Study Guide

No Country for Old Men Criminality

By Cormac McCarthy


Chapter I

He got out his handkerchief and walked back and wiped clean everything he'd touched. (1.3.22)

This moment shows us that Llewelyn knows he is committing a crime by taking the drug money. Or is he just afraid the drug runners will fingerprint him? This may be Llewelyn's big fatal mistake; there's really no going back after this.

I sent one boy to the gaschamber at Huntsville. One and only one. My arrest and testimony. (1.1.1)

Okay, the book starts off well enough. A young man commits a horrible crime. He gets punished. Sure, we wish he hadn't killed his girlfriend, but that's what the justice system is for. A place for everyone, and every criminal in that place. All the danger seems contained, right? Yeah, just you wait.

Chapter II

Point bein you dont know what all you're stoppin when you do stop somebody. (2.1.2)

By the second chapter, we're seeing a turning point. Sheriff Bell talks about the unpredictability of criminals, and we've already seen that in action. Maybe things aren't going to work out as well as we thought.

Chapter IV

People complain about the bad things that happen to em that they dont deserve but they seldom mention the good. About what they done to deserve them things. (4.1.3)

Once again, the situation is more complicated than we had thought. Although Bell isn't specifically thinking about criminals, what he says can be applied to the fact that criminals ruin everything. We focus on what the things people do and not the good things, especially when it seems like the bad outweighs the good.

Chapter VI

[Chigurh] was a little more than half way down the aisle toward the pharmacy when the car outside exploded into flame taking out most of the glass in front of the store. (6.2.5)

Chigurh isn't just a murderer; he also isn't above causing general havoc as a distraction to help him steal stuff. Yep, he destroys public property and commits robbery all in the same afternoon, and that's when he's not putting bullets through people's skulls like it ain't no thang.

Chapter VII

If you spent three days with me, he said, I could have you holdin up gas stations. Be no trick at all. (7.2.139)

Perhaps being a criminal is contagious. If Llewelyn and the hitchhiker hadn't been killed, could you picture them turning into a modern day Bonnie and Clyde? Well, maybe not, but we do have to wonder how easy it is to get sucked into the whole crime thing.

You got the right attitude, Paul. I wont get you in trouble. I just dont want you to leave me somewheres that I dont want to be left. (7.2.53)

We have to wonder just how many criminals get into Paul's taxi. Is there something about taxi drivers we don't know about?

Dont go over the speed limit, he said. You get us stopped by the cops and you and me both will be in a s***pot full of trouble. (7.2.126)

Now Llewelyn is concerned about the law, huh? If he had been worried about getting caught in the first place, he wouldn't have got himself into this situation. Did he not care, or did he know that Bell was too incompetent to ever catch him?

I read in the papers here a while back some teachers come across a survey. […] Had this questionnaire about what was the problems with teachin in the schools. […] And the biggest problems they could name was things like talkin in class and runnin in the hallways. Chewin gum. Copyin homework. Things of that nature. […] Forty years later. Well, here come the answers back. Rape, arson, murder. Drugs. Suicide. (7.1.1)

You might think that Sheriff Bell is just a dusty old fogey, but from these lines, it really does seem like the world is getting worse and worse, and people are committing more heinous acts every day. Do you think that's true? The 1980s were actually pretty bad, but were they that bad?

When the shootin starts would you rather be armed or be legal. (8.2.37)

Yes, this line definitely proves that criminality is contagious. If you're going to get yourself into a dangerous situation, you want to be armed for it, but by doing so, you create a dangerous situation. It's a vicious cycle.