Book Review: “No Country for Old Men” by Cormac McCarthy

Heading into Senior year, AP and honors English students were assigned No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy as summer reading; this was an excellent choice for various reasons.

While many people have seen the movie No Country for Old Men, few appreciate the novel’s brilliance.

No Country for Old Men is an enthralling story that follows anti-hero Llewelyn Moss and takes tropes from wild west stories with a modern, nihilistic twist. Justice does not prevail; instead, it is left behind in a changing, violent world.  

The novel’s inciting incident is when Llewelyn Moss stumbles across a drug deal gone wrong and takes a briefcase with $2 million inside of it from the scene. While this action sets off the book, it also presents Llewelyn Moss’s tragic flaw of lack of foresight. He takes the money, hoping to make a better life for himself and his wife; however, he forgets the consequences of taking an obscene amount of money in a drug deal.

Anton Chigurh is then assigned to find Llewelyn Moss and the lost money. After noticing Moss’s truck at the drug deal the day after Moss is there, the County Sheriff Bell sets out to find and protect Llewelyn Moss from his impending danger.

McCarthy creates a great dynamic between the three main characters of the book. The aging Sheriff Bell represents the old way of life. His monologues open up every chapter, commonly recalling how the world is taking a turn for the worse.

When asked about his favorite character, Saint Paul’s senior and AP Literature student Elijah Weixel said, “I enjoyed Sheriff Bell’s perspective in the book because of his moral reflections about his value of life in a changing world.”

In contrast, the depiction of a new, evil world is hitman Anton Chigurh. Chigurh goes throughout the book, emotionlessly slaughtering anyone in his way while trying to find Moss.

Moss struggles with giving up in this game of cat and mouse with Chigurh while also trying to take care of his wife and keep her safe. These three characters’ juxtaposition evokes ever-present themes, from man’s inhumanity to man and the world’s descent into chaos.

Critically acclaimed author Cormac McCarthy is well known for having a unique, stream-of-consciousness writing style. This has caused many criticisms to be levied upon McCarthy. These criticisms are valid, as his writing style takes away from the reader absorbing the plot and themes of the book as the reader can struggle to understand what is happening in spots of the novel.

However, an intense and fast-paced plot and profound themes about our changing world create an extraordinary novel that every literature lover should read.

Overall, No Country for Old Men is a 9/10 book and is only dragged down by the (at times) tough-to-read writing style of Cormac McCarthy.

No Country for Old Men book cover

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