That sounded like regret to me. You’d think he won’t admit it, but there it is. A character with a conscience. He was talking to a 15-year-old runaway girl at a motel. They were having beer. The timing of the admission is pure genius—-you let the character get comfortable enough before submitting him to his fate.
And this is why I like this book. The dialogues, though minimal, are effective in that they reveal something about the characters in unexpected situations, usually in the middle or near the end of the story, which is the best place to be if you’re a reader. Why? Because you want to keep on reading, you want to finish the story and this Pulitzer-winning author doesn’t disappoint.
In brief, No Country for Old Men is a cat-and-mouse story set in Texas during the 80s, just after Vietnam war and perhaps during the height of drug trafficking in the US. It’s also a story of Moss, who found and kept 2.4 million dollars by accident in the country where he hunts. Themes of good versus evil, of making amends for guilt, and of taking what you think you deserve are present, as well as the question on what one is willing to give up to make things right.
The title, which came from a poem by William Butler Yeats, and as explained by Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, is a reference to youth wasting their lives and never having a chance to grow old. It’s a prophetic warning wrapped in a gripping thriller and for that alone, this book is a must read, especially if you always find yourself wondering what the world is coming to and never having a simple answer.
Anton Chigurh, the soulless executioner, also reveals something about the human race that actually scared me that it was a relief to go back to the real world. Here, you don’t fight the evil elements by yourself. But in McCarthy’s world, Moss is alone and he knows it.
In the first two pages, Sheriff Bell gives an answer on why evil exists and the answer is so simple and sad, yet relevant today:
And I think a man would have to put his soul at hazard. And I won’t do that. I think now that maybe I never would.
If there’s a message here, it’s that when confronted with the decision, there will be people who will choose life and there will be people who will choose death. And those who do evil will always find satisfaction in doing it, otherwise, they never would have done it in the first place. That’s the blood-curdling truth. And as long as we allow them to exist, they will always exist. It’s not a good thought to take away from a fiction novel. But it’s the truth that we must know and always be reminded of.