Hazy is the first word that comes to mind when reading Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men. It takes a while to get into the story, because details are slow to come. We have McCarthy characters like The Sheriff appearing and a lot of pronouns with hazy reference. And a lot of moments when the action of one set of characters moves through and into the others. Hazy also from the film of blood that stains the novel from the beginning. Bodies fall from the very beginning:
The man slid soundlessly to the ground, a round hole in his forehead from which the blood bubbled and ran down into his eyes carrying with it his slowly uncoupling world visible to see.
A random, seemingly hazy murder, done by a character, Anton Chigurh, whose motives for murder seem random. As random and hard to fathom as the violence that seems at the heart of America; it’s a violence with an apocalyptic streak. McCarthy’s characters and world seem as doom-haunted as Faulkner’s. Something in his characters’ worlds always seems to be coming to an end, whether its the vanishing frontier of All the Pretty Horses, or thin vanishing strings of sanity and certainty of No Country.
A plot does develop around the violence: A Vietnam veteran, Llewellyn Moss finds a pickup near the border surrounded by dead drug dealers. Moss takes off with a load of heroin and two million in cash. Cash that not only do the remaining drug dealers want, and will take any means necessary to retrieve, but also money that Chigurh wants. Chigurh’s motive for wanting the money, or how he knows about it seem unclear, as unclear as anything that motivates Chigurh, other than the pleasure he seems to take in killing.
The book erupts in a flurry of violence the law can’t contain. On the whole it’s as violent as some combination of Pulp Fiction and Natural Born Killers and the Book of Revelation, and share’s that book’s apocalyptic tone.
In the end, nothing that happens seems to make sense, even to the characters who survive. An older sheriff reflects on the madness overall that he sees:
It’s like they woke up and they don’t know how they got where they’re at. Well, in a manner of speaking they dont.
We’re in a new age, a new era. We are Adam. But, we are Adam standing at the edge of the earth and we can’t see ahead of ourselves or make sense of our madness.