinks it’s strange that the man does not see his own shadow coming through the door and rising on the hallway wall. Chigurh knows that fear of the enemy can blind men to other hazards, especially the shape they themselves make in the world. Chigurh steps into the room and shoots the man in the throat with birdshot. As the man bleeds out, Chigurh tells him that he is the guy that Wells was sent to kill. He tells the man the reason he used birdshot was to prevent shattering the window and sending glass down onto the street below. The man dies, and Chigurh leaves.
Chigurh thinks about his philosophy regarding fate, chance, and free will. The man does not notice his shadow, which metaphorically signifies the darkness that follows those who are driven by greed and corruption. While the man is focused on those who oppose him, he does not acknowledge the ways in which his own actions have brought Chigurh to him. Chigurh kills him with birdshot to prevent harm to those on the street below. He does not kill those who are not fated to die.
The narrative then moves to Carla Jean and her grandmother as they take a cab to the bus station in an undisclosed location. They plan to travel to El Paso. Her grandmother begins to struggle to get out of the cab, and out into the rain. Carla Jean tells her grandmother to wait, but frustrated, her grandmother tells her she knew it would come to this. Her grandmother tells the cab driver she is dying, and now she has no place to go. She tells the cab driver she doesn’t know a single person in El Paso. Before they board their bus, Carla Jean’s grandmother tells her that she doesn’t know why she has to run from the law for something Moss and Carla Jean did. Carla Jean says they are not running from the law, but when her grandmother asks if they could call the police, Carla Jean says, no.
Carla Jean’s grandmother’s distress depicts the way in which Moss’s actions have impacted those around him. Moss’s greed and his foolish decision not to work with Chigurh have isolated Carla Jean and her grandmother. Her grandmother, holding traditional views of the law, thinks they should go to the police, but Carla Jean understands that the police will not be able to fix the situation, so she refuses.
That night, Chigurh goes to the house where Carla Jean was staying with her Grandmother. He searches the house, and in the kitchen takes a can of orange soda from the refrigerator. After drinking the soda, he sits in the recliner in the living room for a while before searching the rest of the house. Upstairs, he enters the grandmother’s bedroom, and can smell the musty odor of her sickness. Then he goes into Carla Jean’s room. He picks up some of her things, weighing them in his hand like a medium who might divine some fact about the owner from them. He pockets two photographs from a photo album. Afterward, he sleeps in Carla Jean’s bed. In the morning, Chigurh cleans his wounds in the bathroom, and shaves. Then he eats a bowl of cereal as he walks through the house. He finds a phone bill, and discovers the Terrell County Sheriff’s number on it. Then he moves to a mahogany desk, and finds more mail. He begins sorting through it.
The way in which Chigurh enters the house, invades the fridge, sleeps in Carla Jean’s bed, and goes through the mail shows his complete disregard for societal structures, such as private property, and laws that prevent the crossing of these boundaries. Chigurh does not believe in God or divination, but believes that Carla Jean’s fate will lead her to him.
Moss awakens in a motel room on the edge of Eagles Pass. He showers, shaves, and brushes his teeth for the first time in five days. After dressing his wounds and putting his clothes on, he calls a cab. When he gets into the car, he asks the driver if he wants to make some money. He takes five hundreds from his pocket and tears the bills in half. He hands sections of the bills to the driver. Moss asks the driver his name, which is Paul, and tells him he has the right attitude. Moss tells him to go down the river road, but the driver tells him he isn’t willing to pick anyone up, and he is not willing to do anything concerning drugs. Moss tells him they are going to get a briefcase, but there is nothing illegal inside. The man says he likes money, but he likes staying out of jail even better. Moss says he feels the same way.
Money is used as a way to gain control and power in this situation. The man is worried about breaking the law, but folds under the temptation of the money. Moss says there is nothing illegal in the briefcase, even though it is filled with millions of dollars of drug money. Moss does not ascribe to societal conceptions of the law, his moral sensibility stems from a personal sense of right and wrong. In his views, the money is not illegal.
When Moss and the cab driver reach the river road, Moss takes the bulb from the dome light. Moss goes into the cane and finds the briefcase sitting upright, as if someone had simply placed it there. Back in the cab, the driver asks what is in the briefcase. Moss tells him there is a lot of money inside, and asks what it would cost to bring him to San Antonio. The driver says he will do it for a thousand dollars. The driver worries that the authorities will stop them, but Moss assures him they have more important things to deal with down the road. He say it isn’t going to end here. Moss tells the man to trust him, but the driver says he hates those words. Moss asks if the driver has ever said them. The driver says he has, and so he knows what they are worth.
Moss takes the dome light out to limit their visibility and avoid being spotted. The position of the briefcase aligns with the idea of fate. It is resting as if the money has been placed there for him, and in a sense it has been placed there by fate. Again, the driver is persuaded by the promise of money. Moss is sure that they will not be stopped on the way; some part of him knows he will not yet meet his fate. The question of trust connects to the idea of chance. It is difficult to trust anyone because no one can be sure of the outcomes of any situation or relationship. The presence of chance makes predicting the future impossible. As shown with Wells, attempting to predict outcomes can have dire consequences.
Moss spends the night in the Rodeway Inn on Highway 90. The next morning, he realizes he can’t buy a gun from a shop because he doesn’t have an ID, but he finds a gun for sale in the newspaper. The man delivers the gun to the door, and afterward, Moss takes it out into the prairie along with a pillow and fires it to make sure it works. As he fires, he thinks about his life.
The ease with which Moss attains the gun highlights the ineffectiveness of the law and the willingness of citizens to break it. Thinking about his life while firing the gun shows the way in which his life has been influenced by violence, especially during his tour in Vietnam. This moment shows the way in which the past has continued with him into the future.
After leaving the motel, Moss buys a 1978 Ford Pickup truck from a car lot, and pays for it in cash. At the onramp at Borne, he picks up a young woman who is hitchhiking. She gets in the truck, and Moss thinks she is about fifteen or sixteen. Moss asks if she can drive. She says yes, so long as it isn’t a stick shift. Moss tells her it’s an automatic, and gets in the passenger seat. As they drive off, Moss tells her hitchhiking is dangerous. She says she knows it. He tells her not to go over the speed limit or they could be in a world of trouble. Moss tries to sleep, but he is in too much pain. He stays awake, continuing to watch the speedometer.
Moss picks up the young woman so she can help him drive, but it is later revealed that he is also concerned for her wellbeing. Despite the fact that Moss breaks the law and is forced to act unethically in some situations, he operates from a strong moral center, and does his best to help those in need. He is aware of the law, which is why he watches the speedometer, but this awareness is not enough for him to obey it.
The young woman asks if Moss is running from the law. Moss asks, “what if I was?” If he was, she says, she thinks she ought get out of the truck. Moss tells her that’s not true—she just wants to know where she stands. He tells her it would only take three days before he could have her holding up gas stations. She smiles. She asks if he robs gas stations, but he tells her no. He asks her when she last ate. She says she doesn’t like people asking her that, but Moss asks her again. She calls him a smart ass, and pulls off the highway in hopes of finding a restaurant. Moss tells her there is a restaurant four miles out, and then asks her to hand him the machinegun under the seat.
Moss does not lie when she asks if he is running from the law, but he isn’t completely honest about the situation. The desire to know where she stands is connected to the idea of fate and free will. She has to know more about the situation before she can make decisions. Moss’s perceived sense of power is reflected in his comment about corrupting the young woman. This comment is counterbalanced, however, by his concern over whether she has eaten recently. The young woman, like Moss, values autonomy and does not like to let people help her, as shown through her response to his question.
The narrative cuts to Bell driving out into a pasture and parks his truck at a well. He looks up at a windmill, and watches the blades turning in the wind. He stands with the posture of a man who has just buried something, and says he doesn’t know a damn thing. When Bell gets home, Loretta gives him a message from Carla Jean written on a piece of paper. Bell asks if she said where she was, noting the number is from West Texas. Bell calls her back, and Carla Jean tells him she is in a motel outside of El Paso. She asks Bell to promise that he will not harm Moss if she reveals his location. Bell gives her his word.
The presence of the well and the windmill point to a time in the past that is now gone. Their presence reflects Bell’s personal feeling that he is becoming a remnant of the past in an evolving society. Bell’s posture suggests a feeling of defeat, exhaustion, and despair. Bell is beginning to accept the frailties of his philosophy his inability to overcome the situation. Carla Jean has lost faith in her husband, and begins to feel that the getting the law involved may save him. She doesn’t realize that Chigurh, like fate, operates outside of human constructs, such as the law. He will continue to hunt her and Moss until they are both dead.
Simultaneously, A Mexican man sits at a little plywood trailer, wearing a headset and writing on a pad of paper. He is somehow tracking Moss. He takes the headset off, and looks toward the rear of the trailer where another man is stretched out in bed. “Listo?” he asks, meaning, “Are you ready?” The other man asks if he got it. The first man tells him yes. They take machine guns from the kitchen cabinets. Outside they get into a Plymouth Barracuda, and leave.
Moss is preoccupied with Chigurh, so he is not aware of the others who are still looking for him. This can be read as a failure of self-will to overcome fate. Barracudas are ferocious predators, and the name of car signifies the dangerous nature of these men.