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Kate Carsella
Professor McClanahan
ENG 781
12.21.14

Macro (Author) to Micro (Novel) in Cormac McCarthys No Country For Old Men

To say that Cormac McCarthys 2005 publication infused the culture with
hostility would be a reductive understatement, but it is a genuine claim. The author is highly
controlling with his stylistic presentation, the narrative itself, and the impression of his persona
encapsulating the novel; such control has often been considered antagonistic to the reader, and to
any person in search of meaning in the pages. The critics drummed up even more hostility in
their reviews of the text, most notably Walter Kirn of The New York Times and James Wood of
The New Yorker: words and phrases like hokey, antiquarian, high-flown nonsense, a
morally empty book, flattening, sinister high hokum, et cetera, pepper their critiques.
(Wood 2005) (Kirn 2005) In our class discussion of the novel, questions of McCarthys
troubling politics, of his obfuscating depiction of landscape, of McCarthys singular adherence
to vision and how that seems fractious in the novel form. (McClanahan 2014) This is a lot to sift
through, but for this paper that is the aim. What can be gained from interrogating an author who
famously refuses to reenter his texts by consistently declining to make any definitive,
interpretive commentary on them? (Snyder & Snyder 2013: 28) What part does the importance
of frontiers both spatial and temporal play in dissecting American history in McCarthys work?

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How and why does this have a needling effect? What do Ed Tom Bell, Anton Chigurh, and
Llewelyn Moss depict?
Because the object of this class was to study literary naturalism, it is prudent to take time
to contextualize No Country For Old Men within genre, and to see how the conventions may
open up the work for interrogation and meaning. Donald Pizers essay The Three Phases of
American Literary Naturalism is particularly helpful to this end. Perhaps the naturalist tradition,
rather than genre as Pizer argues, is itself generative for hostility. (Pizer 1982: 16) Much of
Pizers argument works to delineate the differences of naturalism across three eras; because
McCarthys oeuvre has to do with documenting the sensationalizing American history, each of
naturalisms iterations apply to No Country For Old Men. (Pizer 1982: 16) One of Cormac
McCarthys intentions in writing, it seems, is to confront and flay the stories Americans have told
themselves for generations. Such tropes include hero tales, idolatry, rugged individualism,
ideological notions righteousness, and ties to fate and the supernatural. These have recurred so
often and so strongly that they stand as prime targets for interrogation. In 1890s American
naturalism:
A full realization of changes that had occurred during the previous two decadesin
particular, the rapid shift from a predominantly rural, agrarian civilization to an urban,
industrial society, and the transition from traditional religious faith and moral belief to
skepticism and uncertainty.

While this speaks to Reconstructions after effects, pert near the same anxieties of landscape,
transition and point of view are present in the narrative year 1980, and the publishing year 2005
of No Country For Old Men. Pizer rightly quotes Alfred Kazins summing up, that naturalism

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has been a climate of feeling, almost in the very air of our modern American life, with its mass
patterns, its social changes, its idolatry of the mechanical and of facts. (Pizer 1982: 15)
As an author fascinated by history, (as detailed by Steven Frye), Cormac McCarthy must
also be interested in the patterns of crises and how they are painted by the people at the time.
Specifically:
[McCarthys] intense curiosity is reflected in characters whose experiences are grounded
in specific historical moments as wide-ranging as westward expansion in the nineteenth
century, the social transformation of the postbellum south, and the psychological and
environmental traumas of the nuclear age. (Fry 2013: 4)

Ed Tom Bell may well be the personification of the naturalist observer evaluating such patterns
they are fated to repeat later. He may also be the tent pole to which all the historical and social
features surfaced in the quotation above are strapped. It is important that the character McCarthy
chose for this role is one at the verge of retirement, and on the downward slope of his life. This is
compounded by the fact that once the reader encounters Ed Tom, it is a quarter century removed,
and he may be dead.
Though Ed Tom did not personally experience the late 19th century, his family did.
Family in this novel is portrayed as a system, a pattern to repeat. Ed Tom is a representation of
one moment in time speaking to a greater era, portrayed here by a people in hard country.
Therefore, it does not seem coincidental that Ed Toms blood family conversations are carried
out with those that are truly dead (his daughter), and those that, for all intents and purposes, are
practically dead (Uncle Ellis). Ed Tom puts a lot of stock in the dead:

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It is community and it is respect, of course, but the dead have more claims on you than
what you might want to admit or even what you might know about and them claims can
be very strong indeed. Very strong indeed. You get the feelin they just dont want to turn
loose. (McCarthy 2005: 124)
Part of Ed Toms role is to engage in these moments only in the context of the deepest
philosophical and religious questions, and he chooses to do so along bloodlines across a
supernatural planea confrontation with a controlling past, per 1930s-style naturalism. (Frye
2013: 4) (Pizer 25) Whether his ruminations lead to truth or not is perhaps beside the point. This
is certainly a marker of 1890s American naturalism, dealing with the problem of knowledge.
(Pizer 1982: 21) Whether 1890, or 1930, or 1980, Pizer or McCarthy, the naturalist character (Ed
Tom) must deal with the weakening of supernaturally sanctioned faith and the decline as well of
belief in other transcendentally derived truths cast doubt on the ability of man to have a clear
sense of himself in a complex and constantly shifting world. (Pizer 1982: 21) That Ed Tom
speaks to his daughter is a source of shame; one of the few secrets he keeps from his beloved
wife Loretta, and a private facet of self others may consider worthy of a lunacy warrant.
(McCarthy 2005: 285) He frames this within the lexical system of lawa framework with which
he is comfortable through experience, and ease of delineating what is ethical and what is not. Ed
Tom may not be able to help his inclinations that are not amenable to moral suasion or rational
argument. (Pizer 1982: 20) Those associated with death are those to whom he asks the big
questions.
Ed Tom, being representative, surfaces a fetishization of the past within American history.
Just as in the 1890s literature, much of No Country For Old Men depicts the elder lawmans
dismay at the disappearance of manners, the loss of the simpler adherence to the rule of systems

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to gain success. McCarthy pokes fun at this in a metanarrative moment, when Ed Tom reads the
newspaper story of the collared old folks buried in the yard. It is gallows humor, but Ed Tom
shows his limits: You cant make up such a thing as that. I dare you to even try. (McCarthy
2005: 124) The conception of decency is scrutinized simultaneously to its utterance. McCarthy is
perhaps close in age to Ed Tom, and clearly the authors vivid imagery and scenes throughout his
bibliography are presented. The profundity of the profane rings true in looking at McCarthy, and
that Ed Tom refuses such roads bespeaks his obsolescence.
But it doesnt end there. Bell glorifies, in a muted fashion, the position of sheriffthat it
is a title held by his grandfather and his uncle and himself. Much of his dialogue and his
conversations with others has to do with The Good Old Days, and a refusal to confront the
present moment. Uncle Ellis threw his television out. Loretta is praised by her husband for not
watching the news, despite the fact he cannot follow her lead. (McCarthy 2005: 40) Nearly every
scene with Ed Tom Bell includes a denial of some type: I dont want to know, I do not know,
Nothing you can do, They dont need to see this, People think they know what they want
but they generally dont. (McCarthy 2005: 91) This ethos ranges from the days events toward a
conception of Satan and God, and Ed Tom never truly comes down one way or the other on his
beliefs. This depicts a common masochism of societyholding ourselves back by living in the
past and aggrandizing such a move. By doing this, McCarthy points to the limits of man,
comparable to what Pizer described in the naturalist fiction of 1890. It is a failure to wish for a
temporality (the past), because it is a recurrence. In every era, people yearn for the past with
notions of its glory and simplicity; this cannot always be true of the past, and is a great tale
McCarthy seeks to debunk.

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Notably, Ed Tom also has a tendency to know what people are going to say to him, their
conclusions based on the scene, before they utter it. Be it his fellow lawmen, I know, said Bell. I
knowed what youd say fore you said it; or Carla Jean Moss: I aint a stranger to them
thoughts, Carla Jean. Them thoughts is very familiar to me. (McCarthy 2005: 106, 134) This is
echoed by Ellis later on in the novel. These thoughts being that what is valuable to a person
makes it more likely itll be taken. Those that surprise him are his uncle, Im kindly surprised to
hear you say that, and the ghostly Chigurh, despite not being too far from his trail of thinking
for most of the novel. (McCarthy 2005: 267) In fact, Ed Tom is the only person in the novel to
deny that Chigurh is a lunatic, yet he does not know what he would call him. (McCarthy 2005:
192) Hes not even sure that Chigurh is a man, which shows the limitations of what Ed Tom and
society are willing to face. With that, he has been obsolesced as a sort of Dantean punishment.
(Frye 2013: 7)
It is Bells fate to continue his moral quest, (a type of naturalist tragedy) in part because
he feels it is his job to take care of people, and that if perhaps he finds answers then people will
as well. (Pizer 1982: 20)
The stories gets passed on and the truth gets passed over Which I reckon some would
take as meanin that the truth cant compete. But I dont believe that. I think that when the
lies are all told and forgot the truth will be there yet. It dont move about from place to
place and it dont change from time to time. You cant corrupt it any more than you can salt
salt. You cant corrupt it because thats what it is. Its the thing youre talkin about. Ive
heard it compared to the rockmaybe in the bibleand I wouldnt disagree with that.
But itll be here even when the rock is gone. Im sure theys people would disagree with
that But I never could find out what any of them did believe. (McCarthy 2005: 123)

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It is no surprise that his surname is Bell, as it implies the phrase, clear as a bell. He describes
the way he has tried to live his life, in the strictest way I knew how then I would not ever again
have a thing that would eat on me thataway. But of course, Ed Tom repeated his pattern, and he
aims to quit. (McCarthy 2005: 282) He gets no solace either from his uncle, who affirms Bells
belief that there is no vengeance, that there is no going back, and that what is coming may in fact
overshadow human decency. Ellis further claims that Bells feelings are a matter of age, that he
shouldnt be so hard on himself because everyone is ashamed. (McCarthy 2005: 283) Perhaps
this is the past that history tries to elide through the beatification of frontier tales, and assuming it
took bravery to quest. Ed Toms quest, while a thoughtful site for interiority of many more
characters than just himself, inevitably will not answer anything. While he utilizes religious or
clerical language, Ed Toms thoughts cant capitulate to losing the knowledge of his experience
for the comfort of blame by way of religious ideology. (Pizer 1982: 21) Because he is the
character that the reader most likely aligns with, McCarthy implicates the reader as being stuck
within systems from birth, and at risk for falling into the same traps. Roland Barthes argument
that the production of a text depends primarily on the reader than on the author, is important to
highlight the relationship between this reader/read relationship. (Snyder & Snyder 2013: 27)
Particularly when the read wants to quit, and considers himself a loser that didnt know [he]
could steal [his] own life. (McCarthy 2005: 278)
Frye argues that McCarthy encourages readers not to assume that his works simply
articulate philosophy in the novel form that [his characters] cannot be held down by one
system. (Frye 2013: 5) This assertion undercuts the idea that Cormac McCarthys intent for the
novel is to prescribe any particular politics, much less a Southern Conservatism as surfaced in

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class. Despite McCarthy utilizing the determinist logic of naturalism, Fryes view bolsters the
claim that portraying a rigid structure may in fact illuminate the possibilities of a variety of
viewpoints. (McClanahan 2014) This may point to McCarthys use of three main characters.
Also, Fryes claim gets to the heart of critiquing the patterns of American history and its
subsequent doom and gloom mood in the culture: it is a critique of resignation.
The depiction of resignation functions to entertain the concept that people are perhaps
more similar in their limitations than is pleasurable to admit. It is in this vein that Anton
Chigurhs evil is more pronounced. Although he may appear seamless, he is not reserved from
punishment, and he fetishizes as much as the rest. While Bell has much doubt to grapple with, as
a naturalist tragic hero would, Chigurh has little doubt. That he has so many answers at the ready
is quite malevolent, and his fast pace dispensing them makes the answers sinister high hokum.
(Kirn 2005) Though not quite in the way that Kirn asserts. More on that later. Chigurhs
methodology for extermination, which seems more apt than the word killing, democratizes
anyone who is not Chigurh as one of the beeves, an unattractive label. (McCarthy 2005: 106)
In fact, its even a struggle for Torbert and Bell to acknowledge the airpowered gun is used on
beefs, let alone humansTorbert looks away, and wishes [Bell] hadnt of even told [him].
(McCarthy 2005: 106)
Insofar that Chigurhs depiction has drawn the most ire from readers and critics
aforementioned alike, it is important to note that his evil state of grace that the ambivalent
masses will never know, is evil. (Kirn 2005) It is meant to come across as ridiculoussinister
high hokum. (Kirn 2005) In both Walter Kirn, James Woods reviews, there exists an accusatory
tone of the author because of Chigurhs supernatural facility with slick violence. As though to
say McCarthy decided to play around and have the words of a sage uttered from a diabolical

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murderer for funsies. It is Chigurhs supernatural facility that makes him highly suspect.
Raymond Malewitz beautifully encapsulates the concept of objecthood versus thinghood in No
Country that speaks well to McCarthys motives behind Anton Chigurh. Malewitz defines misuse
value as mistaking objecthood for thinghood, in a turn on Marxist definitions of use and
exchange value. Objecthood is the apperceptive constitution of the thing, and the thinghood is
the experience of the thing. (Malewitz 2009: 725) When Moss moves from objecthood to
thinghood by using his boots as a gun stand, venetian-blind cords as a handle, and tent poles into
a grip, he is seeing what others may not cleverly in innovation of material. (McCarthy 2005: 9,
84, 87) Chigurh turns coins into totems of chance and fate. Famously, he repeatedly does not
allow the shaken store attendant to put the coin with all the other coins, You wont know which
one it is Anything can be an instrument... (McCarthy 2005: 57) And in the latter part of the
dialogue comes the undoing of any supposed Chigurh virtue. Chigurhs inversion of use value is
not cleverness. He doesnt seek to turn an object into any instrument. He seeks to make it the
instrument. Such fetish of the material, of an object as sacred is error. In this, McCarthy shows
Chigurh to be worse than the beevesrather than only accepting objects as they are, he
purposely reinforces such an idea. By reifying the thinghood, he reverts it back to objecthood, a
mystical thinghood that denies interrogation.
The air gun, the coin, and the onscreen haircut are all notable materiel constitutive of
Anton Chigurh. But one element goes largely silent in critical discussionthe mans blue eyes:
Blue eyes. Serene. Dark hair. Something about him faintly exotic. Beyond Mosss experience.
(McCarthy 2005: 112) What at first draws much attention is the qualified descriptor faintly
exotic. This may lead to a false argument that Chigurh, being faintly exotic, is brown, and
thus McCarthy is creating a color binary between outlaws. However, it could just as easily be

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said that Chigurh is an alien. Satan in human form. Et cetera. The stylistic brevity certainly
separates and heightens the details of how such a mythic-seeming figure appears. The quickness
may be taken for the epic. But, in taking a craft point of view, the beginning of the novel teaches
the reader how to feel about eyes from the alignment with Ed Tom Bell:
They say the eyes are the windows to the soul. I dont know what them eyes was the
windows to and I guess Id as soon not know. But there is another view of the world out
there and other eyes to see it and thats where this is goin. (McCarthy 2005: 4)

Further down the page, such eyes are attributed to a true and living prophet of desctruction
[Bell] walked in front of those eyes once. [He] wont do it again. (4) A moment should be taken
to say this is not true, as Bell does return to the scene of a crime knowing he may well be
willing to die, and may well meet that prophet. (4) The concept of prophet may be attributed
to the earlier claim that Bells religious rhetorical framework does not often signify actual
religious certainty. But the eyes are the concrete detail with which to dig, and whats fascinating
is that the eyes are blue. Over any potential color, blue eyes have a long association with
Americanness: the blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy/girl that eats apple pie, so to speak.
Though subtle in its presence on the page, such a detail importantly elides the notion that
this is a tale of drug-running and brown versus white. Put another way, the civilized versus the
savage. While Chigurh is faintly exotic, he only travels the United States within the frame of the
novel, and what makes him exotic is wholly indiscernible. The fact that they are beyond Moss
and that Bell does not know what views may be within such eyes reveals limits of
comprehension and resistance to the present facing them. For Bell, acknowledging that such
eyes, that such a type (as each of these men are) exists is to refute his view of the past to which

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he clings. For Moss, the eyes of the man hunting him are hard to face, as it questions his
(Mosss) illusion of success in his mission. Furthermore, the blue functions as an uncanny quality
that what both Moss and Bell are facing is a force familiar to them. Such binaries as race are
easily applied, but blind a person to the evil within their perceived likeness (or, tribe). This may
be an example of McCarthys status as student of historyone essential truth of history is the
concession. Depending on the reader, the text shifts and certain truths that may seem ugly, or
distasteful are in danger of elision. In such an iconoclastic text, the blue eyes stick out as the
microcosm of American historys forgetfulness.
One of the sticking points of the novel for James Wood and Walter Kirn is Chigurh, be it
his speech or his relentless, bloody spree. Wood in particular casts Chigurh as a pale
replication of Blood Meridians Judge Holden, who similarly casts himself above moral
reckoning (Wood 2005) James Wood misses the point that Chigurh is meant to be pale, so
to speak. Chigurhs sermonizing to his prey may sound omniscient with a touch of the
theological, but truly he is an amoral relativist-type McCarthy is engaging. (Frye 2013: 5) Set
within the context of 1980Ronald Reagans support from Billy Graham and the rise of the
Religious Right as a political force should not be overlooked. Appearing to be in touch with the
greater forces at work, and standing in as translator between such a force and human beings is a
precarious position. One can be seen as power-hungry and political rather than benevolent.
Particularly when a religious group is galvanized as a decision-making pack of voters, and
making choices about the new frontier of American society based on false certainties. This
marked a change in our culture, and finds contrast in No Country. Whereas evangelical
Christians of 1980 painted the world in good/bad binaries, and reframed the limitless frontier as a
vertical ascension to the supernatural plane, the naturalist novel is at heart anticlerical, distrustful

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of groupthink, distrustful of simplistic thinking that results in loss of freedom. (Pizer 28-29)
Cormac McCarthy spoke to his fear of such a loss in his 1992 interview with The New York
Times:
"I think the notion that the species can be improved in some way, that everyone could live
in harmony, is a really dangerous idea. Those afflicted with this notion are the first ones
to give up their souls, their freedom. Your desire that it be that way will enslave you and
make your life vacuous." (Woodward 1992)

What McCarthy addresses is the glossing over of the violence meted out on Americas nearly
240-year journey, either through historical mythology of the Southwest, or through the notion of
rising above our instinctual, violent urges into a state of peaceful, universal brotherhood. The
former may be unjust and sinister, where the latter is impossible. It may be that the more one
tries to contain their ugliness, the more pronounced it becomes through repression. And whose
vision of harmony is it, anyway? These are certainly the questions of literary naturalism, and in
this interview, much as in his novels, McCarthy seems to be philosophizing, as Woodward
claimsentertaining notions within context of the era.
Anton Chigurh, though an amoral relativist type, sells himself as a democratizing force at
the will of fate, similar to Billy Graham and other such religious figures of the time. Chigurhs
conjecture, (his externalized evil), on the fate of Carla Jean crystallizes the critique McCarthy
has of those who claim they are merely speaking for a greater power, which is the only way,
which may not be second-said. (McCarthy 260) It is the danger of fetishizing oneself as the
voice (as savior of a kind), rather than a voice. As McCarthys style is so methodical, careful
attention to craft, as single sentences are written, rewritten, placed side by side, and written again

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until they are all he can make them, that it would be surprising if Chigurhs sermonizing was
not purposefully sloppy. (Frye 10) Thus, this high-flown nonsense [does] rub a little dignity into
the novels spare textures. (Wood 2005)
It can be argued that this is a central failure of American historys mythmaking from the
old days of cowboys and Indians tales to 2005, when the book was published. Both Ronald
Reagan and George W. Bushs presidencies, the position of the president has been held by the
cowboy type: Reagan a Hollywood cowboy, and Bush, a Texan, (automatically tied to cowboy
mythos), whose allure to many was the idea that he was a type one could have a beer with. The
consequent features of this type of political cowboy include making a frontier of the economy
via deregulation and laissez-faire capitalism.
No longer is the land the frontier, rather, in answer to Frederick Jackson Turners problem
of the west, the intangible economy and supernatural are the new frontiers for cultivation for the
United States. Taking control over illusory planes only furthers the trouble of founding ideals on
the temporal, on the ephemeral. Turner describes the evils that manifest from the endless birthing
of the country on the frontier: lax business honor, wild-cat banking, gerrymandering,
heightened nationalism based on selfishness, which are all issues and qualities that apply well to
America of 1980 and of 2005. (Turner 6) Quickly, it should be noted that such logic has an effect
on the land so glorified: global warming and natural disasters such as Hurricane Allen in 1980
and Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Endless questing sacrifices the care of pre-existing possessions.
Not to say the United States is wholly responsible for environmental cataclysm, but the type of
short-term thinking arising from the frontier myth plays a large part. Turners conclusion is most
poignanthe does not equivocate, There is not tabula rasa. (Turner 9) Despite the thrill of
birthing the culture into endless real estate, temporal or spatial, does not erase what has already

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occurred. There is no distracting, if Ed Tom is correct, because the truth of the thing will always
be there, whether it is recognized or not.
Perhaps this is all very materialist. This brings the paper to the final type of fetish
McCarthy excoriates: fetish of the material, of the self as material, that the material may offer
escape. This is assigned to Llewelyn Moss. His vignettes are the ones in which the glorification
of the many guns takes place, he is also the character most closely associated with the landscape.
Moss facility, in contrast to his uncanny, Chigurhs, is turning objects into whatever he desires at
the time. As mentioned above he can turn his surroundings into tools for hiding his case of
money. He also can walk into Wal-Mart looking for materiel, and walk out with a young bride.
(McCarthy 130) This knack for cleverness, as it seems to be, moves Moss along on his quest
further than expected by Wells, and by Chigurh, but in the end it is more sloppiness. Perhaps it is
the necessary punishment for pushing his luck, which stands in for his fetish, in the same way
that the unexpected car accident punishes Chigurh. The more successful the two men are in their
quests, the more they feel free to add to their mythos, and as Carla Jean, Bell, and Ellis portend,
the more likely that both men will have something essential taken away. James Wood claims:
Llewelyn Moss, the hunted, ought not to resemble Anton Chigurh, the hunter, but the
flattening effect of the plot makes them essentially indistinguishable. The reader, of
course, sides with the hunted. But both have been made unfree by the fake determinism
of the thriller. (Wood 2005)

This is certainly quite silly in many ways, but chief among them is the fact that Moss couldve
turned back many many times, but chose to push his luck. Chigurh is a dealer of false chance.
Both are sloppy and violent, both have skills that they misuse, but from the inception of the

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novel it is clear to the characters and the reader that Chigurh will likely survive, and Moss will
surely die. Even Sheriff Bell is right in referring to Moss as a damn fool, for not sending for
Carla Jean, despite not knowing Moss very well. (McCarthy 138) Moss failures are clearest in
the novel, and most clearly punish those he loves:
Llewelyn, I dont even want the money. I just want us to be back like we was.
We will be.
No we wont. Ive thought about it. Its a false god.
Yeah. But its real money. (McCarthy 182)

Despite Carla Jeans position as commodity, she sees the writing on the wall correctly and more
quickly than her husband. Further, she acknowledges her failure and his as tied together. Each of
the three main men have their blindness; Moss portrays the blindness fortune inflicts, and the up
and down of it. Despite being clever with objects and tools in life, his end occurs with no
ceremony, with his teeth blown outteeth representing one of the most basic, essential tools of
man: One eye partly opened. He looked like a badman on a slab but there were holes in his
face and his teeth were shot out. (McCarthy 240) No Country For Old Men is peopled with
types: well-intentioned loser lawmen, false prophets of ghostly death, and the clever fool. While
all tragic and doomed, the 1930s naturalist macrocosm-microcosm effect, is what is so
scathing. (Pizer 1982: 26)
Cormac McCarthy views his role as a writer, and he views the realm of the writer as that
of the outsider. He presents the reader with an unconventional challenge has quite
intentionally avoided any identification with the art world He has lived as he has chosen.
(Frye 3) This is reflected in his novels, in this particular novel through aesthetic control and

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determinism of genre. No Country is definitely a naturalist novel, and McCarthy may well be the
contemporary naturalist writer in chief. Though he denies interiority in his reclusiveness, and it
seems he denies interiority in his characters, that they behave and consider speaks to great depths
of thought. American history has been very caught up in its tales and the accompanying,
appropriate rhetoric. McCarthy seems to strip back all the chatter, and plays out the reductio ad
absurdum of such ideologies. (Malewitz 786) McCarthys consistent refusals, his truncated
language, his lack of heroes and will butt against the yes, yes, yes of the manifest destiny ethic of
cultivation. Rather than metaphysical cheapness, as James Wood said, McCarthy decisively
depicts how glamorous the slickness of fetish is, and therefore how dangerous. Perhaps for
Wood, McCarthy was so convincing of its evil, he mistook it.
Donald Pizer points to the trouble of being a naturalist author right away in his piece: a
more meaningful antagonism from the feeling of many readers that their basic assumptions
about human nature and experience are being challenged. (13) Yet, the naturalistic novel has
a concreteness and circumstantiality particularly congenial to the American temperament. (15)
As a genre, with all its textual members put together, American naturalism creates an epic of
limitation, failure, and signals that off the page there are opportunities to develop in recognizing
our lowliness. Of course this is met with animosity by the critics, especially when the helium is
let out of so many types of failure by McCarthy. But by the conventions of the genre, and by
staying with his vision, No Country For Old Men is a challenging success.
Works Cited

Frye, Steven. The Cambridge Companion to Cormac McCarthy. N.p.: Cambridge UP, 2013.
Print.

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Kirn, Walter. "Texas Noir." The New York Times. The New York Times, 23 July 2005. Web. 19
Dec. 2014. <http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/24/books/review/24KIRNL.html?
pagewanted=all&_r=1&>.
Malewitz, Raymond. ""Anything Can Be an Instrument": Misuse Value and Rugged
Consumerism in Cormac McCarthy's No Country For Old Men." Contemporary
Literature 50.4 (2009): n. pag. Project MUSE. Web.
McCarthy, Cormac. No Country for Old Men. New York: Knopf, 2005. Print.
Pizer, Donald. "The Three Phases of American Literary Naturalism." The Theory and Practice of
American Literary Naturalism: Selected Essays and Reviews. Carbondale: Southern
Illinois UP, 1993. N. pag. Print.
Turner, Frederick J. "The Significance of Frontier in American History." The AEgis (1893): n.
pag. Print.
Wood, James. "Red Planet." The New Yorker. The New Yorker, 25 July 2005. Web. <http%3A
%2F%2Fwww.newyorker.com%2Fmagazine%2F2005%2F07%2F25%2Fred-planet>.