In modern society, there are three factors in which keeps the world progressing. These three factors are wealth, power, and fame. The most attractive of the three to most people is wealth. With wealth, the possibilities of life becomes almost endless, and with this comes another one of the key factors, power. Many believe with an exponential amount of wealth all of an individual’s problems fade away as if they were not even there to begin with. With wealth, all fantasies could become reality in an instance time. However, with wealth—or the chance of gaining wealth—life can become even more complicated than it already is. A lot of the time when faced with a decision pertaining to wealth, our moral are questioned. It is common to hear people in today’s society asking questions about what someone would do for money. Would you kill someone for a million dollars? Would you cut off your arm for two million dollars? Though these questions are hypothetical, they are in fact inhumane and malicious. They question our decision making and our moral foundation as human beings. This can be seen in Cormac McCarthy’s novel No Country for Old Men in which the main protagonist, Llewellyn Moss, is faced with choices that determine his fate. He was infected with the insatiable need for more wealth, greed. Greed tends to distort an individual’s decision making because it includes emotion into a thought process centered around logic. Throughout this novel, greed is a prominent and reoccuring theme in which Moss is faced with frequently. Greed is the a theme in which Cormac McCarthy employs within his characters and setting to convey the addictive nature of the materialistic society of today. To summarize the basic storyline of No Country for Old Men, Llewelyn Moss stumbles upon the aftermath of a drug deal gone wrong. There, he finds a case which holds two million dollars of drug money, The cash left behind is irresistible and he decides of his own volition to take it for his own. As a result of taking the money, a hit man named Anton Chigurh is hired to track down Moss, retrieve the money, and to kill him for the inconvenience he has caused. Also, trying to find Moss is Sheriff Ed Tom Bell who is trying to unravel the chain of events in which Moss has sparked, and protect him from those trying to kill him. The first symbol of greed in this novel is seen when Moss is hunting. McCarthy describes this scene by stating, “He glassed the terrain slowly. Crossing that ground was a large tailless dog, black in color. He watched it. It had a huge head and cropped ears and it was limping badly. It paused and stood. It looked behind it. Then it went on” (McCarthy 5). This is important because cropped ears on a large dog usually represent a past presence of illegal dog fighting, and along with the lack of a tail conveys that this dog has experienced a past of abuse. This minor description of the dog links this to the idea of corruption and greed by showing that individuals will often exploit lesser life forms in an effort for power and wealth. Soon after the moment of spotting the injured dog, Moss reaches the failed drug deal and this in of itself represents the outcomes of the greed and corruption involved in the drug trade both in the text and in the real world. When first arriving to the site, Moss realizes the last man standing must have the case and must have fled elsewhere. Moss, in turn, begins to search for the man. His decision to pursue the man with the money shows the effects greed can have on an individual’s decision making and how it can distort logical vision. When finding the case, Moss is faced with a choice. He can leave the case and return to the life he lead before that moment, or to take a chance—already knowing the risks through the bloodied mess he had just seen—and take the case for his own personal gain. The scales are tipped through one factor alone, greed. Greed drives Moss to take the case despite the possible consequences. Greed can also be seen in other characters as well. For example Sheriff Ed Tom Bell is the lead enforcer, and comes from a family of other officers. As he examines the crime scene of one of Anton Chigurh’s murders he states, “Fill out the report same as any report. Yessir. White male, late thirties, medium build. How do you spell Wyrick? You don’t spell it. We don’t know what his name is” (20). This quote is important because Bell is withholding information from the public to protect himself and his department until they have more information, which shows that Sheriff Bell runs his department without a complete commitment to uphold the law. This shows greed because it directly shows a need to keep a good public stature when the just decision to make is to warn the public of a possible killer in the vicinity. In addition to the effects greed can have on an individual, greed can also lead to other negative traits. Two traits that can arise from greed are selfishness and corruption. Though traits in text are usually associated with specific characters, authors—such as Cormac McCarthy—can employ thematic values into the setting. The setting in No Country for Old Men is a world in which is plagued with brutal violence, drugs, and an overall decaying society. This idea that of a horrid society can be seen when McCarthy has Sheriff Ed Tom Bell speaks about how people act when witnessing a lawful execution:The ones that really ought to be on death row will never make it. You remember certain things about an execution. People didn’t know what to wear. There was one or two that come dressed in black, which I suppose was alright…Still they seemed to know what to do and that surprised me. Most of em I know had never been to a execution before. When it was over they pulled this curtain back around the gas chamber with him in there settin slumped over and people just got up and filed out. Like out of church or something. (McCarthy 62)Through this, the reader can see how Sheriff Bell comments on the falling of the law and the rising of an evil, more malicious culture. Bell states later on that the people who really deserve to die never actually make it to death row. They either are released from incarceration, or they outsmart the police and escape on their own. On the opposite side of the spectrum, many of those who are being put on death row and are executed for their crimes don’t really deserve to die in Sheriff Bell’s eyes. Bell describes in this quote an execution, and make a comparison between those watching the execution and those attending church. Bell’s comparison between the gassing of the criminal and church represent how the society of text values evil and demise just as much as common events such as going to church. This can be compared to the physical world outside of the book because it is almost normal to hear of murders and executions on a daily basis. This is important because it makes a connection between the world of the text and the reality of modern world. This idea of greed is not a new theme to be recently used. It has been used for as far back as the folktale, being told by mouth from generation to generation to convey messages of temptation of evil. Though it has been used so frequently and in almost every story, a legendary writer to use this effectively is Shakespeare. One story in particular where greed can be seen is King Lear. Both Lear as the king and Bell as the town sheriff come from positions in which they are comfortable with and positions where they are expected to uphold the law. In addition to this, both are placed in worlds in which the character’s are burdened by disbalance and tragedy in their respective society. They both also have to deal with the morally ignorant youth, King Lear with Cornwall and Edmund and Bell with the hit man, Anton Chigurh. These antagonists represent an “upheaval of conventional morality” (Barron 3). This is significant because drawing a connection between two similar settings, characters, and thematic values creates thought on how this relates to the real world in which most likely inspired the writer of these works of literature. When speaking about McCarthy, he is thought to have convey his own societal views through the traits of his characters. In David Cremean’s journal entry titled Whom Bell Tolls: Conservatism and Change in Cormac McCarthy’s Sheriff from No Country for Old Men, He introduces the theory that many reviewers have discussed: that the views of Bell mirror those of McCarthy. Many describe the views of Bell to be considered “southern conservative”. A quote from this article that questions this is “However, a close reading of the novel, aided by logic, biocritical elements, and particularly Joseph Campbell’s analysis of the mythic hero, dispels this idea while simultaneously establishing that Bell himself is, or at least ends up, far more than merely the small-minded conservative” (Cremean 21). This quote is significant because it explains that the Bell evolves through the reading to become much more than an average conservative. He becomes something much more complex, so if Bell’s views are mirroring McCarthy’s views then McCarthy’s views are just as complex which is known to be true through his appreciation for Friedrich Nietzsche, a German philosopher, cultural critic, and scholar whose work has exerted a major impact on Western thinking and ideologies. The opinions shared by both McCarthy and Nietzsche represent a borderline pessimistic outlook on the world and those in mainstream society. Wealth is the center point in modern society. It is the method used to spark change and motivate people to work. In the scene where Anton Chigurh and Carson Wells are sitting face to face, Anton begins examining the foundation of both Wells and himself and how they are similar and how they are different. By stating, “You’ve been giving up things for years to get here. I dont think I even understood that. How does a man decide in what order to abandon his life? We’re in the same line of work. Up to a point. Did you hold me in such contempt? Why would you do that? How did you let yourself get in this situation?” (McCarthy 177). Anton Chigurh in this scene continues to talk to Carson Wells before enevitably murdering him. Chigurh makes a point, almost contradicting himself by telling how he is similar to Wells, but also he distinguishes himself from Carson in a sense.Chigurh criticizes Wells for living his life according to other people’s rules. Wells obeys his bosses, and–crucially–he “worships” money. Chigurh, by contrast, seems not to care about money or authority–he’s “his own boss,” and can’t be bought or paid off. In the end, Chigurh claims, Wells’s love for money has been utterly futile–his love hasn’t led to wealth or prosperity; it’s led to his death at Chigurh’s hands. And yet Chigurh insists that he and Wells are alike, “up to a point.” Both Chigurh and Wells would be considered criminals by society’s standards. But according to Chigurh, Wells doesn’t go far enough in rejecting conventional law and order. Wells breaks the law all the time, but he’s allowed himself to be controlled by money–the ultimate symbol of society. Chigurh, by contrast, is totally amoral and totally nihilistic. He doesn’t let anyone or anything control what he does–even himself. Instead, he submits to random chance.


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