Study Guide

No Country for Old Men Drugs and Alcohol

By Cormac McCarthy

Drugs and Alcohol

Chapter I

He kept one eye on the man and got out his knife and cut a slit in one of the parcels. A loose brown powder dribbled out. (1.3.22)

Um, that's not brown sugar—although for all we know, "brown sugar" might be a street name for the drug. Anyway, this is heroin. Here, Llewelyn makes the key decision to leave it behind. He's not interested in drugs at all.

There was a heavy leather document case standing upright alongside the dead man's knee and Moss absolutely knew what was in the case and he was scared in a way that he didnt even understand. (1.3.45)

Oh, but here's something Llewelyn is interested in: money. We can't think of him as a totally principled man if he's still willing to take money, even if he's left the drugs behind. This money is basically made from drugs, and it has blood on it—Llewelyn's blood, too, soon enough.

Chapter III

You think this boy's a doperunner?

I dont know. I wouldnt of thought of it.

I wouldnt either. Let's go down here and look at the rest of this mess. (3.3.75-3.3.77)

Who is buying the drugs if not the good old boys in Texas? Where do you think the heroin goes after it's smuggled over the border? The people who actually buy and use these drugs are never seen in No Country. They are invisible, but they're just as guilty as the smugglers themselves.

I believe this one's died of natural causes.

Natural causes?

Natural to the line of work he's in. (3.3.147-3.3.150)

Oh, Sheriff Bell. What a card. Here, our old boy uses a bit of black humor to lighten the mood. And it's funny because it's true. We can't imagine that the lifespan of your average drug runner is a long one. Chigurh is the exception: he might never die. But he's almost more of a symbol than a real person.

I used to say they were the same ones we've always had to deal with. Same ones my grandaddy [sic] had to deal with. Back then they was rustlin cattle. Now they're runnin dope. (3.3.201)

Bell suspects that drug runners are the result of the natural evolution of cattle rustlers. If that's true, then what's the next step? Where will these guys go when the drug business is no longer profitable? Or will it always be profitable?

It's just a bunch of Mexican drugrunners.

They were. They aint now.

I aint sure what you're sayin.

I'm just sayin that whatever they were the only thing they are now is dead. (3.3.95-3.3.99)

Bell and Wendell have a conversation about the drug runners, and about how death is great equalizer. It's a reminder that these men, who sometimes seem like violent monsters, are people, too. Getting involved in the drug biz made them the way they are. It's a bum rap for basically everybody.

Chapter VI


They sell that s*** to schoolkids.

It's worse than that.

How's that?

Schoolkids buy it. (6.2.407-6.2.411)

Bell implicates the people who are buying the drugs, not just the ones transporting them. The users are just as guilty as the dealers. Just because they can't see the trail of death and destruction paved by the drug run, that doesn't mean they're not partly responsible for it.

Chapter VII

The driver watched him in the mirror. No drogas, he said. (7.2.64)

Paul the taxi driver is our favorite minor character. He only has a handful of lines, but they're all good ones. Here, we see he's fine with weapons, and he's fine with assisting Llewelyn in some illegal activity, but he wants nothing to do with drugs. He knows how devastating they can be.

Chapter VIII

I think if you were Satan and you were settin around trying to think up somethin that would just bring the human race to its knees what you would probably come up with is narcotics. (8.1.4)

In case you haven't realized that the characters in this book believe that drugs are evil, Bell flat-out compares them to Satan here. Do you agree with him?

I'd smoke some weed if you had some. (8.2.216)

The moral of this story is "don't do drugs, kids." The pot-smoking young hitchhiker ends up dead a couple pages later. We doubt she would have survived if she had not asked for marijuana, but McCarthy includes this dialogue for a reason. Drugs are bad news.