No Country for Old Men


Cormac McCarthy

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Themes and Colors
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
Corruption, Greed, and Power Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in No Country for Old Men, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Philosophy, Morality, and Ethics

McCarthy’s novel explores the human struggle toward a definition and framework of morality and ethics. Several of the novel’s characters search for a moral center—some reference point against which they may measure their decision, actions, and beliefs—as they confront extreme instances of violence and corruption. The novel’s three main characters, Llewellyn Moss, Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, and Anton Chigurh, each operate in the world with different conceptions of morality and ethics. Each…

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Fate, Chance, and Free Will

No Country for Old Men begins with Llewellyn Moss’s chance discovery of the drug deal gone wrong, and later, the briefcase full of money. From this moment forward, the novel begins posing questions about the function of fate, chance, and free will, and the extent to which human beings have choice in the outcomes of their lives. The novel does not refute the idea of free will. It does, however, recognize its limits. In a…

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Justice and Higher Law

Sheriff Bell strives for justice within the framework of the state and the community, which are defined by what we might call “the law”. This judicial framework is rooted in a sense of higher law, God-given in nature, which provides a clear distinction between right and wrong. In this way, Bell is a representative of the community’s belief in justice, an ideal that might also be thought of as an American framework of justice. As…

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Changing Times: Past, Present, and Future

The title of No Country for Old Men speaks directly to the theme of changing times. Throughout the novel, Bell continually considers the distinction between the old ways and the new. He holds to a nostalgic view of the past, reminiscing about a time where order and justice reigned. He talks about a time in America where police officers didn’t need to carry guns and knew the people of their communities. Children were safe at…

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Corruption, Greed, and Power

The issues of corruption, greed, and power are at the heart of McCarthy’s novel. The entire world of the story is tainted with these vices, and the characters fight to overcome and reconcile their effects. To understand McCarthy’s novel, one must understand the larger context in which the narrative takes place. Corruption, greed, and the struggle for power provide a backdrop for the novels events and shape the personalities of the novel’s characters. The novel…

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