ENG4U1 – 05
7 June 2013
The Attainment of Individuation in No Country for Old Men
Society is built upon a foundation of norms, but not all individuals adhere to said norms, some are outliers. If the actions of an individual causes pain onto another, society defines that the normal reaction for that individual would be to exhibit a state of empathy, but this is not always the case, as there are those who do not feel or exhibit the normal psychological reactions to differing scenarios (sociopaths). As individuals’ progress and experience obstacles in their lives, they become familiar with the different aspects of their mind, such as their persona, shadow, and self, ultimately achieving individuation. In Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men, the state of individuation is demonstrated by the antagonist Anton Chigurh at the onset of the novel. In Anton Chigurh’s quest for the stolen satchel of money, Chigurh remorselessly murders all those who are obstacles to attain the satchel, including competitors. Through Chigurh’s varying experiences during his expedition, Chigurh’s constant impersonal persona, sadistic shadow and sociopathic self, portray him as an individual who has attained individuation prior to the onset of the story.
Chigurh demonstrates that he has achieved individuation at the onset of the novel by maintaining a constant impersonal persona throughout his expedition. A requirement for individuation is a stable persona. Chigurh understands that in order to survive he requires a façade in order to not standout in society. As seen throughout the novel, Chigurh demonstrates a deep understanding of his persona by manipulating it to match societies social norms when faced with social interactions, specifically, Chigurh restricts his social interactions to low key small talk without revealing the specifics of his own life, “And you? What about your enemies? I have no enemies. I don’t permit such a thing. He looked around the room. Nice office, he said. Low key. He nodded to a painting on the wall. Is that original? The man looked at the painting. No, he said. It’s not. But I own the original. I keep it in a vault. Excellent, said Chigurh” (McCarthy 253) In a conversation between Chigurh and his unnamed new employer (owner of the retrieved satchel of money), Chigurh immediately deflects the conversation away from his personal life (questioned about his enemies) to any other source of conversation, in this case, arbitrarily he changes the topic of the conversation to a painting in the room. Chigurh’s social interactions with all characters in the book follow this guideline; he maintains a distance from the characters, but remains socially integrated by limiting the conversation to society’s most basic interface of interaction, specifically small-talk. Moreover, the stability of Chigurh’s persona is further exemplified later in the novel when he encounters two adolescents after a car accident, “The boy in the T-shirt stepped forward and knelt and knotted the sling. That arm dont look good, he said. Chigurh thumbed a bill out of the clip and put the clip back in his pocket and took the bill from between his teeth and got to his feet and held it out. Hell, mister. I dont mind helpin somebody out. That’s a lot of money. Take it. Take it and you don’t know what I looked like. You hear? The boy took the bill. Yessir, he said.” (McCarthy 262) Again because Chigurh is a sociopath he fails to reciprocate conventional social norms, specifically the general good intentions of the adolescents. When the youth approaches Chigurh and gives his shirt, Anton responds in a distant manner. He does not come to realize that the gesture can pass without providing a monetary reward as it meets society’s norms. Chigurh’s impersonal persona is kept at a fix to other norms, such as those of small-talk; he fails to respond with a correct gesture to match the adolescent’s good intention. As a result, Chigurh’s...
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