Study Guide

No Country for Old Men Criminality

By Cormac McCarthy


Looking at all the themes we've pulled from No Country for Old Men—good versus evil, drugs and alcohol, violence, morality and ethics—you'll see that all of these contain one critical element. It's an element you won't find on the periodic table, but it's one you see every day: the criminal element. Our main characters are a lawman, a man who is an outlaw by choice, and a man who accidentally chooses to become an outlaw. While we can't put handcuffs on any of the criminals in this book, we can at least capture and contain quotes about criminality. Hey, every little bit helps?

Questions About Criminality

  1. The police don't seem concerned about Llewelyn from a legal perspective. Is taking the money a crime? Why aren't the police concerned with it?
  2. Not everyone who commits a crime is caught. In fact, Chigurh escapes at the end. Does this make Sheriff Bell a bad sheriff?
  3. Does obeying the law guarantee safety for any of the book's characters? Who manages to survive longer by disobeying the law?

Chew on This

Chigurh escapes at the end to show how the drug trade is outside of the law. It cannot be controlled by traditional law-enforcement methods.

Law enforcement must stay ahead of criminals in order to be effective, so law enforcers must think like criminals—which puts them in danger of becoming criminals themselves.