The Middleman VS The Ghost
In the novel No Country for Old Men, the author, Cormac McCarthy, utilizes a unique style in his writing. From the dialogue to the plot, this novel is very different from McCarthy’s previous novels. Whereas the classic Western usual has a single protagonist, for example McCarthy’s very own Blood Meridian, which mainly centers around one main character, The Kid, No Country for Old Men is focused on three central individuals: Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, Llewellyn Moss, and Anton Chigurh. This notable technique allows reader to visualize the story from three points of views. Due to the post-war setting, specifically after the Vietnam War, the United States is in a state of turmoil led by violence and drugs. Due to the many scenes involving gun shoot-outs and characters on the run, No Country for Old Men can be interpreted as a genre of crime action and horror.
When readers read or watch crime action, they expect it to start off with a criminal committing a crime and it ending with a hero solving the crime and capturing the bad guy. Some of the popular works of crime action are Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series and CBS’s CSI: Crime Scene Investigation show. Like all genres, crime action has some loose guidelines: crime, investigation, and solution. The plot usually centers between the protagonist and antagonist. However, McCarthy adds a twist to the genre by adding a middleman. Readers can easily depict Chigurh as the antagonist since he commits multiple homicides, but who is the protagonist and middleman? At first, Moss appears to be the protagonist, but due to Moss’s death at the end, Bell ends up being the protagonist; thus making Moss the middleman.
At first, readers assume Moss to be the protagonist since Chigurh is chasing after him. In addition, Moss gives off the impression that he is able to protect himself with his extensive knowledge on guns and ability to run away. Yet, this notion is proven wrong when Chigurh successfully kills Moss. In the end, Moss is considered to be an arrogant, selfish middleman, because he ignored the help of Sheriff Bell thinking that he can escape the grasp of Chigurh and put his wife and himself in danger for the sake of money. There are numerous times when Chigurh is committing a crime so quickly and randomly that Bell refers to him as a “ghost” (McCarthy, 149) and Wells calls him a “psychopathic killer” (McCarthy, 80). Yet, probably the biggest scene is when Chigurh attempts to kill Moss at Eagle Pass, but gets in a shoot-out with a group of Mexican drug dealers. Moss was able to escape from Chigurh, but suffered a fatal wound; the Mexicans were not so lucky as they were all killed. Though Chigurh was able to survive the shoot-out, he still ended up getting injured. This scene gives reader a sense of action due to Chigurh’s cunningness and skillfulness at executing crimes.
Despite the multiple crimes, what makes No Country for Old Men a crime action is the cat-and-mouse chase. Throughout the novel, Moss is constantly running for his life, Chigurh’s persistent pursuit after Moss, and Bell’s attempt to save Moss by going after Chigurh. In Lydia Cooper’s article “’He’s a Psychopathic Killer but So What?’: Folklore and Morality in Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men”, Cooper points out how McCarthy uses a “narrative structure [that] follows a ruling action of tri-episodic-action-repetition.” In the novel, there is an emphasis on events occurring three times (Cooper, 10). Moss and Chigurh encounters each other three times, but Moss ends up dead on the third time (McCarthy, 99-239); Chigurh almost gets killed three times (McCarthy, 6-261); Chigurh and Bell almost face each other three times, but Chigurh always manage to avoid contact (McCarthy, 93-245). This method used by McCarthy gives the reader a sense of hit or miss in this crime action genre.
Due to Anton Chigurh’s psychotic killings, nobody is safe in the novel. Therefore, the trope...
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