McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men is a story about survival that focuses on themes of morals, morality, and luck. In many ways, this is a story about how people deal with death. Llewelyn Moss, one of the most significant characters in the novel, emphasizes the underlining theme which is that death comes for us all. Characters in No Country for Old Men are western in the sense they use words sparingly. They are all: tough, modest, and patient, living by the saying ‘actions speak louder than words.’ Llewelyn Moss is no different, following his own version of an unspoken book of morals. Moss is smart, self-confident, competent, and passionate. In the beginning of the novel when Moss takes the two million dollar brief case home, he convinced himself to return to the scene of a crime to comfort an obvious criminal (McCarthy 23). Moss was disturbed by the thought of a wounded survivor begging for water. Retuning was a moral choice, motivated by compassion and obligations of pre-established values. The fact that Moss risked his own live to give that wounded survivor water reassures that he is a good person. Moss is a very capable. When Moss stumbled upon a drug deal gone wrong, instead of calling the local authorities, he decided to investigate. This gives the impression that Moss is courageous and has little reason to be afraid. Moss is a Vietnam veteran who spends his leisure time hunting. He is a good at tracking and shooting a rifle. His past experience serving in the military shows that he works well under pressure. Moss has a relatively good chance at getting away with the money because of his experience and attributes. Besides Anton Chigurh, Moss is one of the few good characters who challenges death, continuously surviving in the face of danger. Moss had one goal which was to get out with his wife and money. Unfortunately, Moss is forced to make morally questionable decisions along the way that include: refusing to involve law enforcement, placing his wife and other bystanders in danger, returning to the scene of a shootout, and having a desire to escape consequences. More notably, several people die because of one decision. The two men at the drug deal, the Mexicans at the motel, Carson Wells and Moss’s wife all die because Moss made the simple decision to take the brief case of money in the first place. However, Moss is not a selfish person for taking the money. Moss, a welder, veteran and husband in his 30’s, saw an opportunity and took it. His motivation for taking the money has to do with his financial situation. Moss and his wife Carla Jean live a modest trailer lifestyle. Moss, for the most part, has good intentions. It just so happens while hunting antelope on the plains of West Texas, he discovered a drug deal gone horribly wrong and took advantage of the situation. His memories of Vietnam, trailer lifestyle, and profession as welder, bear witness to a washed-up life. This two million dollar brief case full of money was opportunity for an early retirement and most importantly, a new life. Moss is the link between antagonist Anton Chigurh and protagonist Sheriff Bell. Moss is more than a guide, Moss advances the story. Moss takes the story to the next location. This is why readers might follow Moss instead of Sheriff Bell or Carla Jean. Anton Chigurh, the representation of the grim reaper, is the leading cause of death in this novel. Chigurh is discreet, hardnosed, disciplined, smart, and detached from our perception of reality. He murders with an almost passive demeanor. Moss has to confront Chigurh, his ‘death’ to live a better life. One of the few things Moss and Chigurh share in common is that they are both hunters. Both are capable, experienced, and patient. Sheriff Bell is the opposite of psychopathic killer and fatalist Anton Chigurh. Bell represents goodness. Most of the themes in the novel deal with Bell’s emotions and opinion on society. Bell’s opinions and thoughts are that of an older generation, struggling to advocate their version of the law against a new chaotic generation. Chigurh and Moss both represent motives of this new generation which Sheriff Bell has difficulty understanding. Chigurh and Bell are ultimately what No Country for Old Men is about because of what they represent. Death is the central issue in No Country for Old Men because death is something everyone will have to face. Sheriff Bell's problem is his fear of death. Bell lives a relatively safe life as sheriff of a small town with no interest in confronting death. Sheriff Bell, with his hazardous occupation, sees a world becoming increasingly dangerous. He gets worried unlike the newer generation who has no sense of it. Bell is disturbed because one day he must confront his own morality. Moss simply handles his sense morality better than Bell. In the beginning of the novel Moss has a conversation about going back to the crime scene with his wife Carla Jean. Moss, knowing he might not come back alive tells Carla Jean, “I’m fixin to go do something dumbern hell but I’m goin anyways. If I don’t come back tell mother I love her.” Carla Jean replies, “You mother’s dead Llewelyn” and Moss ends with “We’ll I’ll tell her myself then” (McCarthy 33). Unlike bell, Moss accepts the possibility he might not come home alive. There is a moment in the novel when Moss talks to a woman outside of a motel. Moss says he is looking for what's coming. Moss was referring to Chigurh. It could be said Moss was looking for his death. Ironically, Moss spent the entire story avoiding Chigurh, but could not stop what was "comin", dying in a way that he could not expect. The randomness of death is exactly what frightens Sheriff Bell. Moss could avoid Chigurh but could not avoid the Mexicans who ended up killing him. Moss was caught off guard. No Country for Old Men reassures that death can strike when you least expect it. McCarthy did an exception job of misleading his audience into believing that Llewelyn Moss was the main protagonist in No Country for Old Men. By the end of the novel, it becomes evident that the real protagonist is Sheriff Bell. This adds an interesting take on how readers follow characters in a story. However, readers had good reason to believe No Country for Old Men was about Moss. Llewelyn Moss and was the first of the main three characters readers met. Moss is smart, experienced, and confident. These attributes helped mislead the audience into thinking he could get away and kill Chigurh. More notably, most of the action revolves around Moss. The story even seemed to follow Moss and his ultimate goal of getting away with the money. Moss had an upper hand in many ways but knew he could no longer get by on luck. Carson Wells, a man hired to get the money back, told Moss "This isn’going to go away. Even if you got lucky and took out one or more people-which is unlikely-they’ed just send someone else. Nothing would change. They’ll still find you. There’s nowhere to go (McCarthy 165).” Moss generally has good intentions from his beginning to end. However, Moss made the decision to take the money because it was in his best interest. This money was a given opportunity at a better life. Most importantly, Moss is the link between Chigurh and Bell. McCarthy uses Moss to emphasize the underlining theme of the novel which is that death comes for everyone no matter how prepared you are. Unlike Sheriff Bell, Moss was able to confront his own mortality. He accepted the fact he might not get away with the money alive. The irony of the novel is that the audience spends immense amount of time following Moss, only to see him die abruptly and unexpectedly. Moss spent the whole story avoiding Chigurh, but could not stop what was coming, dying in a way that he could not expect. That is the reality of death, it strikes when you least expect it.
McCarthy, Cormac. No Country for Old Men. New York: Knopf, 2005. Android tablet.