After reading Cormac McCarthy’s book The Road in May, I knew I would read more of his novels. Like that novel, No Country For Old Men is filled with brutal violence and asks deep questions about the nature of evil, morality and the idea of fate vs. choosing our own path.
When Lewelyn Moss stumbles across a drug deal gone bad out in the desert and walks away with a briefcase filled with over two million dollars, he sets off a string of savage murders and places himself and his wife in harm’s way. Ed Tom Bell, an old time sheriff on the brink of retirement, carries the novel with his dry sense of humor and musings on the philosophy of life and its moral decline. Chigurh (apparently pronounced ‘sugar’ … although I thought this character could better be described as ‘chigger’) seems to be the embodiment of evil – a super human monster who appears to have no respect for human life.
McCarthy takes the reader for a wild ride through the first half of the book. I found myself unable to put the novel down. The scenes are nail bitters, written like a screenplay. It is not surprising that the movie based on the book will be released in November 2007.
But then, McCarthy slows things down midway, giving the reader more to think about than who will be the next victim. Do our choices seal our fate in life? Are our lives merely determined by the flip of a coin? Or do we have the power to control our lives through the moral decisions we make? McCarthy doesn’t give the reader any easy answers, and perhaps that is because there are not any. In the end, we are left with the symbol of a fire being lit in the darkness – perhaps the suggestion that we may still shine our light on evil, and reveal it for what it is.