Guest Post: Paula Bomer: McCarthy’s Anton Chigurh and the Meaning of Violence

When I wake up and drink my tea, I lie in bed and stare out my window. There is a tree outside of my bedroom window that has branches that resemble, to me, a man running forward, with his arms outstretched. I project this onto the tree—this vision—and soon enough I also see other branches as other people running, arms outstretched. The question is: are they running away or toward something? This question seems very important to me, and yet, it’s a tree with branches. And so I can make up whatever meaning I want. Really.

When reading fiction, many people argue the reader can take away whatever meaning he gleans from the text. That the author’s intention doesn’t matter. I find this take on reading fiction fits with certain writers, and here I will argue (in another essay) that Brian Evenson is one of them. And in general, I agree that this can be an interesting way to engage in literature, but I also feel that in many cases, it causes for the inversion of meaning. The inversion of meaning is not the same as “misunderstanding”. It is the turning upside down of a meaning. It is beyond missing the point, it is, for the writers such as Cormac McCarthy and Flannery O’Connor, a sort of blasphemy.

McCarthy is a man who has much more in common with Sarah Palin than he does with any of the young men who worship his work. Young men like violence and they love the violence in Cormac McCarthy’s work as well. I have met so many twenty-something year old literate men who talk reverently about McCarthy’s violence in his work. Words and phrases that are used are like “violence is everywhere” or it is “meaningless” or “inevitable” and so on. These young men, often without any real experience of violence (we’re not talking about soldiers here, we’re talking about students) find it engaging or “interesting”. (Other people do as well, but I’m not discussing them here.) They like to watch it, read about it, and discuss its meaning or lack thereof (see Note 1, below).

Here are some of the ideas out there regarding the character Anton Chigurh, from No Country for Old Men: He is called “evil”, “the epitome of evil”, he’s considered to suffer from “bloodlust”. None of these things are true and in fact, they are the actual meaning of his violence inverted. Anton is an angel, sent by God to destroy all of those who suffer from greed. He is punishing normal, human sinners, which is something the Catholic God does. Anton (after Saint Anthony, renowned for his work against the Devil) kills everyone who in any way took money, drug money, which did not belong to them. He is the opposite of evil. He is divine power. He is fighting the Devil in the shape of drugs and drug money. Bell basically sums up the plot and moral center of this novel during one of his first person italicized parts when saying, “I think if you were Satan and you were settin around tryin to think up somethin that would just bring the human race to its knees what you would probably come up with is narcotics.” One of the main things God does in the Catholic religion is fight against the Devil, and that fight takes place in our very lives. We are but a battleground for forces much larger than us, and I think that is the best way to read No Country For Old Men. McCarthy’s characters exist to demonstrate his vision of how this universe works.

Bell, one of the only characters who doesn’t die, and who has no stake in the drugs or the drug money, explains his point of view by saying, “Maybe he did. (in regard to the Devil bringing narcotics to humanity.) I told that to somebody at breakfast the other mornin and they asked me if I believed in Satan. I said Well that aint the point.” And the reason why it isn’t the point is because it doesn’t matter what we believe. It matters what is. This is reiterated over and over again by Anton, who speaks for God while he works hard to fight the results of the placement of the Devil’s instruments, in this case, narcotics.

Here is Anton talking to the man in the gas station, who just flipped a coin that saved his life: “Anything can be an instrument…Small things. Things you wouldn’t even notice. They pass from hand to hand. People don’t pay attention. And then one day there’s an accounting. And after that nothing is the same.”

Anton is there for the accounting. And nothing else is about to be the same. When he leaves the gas station, the nervous attendant “laid the coin on the counter and looked at it. He put both hands on the counter and just stood leaning there with his head bowed.” Yes, his head was bowed, in reverence.

There is a part later in the book, where Wells says of Anton, “you could say he has a sort of morals”. Now, this has been taken to be “chilling” or even worse, “irony”. But, without a doubt, Anton has morals based on the code of Catholic law. It is not funny. It is the truth.

Of course all of this started with Llewellyn’s choice. He took the money and “His whole life was sitting there in front of him. Day after day from dawn till dark until he was dead. All of it cooked down into forty pounds of paper in a satchel.” Greed is no joke. And drugs and money are instruments, without a doubt. And then comes the accounting.

Here’s some more talk about Chigurh, when Wells first gets hired.

“‘The invincible Mr. Chigurh.’
‘Nobody’s invincible.’
‘Somebody is.’
‘Why do you say that?’
‘Somewhere in the world is the most invincible man. Just as somewhere is the most vulnerable.’”
God is invincible. Anton Chigurh is that his servant. I’d say as an angel, he is hard to beat.

With a seemingly creepy touch, McCarthy employs a strange, animal method with which Anton kills the innocent victims during his all important fight against the devil. Anton guns down every person directly involved with the drugs and the money, but for those few he must sacrifice who are not culpable, he kills them with a livestock stun gun. This symbolizes how we are the “sheep” and he is the Shepherd. It is not “random” or sick or anything but another sign that Anton is doing God’s work and that sacrifices must be made in order to obtain His goal.

One of the final scenes, where Anton kills Carla Jean, wonderfully combines McCarthy’s use of chaos theory to bolster his Catholic vision. But prior to Anton’s great speech on destiny, he explains himself as aligned with God’s word to Carla Jean:

“You give your word to my husband to kill me?
Yes.
He’s dead. My husband is dead.
Yes. But I’m not.
You dont owe nothin to dead people.
Chigurh cocked his head slightly. No? he said.
How can you?
How can you not?
They’re dead.
Yes. But my word is not dead. Nothing can change that.
You can change it.
I dont think so. Even a non-believer might find it useful to model himself after God. Very useful, in fact.”

The key points are that his word is not dead—God’s word lives. And, in saying that “even a non-believer might find it useful to model himself after God” Anton is giving Carla Jean advice. Advice too late, but advice nonetheless.

And so lastly, we get Anton’s speech, his explanation how he is just acting out her destiny, God’s destiny for her, that her actions, her free will, put into motion:

Every moment in your life is a turning and every one a choosing. Somewhere you made a choice. All followed this. The accounting is scrupulous. The shape is drawn. No line can be erased. I had no belief in your ability to move a coin to your bidding. How could you? A person’s path through the world seldom changes and even more seldom will it change abruptly. And the shape of your path was visible from the beginning.

I find it hard to miss that her path was visible to Him, to God, and to Anton, God’s servant.

But it is the inversion of meaning by McCarthy’s followers is what gets me. They talk of a “godless universe” when actually, McCarthy puts the hand of God everywhere. No one can escape his vengeance: He’s God. To see God everywhere, or to deny His existence is more than misunderstanding, not that I believe McCarthy cares. McCarthy, like Flannery O’Connor, is a writer so steeped in Catholicism as something that just IS, he doesn’t care at all about belief. So why would he care about what his readers think? He knows and writes about his version of a Divine truth.

And no one gets that. Perhaps this is McCarthy’s cross to bear: we all have one. He has a following, a chorus of people who sing his work, who themselves write violent material where the violence is “everywhere” and without “meaning”. His influence is huge, and instead of seeing violence as precise and as often the work of God as it is of the Devil, his followers see it exactly in the opposite way. They invert the very most important thing for McCarthy: his heart and belief in the world has been turned inside out by the very people who make his name in this world, who make him famous and rich, and some may see this as ironic, while others can see it as divine punishment.

Note 1: There was a wonderful Granta eons ago that had an excellent essay discussing violence and young men and lack of work in a very particular South Asian country but I can’t remember exactly where. But the two things—young men (groups being a part of the argument), idleness—always beget violence, was more or less the author’s argument. (Similar arguments can be made for certain African nations with their child soldiers.)

Paula Bomer is the author of Baby and Other Stories (Word Riot Press), which O Magazine put as number one in their “Titles to Pick Up Now” and called it a “brilliant, brutally raw debut collection.” Her fiction has appeared in dozens of journals and anthologies, including Open City, Fiction, The Mississippi Review, Nerve and elsewhere. She grew up in South Bend, Indiana and now lives in New York, where she graduated from City College New York with an MA in English and Writing.

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30 thoughts on “Guest Post: Paula Bomer: McCarthy’s Anton Chigurh and the Meaning of Violence

  1. I hear what you’re saying — I remember in both college and grad school reading Blood Meridian and being told that it was a Christ story with the Kid as Jesus. I agreed that it was a Christ story, but the Kid is just a cipher (though he eventually takes on the Judas role), while Judge Holden was clearly a stand-in for both the messiah and the US during continental expansion. Christ narratives (an “innocent” guy is misunderstood, gets put down) aren’t inherently interesting; McCarthy made it interesting by subverting that (the Judge is “innocent” in that he holds himself apart from conventional standards of guilt and innocence — which the Jesus of the synoptic gospels arguably did, too) and also conflating it with the the US’s perception of itself (a big, smart, strong baby that’s going to live forever) within the framework of its own mythology. I could go on about this, but every time I make the case people think I’m just fucking around.

    But, having been a young man pretty recently, I thought the set-up about young men and violence was a little condescending. I’ve seen it used to describe the Barry Hannah phenomenon, too. Teaching Blood Meridian, I had plenty of students of both sexes tell me they didn’t want to read it because of all the “senseless” violence (a small group once told me they wouldn’t read it because they were vegetarian — no joke). Is that any better than *wanting* to read it because of senseless violence? I think appreciating violence in novels is as good a place as any (appreciating love, comedy, boy wizards) to start.

    I don’t mean to whine. If this is the worst I get as a no-longer-quite-young man, I’m doing okay.

    Anyway, I agree with you otherwise, and I also get worked up when people ignore the context and ideology behind fiction (whether McCarthy and O’Connor or Franzen and Wallace). If you ignore that, you could find yourself defending or attacking stuff you didn’t mean to. Sounds obvious, but it happens all the time.

  2. Thanks Paula.

    The first two people Anton kills have nothing to do with the money. The cop and the stranger he pulls over. Does he have to kill them to continue on with his angelic duties? Maybe. It seems there is no clear formula to the book, as in who gets killed and why.

    I myself get very tired of violence, especially in movies. I feel if one is going to go violent there better be something behind it. Where I find Pulp Fiction shallow and the violence purposeless (Mr. T likes to film people holding a gun or sword, especially women, it is a teenage boy’s fuck fantasy, akin to the boy in the mirror miming motion, making his mouth move to say all the famous lines like, “You talking to me?”), there is something different (and adamantine) to McCarthy’s violence. He has created a fictional world that is grounded in the real world, even if that is old world Catholicism (as you point out Paula), it is still a mighty fortress. Whereas Mr. T and all pretenders (David Fincher, Oliver Stone and the directors of the many regrettable Nicholas Cage productions since 1995) are more anchored in pop and pop culture. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but there is a reason why Harold Bloom calls The Judge the best epitome of evil since Iago. No one is confusing the pretenders with Shakespeare.

    I argue with people who say Cormac has nothing to say. Yes, we are all savages, but Cormac is not SAYING anything, they say. He has a story to tell, he tells it artfully in an ornate language (until the last two books). His monster men have codes, as you’ve pointed out Paula. For me, I believe Cormac reflects his age, his country for no old men. The US was built on violence and the largest genocide in human history. Mexico as well, which plays a large part in his work. Random acts of violence have always been a part of this country and seemingly have grown which more shootings, more killings by teenagers.

    I think you’re right when point out the young men admiring him for the wrong reasons. That happened with Kubrick as well.

  3. Thanks for the thoughtful responses.
    Christian- I’m OK with coming off as condescending toward young men who are really into violence. It beats full on ridicule. Also- love your take on Blood Meridian.

    Greg- as I mention, when Anton kills innocent people, he marks them as part of the “herd”- he doesn’t shoot them. I can’t believe McCarthy would have Anton kill people in such a symbolic way and not have it mean anything.

    I have mixed feelings about violence, senseless or meaningful. It something to think about, for sure. There’s a new Mary Gaitskill story in the New Yorker I have to read that chews on these issues, or so I think (just read the first paragraph).

    The wife used the money to pay bills. And her husband had a chance to save her, as Anton reminds her before he kills her, and chose greed.

  4. “I’m OK with coming off as condescending toward young men who are really into violence. It beats full on ridicule. ”

    One of the reasons I admire you and your work. Although full-on ridicule’s good too. I was just putting in a word for my old tribe.

  5. McCarthy is a moralist. So was O’Connor, Faulkner, Kafka, Tolstoy, Shelley Milton, Dante, etc. The moral energy that drives the work doesn’t determine where it ends up, which is why it’s dangerous to conflate your reception with the writer’s ‘intention,’ whatever that means. Maybe the problem is that he doesn’t overtly moralize? For the which, read Lahiri, Eggers, Wallace, etc.
    The sentence that sums up real critical confusion concludes with a statement about “McCarthy’s use of chaos theory to bolster his Catholic vision.” I had to read this twice before I realized you weren’t kidding. Chaos theory claims that there’s no such thing as chaos, based on empirical evidence of a hidden design. It has as much to do with Roman Catholicism or its dogma as Labor Day does with Xmas. It’s lumping one abstraction on another resulting in pepper on ice cream — meaninglessness that sounds meaningful until you look closer.

    • MK,

      Wonderful comment.

      “The moral energy that drives the work doesn’t determine where it ends up.” – Can you amplify this?

      It seems to me that energy would determine the end, whether happy or sad. If all those authors you mentioned took up quill, pen and typed at keys in the spirit of morals, how could the ends not smell of it? As in: this is what happens to the greedy, to the sinners, etc.

  6. Paula, this is fantastic. And I totally agree that those who argue nihilism in McCarthy’s books are just utterly wrong. You already discussed No Country for Old Men. And I just read The Road (for the first time, I know, a little late to the party) and the wife, the only true nihilist, is not very flatteringly portrayed. The boy and the father believe in some kind of heaven, some kind of god–they “carry the fire.” And the same with the family who finds the boy at the end. God or some force has given these people the fire, the extra strength to endure.

    It’s interesting, because mostly when we see violence in books and movies now, it’s in the service of nihilism. And I actually don’t mind this–I tend to be drawn to these kinds of movies and books, actually, maybe because I’m an atheist, I don’t know. Or maybe because I grew up playing Mortal Kombat and being entertained by violence, and like the juxtaposition of violence and humor as a result–I loved Pulp Fiction, for example.

    But I think it’s interesting to see someone using violence in a moralist way like McCarthy, much closer I think to Flannery O’Connor than to Kubrick, I think.

    Anyway, great post and thanks!

  7. Yeah, I’m agreeing with you on lots of this. Just a few minor things (in the book more than your reading of it) are bothering me. I like it though. I like it.

  8. See, here is where you’re wrong:

    He is the opposite of evil. He is divine power. He is fighting the Devil in the shape of drugs and drug money.

    This is where you have misread McCarthy (Christ I’ve been thinking about this for days). Anton is not good. Just as Palin (who you mention in your post quite ironically) is not moral.

    McCarthy isn’t saying that taking money is greedy and should lead to your death.

    The most terrifying aspect of Chigurh is that he believes his actions are correct. This makes him an entirely different brand of evil. A sort of Hitler/Osama bin Laden/ pick you evil yet simultaneously pious and terrifying figure from history. (If he’s so divine then why did he enter into a contract with a drug dealer in the first place, and he has been known to work on similar jobs and he fought in the Vietnam war–there’s much to Anton you conveniently overlook.)

    Divine power is not the opposite of evil. Especially if divine power rolls around strangling police officers and shooting wives in the face.

    If anything McCarthy is saying that all sides are suspect. The Sheriff can’t stomach it. The hero can’t hack it. And the villain thinks he’s divine.

    I’ll buy all that.

    Moralist violence is absurd. It’s the fortification of the extreme religious right. Did you read what you wrote? I don’t believe that dogmatic agenda is in the book, and I think berating ‘young men’ for enjoying the violent aspects of McCarthy is an odd and fetishist way to launch the discussion.

    The young men see a pointlessness to the violence. They are correct. They aren’t well articulated, but there is a pointlessness to the violence. It’s not some God ordained violence of the Catholic order. 1) It’s fiction. 2) It’s not near as disgusting to believe the violence is pointless than it is to see a necessity to it.

    I’m totally ranting, but this thing has been stinging me for days.

    Misapplication of an ideal is what McCarthy is suggesting. He’s suggesting that the greatest danger is misunderstanding. The sheriff has his role because he was improperly dubbed a war hero. Chigurh has his role because he improperly read the bible.

    There’s something much more exact in McCarthy than some thinly veiled Catholic dogma.

    I hardly ever barf like this on threads, but, like I said, this one’s been eating at me.

    • I’m glad you wrote this Brian. Not for rebuttal sake, but so it adds to the discussion.

      “That is no country for old men” – The Yeats quote from “Sailing to Byzantium,” it’s the whole country, the whole. Many people in the book and life ask what happened to this country? We are all responsible for it.

      I don’t have the book at hand for quoting but I believe the key to the whole book is the conversation the Sheriff has with Moss’s father. Sadly and mistakenly, the Coens left this out of the film.

    • BAC (i don’t know your name), yes, this is pretty much how i see it, too. (and Hi paula. I found your post really compelling and fun to read).

      i have to play along a bit.

      It seems too easy correlation, this almost allegory-like way you’ve read Chigurh. There are plenty of other places to find morality/spirituality in the book, but to find it in Chigurh is to miss the point. For if Chigurh were divinely intervening (ie, going after the greedy ones), the story then would be about how he was after the drug dealers. He might be merciless and unkind, as he is, and he would eventually kill all the drug dealers and dispose of the money. Instead, the story’s more muddied than that. This we can thank McCarthy for.

      My problem with this interpretation goes like this: reading Anton as a man, and not as divine (or as acting for the Divine), makes him intensely more interesting. As soon as we read him as a literal divine force (his hand moved by God’s), all of his most interesting characteristics and certainly our bafflement toward his actions are gone. Oh, god’s doing it cause we’re bad, we think, case closed. I feel it’s much more compelling to read Chigurh as a man (or humans, if I should be gendered about things) going to some place we’ve never been before (or, again, maybe more importantly, man being in some place he’s always been). This, to me, is the meaning of Chigurh, and of the book. That human life has always known and had this type of man in it, however baffling. I don’t read Chigurh as evil because I think, especially for McCarthy, that would be too easy (just as reading Anton as a divine force would be): what I see him as is an almost complete corruption of the human spirit. All the humans in the book are morally corrupt in some ways, all are sinners; Chigurh is their epitome, what happens when the last vestiges of light die away and one becomes one’s own God.

      Let me just indulge myself a bit. Bell’s second dream: “we was both back in the older times and I was on horseback goin through the mountains of a night. Goin through this pass in the mountains. It was cold and there was snow on the ground and he [Bell’s father] rode past me and kept on goin. Never said nothing. He just rode past and he had this blanket wrapped around him and he had his head down and when he rode past I seen he was carryn fire in a horn the way people used to do and I could see the horn from the light inside of it. About the color of the moon. And in the dream I knew that he was goin on ahead and that he was fixin to make a fire somewhere out there in all that dark and all that cold and I knew that whenever I got there he would be there.” Earlier in this part, Bell concedes that he became a better man than his father was, who was a better man than his father before that. Still, the dream illustrates that no matter how big a “sinner” Bell’s father was, he still had that light in/with him. Chigurh is the near perfect human corruption of this, not evil, completely human, but also lacking the light and, if anything, becoming his own God. When he tells Carla Jean to model herself on God, the point here is that anyone can become a God in this country, which is exactly what Chigurh does by exhibiting faith in no one but himself.

      I think you’re right to say that everything McCarthy writes is steeped in Catholicism, but interpreting Anton as God’s Divinely selected is like buying John Doe’s argument from Seven that he’s doing God’s work. Who knows though, I just had to play along. It was fun finding my copy again and searching through it. Took most of my night reading it again and now have to fight off further urges of picking up Suttree and getting into that wet-green world.

    • I’m super tired and won’t give this comment it’s due- but I will say this- Angels, often, go against what God asks them to do. Angels, set forth by God, go astray. Think of any depiction of Gabriel, not to mention, Lucifer.
      I stand by my interpretation that Anton is an angel. A very imperfect one- but so are so many of them.
      Also, Catholic visions are not “thinly veiled”. I think it would be very untrue to say that about every single thing Flannery O’Connor wrote. She was unabashedly Catholic- her work still is powerful and complex- as is McCarthy’s. He’s not a practicing Catholic as she was- he’s divorced- but his belief in the battle of good and evil and the complexity of it – I believe – remains intact. Violence, for many religious people- is a necessity.
      Note that- at the end- “you’ll be dealing with me now” (or something to that effect) NEVER is followed through. How will they – the big drug dudes- actually have to “deal” with Anton? That was not answered. And that is no accident.

      • Also, just to mention other writers with Catholic visions, I highly recommend the works of Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, Walker Percy and Muriel Spark. Doubt, complexity, confusion- violence and suffering and sinning- it’s all good stuff for good fiction. It’s a complicated vision and one that has been explored beautifully and painfully by many writers who struggle and are deeply indebted to their religious belief.

        • i know you’re replying to BAC here, but yes, i love all those writers, too. though Greene can be heavy-handed, especially with something like The End of the Affair, which has God’s ridiculous hand all over it.

          i don’t know. i mean, i really find your argument compelling and that’s why i responded. i just can’t agree fully. for instance, the shepherd thing (also, is he a shepherd or angel, or both?). using the cow gun thing as evidence Anton’s shepherd-like. i mean, i’d buy it if he was wielding a shepherd’s crook. but i mean, the gun thing, that’s not something a shepherd would use, but something a slaughterhouse uses (maybe if we said Anton is the complete inversion of a shepherd (for a shepherd keeps the flock safe) and the point of the slaughterhouse guy with the gun is to not keep the thing safe, but even still). the analogy seems flawed. to me, though. anyway, yours is still a cooler read than most.

          • Alan, I was very half asleepedly responding to both of you.
            I loved the End of The Affair.
            I can’t believe it’s a coincidence that the only time Anton kills with the special animal gun is when he kills people who are totally innocent, but are in the way of him doing his work. Throughout the Bible Jesus’s followers are referred to as part of his flock or herd or as “sheep” and Jesus as a shepherd. “Marking” those who have not sinned seems to be a way of indicating their salvation. Because death isn’t the “bad thing” in this novel- we’re all gonna die, bu what of our souls? It’s sinning that moves this story.

            • definitely, doesn’t seem to be a mistake at all for the innocents. some kind of mercy, yes. the Shepherd metaphor falls short for me, because, like you say, Jesus’ flock are his followers. chigurh has no followers. those people, they don’t abide by chigurh, as Jesus’ flock did. i would be willing to say that the stungun use is part of chigurh’s “morals” in that it is used on the supposedly “innocent.” ie, the stungun itself is a method of death for a cow that is supposedly completely painless, etc. he does choke the cop pretty violently though. anyway, i’m completely picky about these kinds of things. if the metaphor isn’t totally and wholly sound, i yell like a baby. it’s the william gass in me.

              in any case, i completely agree its sinning that moves the story; i just read chigurh differently.

              • But they are not followers of Chigurh, they are followers of a moral code, that has been thousands of years in the making, via Christ. Chigurh just marks them as such as he plows his way to fight the devil, as I quoted, in the shape of narcotics.

                I don’t agree with McCarthy- I just think it’s more than ironic- an inverse of meaning- that people – McCarthy’s fans, who do most likely have no problems with drugs, in fact, enjoy them- enjoy violence for violence sake- who make up his readers. As I said- it’s McCarthy’s cross to bear. My main point was that what the author’s intentions are MATTER. Not what some MFA dude who really digs violence and decadence-( think of the readers who love McCarthy who also love, for instance, Burroughs)- and think how wrong they are about them.

                I may write something more about the intersection between chaos theory and Catholicism if I can find the time.

  9. Yeah, the Coens left out the entire Sheriff story, and I feel like it watered down the intent of the tale.

    I don’t know. I think Paula is spot on in many regards, but there a few things in the book that don’t quite jive with the reading. It’s a bit puzzling.

    The first time I read her argument I was pretty much about it, but I don’t know, could the divine be so violent, and if so could the cause of the violence be validated while not compromising the integrity of the divine?

    Sadly, I’d say that many extremely devout believe that all things done in the name of God, or with God’s intentions as aim are justified. But that can’t be true.

    Javier Bardem was in another movie called Goya’s Ghost, which depicts the Spanish Inquisition. In Paula’s reading Chigurh is a kind of one man inquisition. Making murder on the greedy. I don’t know.

    Shooting someone in the face is worse than spending some money your dead husband gave you on bills.

    If Chigurh begins the story as a divine entity, he surely doesn’t get to the end of the story as such.

    It’s a good starting point. But it seems like there’s another step.

  10. That being said, I’m entirely looking forward to getting my hands on Baby now, cuase Paula has owned a chunk of min mind for days, and I’m looking to see how fiercely her fiction will treat me.

  11. At least in the film, Lewellyn goes back to the scene of the “goat fuck out in the desert” to give a dying man water. How that moral, Christian act merits his destruction at the hands of killer Chighur is problematic. Does the book tell it differently?

    By the way, anybody familiar with O’Connor’s “The Violent Bear it Away”?

  12. Just discovered this blog. Thoughtful analysis Paula, and responses everyone. I think it might be a stretch to call Anton an angel, and I agree with one of the posters who said having him human makes him even more interesting. To me (it’s been a while since I read the book, or saw the movie) Cormac seems to me to be saying something about the law with Anton. You have Bell, who is the ‘law of the land’, who is overwhelmed by the corruption and violence wrought by drugs and money–this is the change he refers to often, the new kind of criminals he talks about–decay and nihilism. This he portrays, and correctly I feel, as inevitable. If it’s inevitable, how would you fight it??? This is where Anton comes in, he is like Sharia law–his methods are very similar, and one could argue that the Taliban is fighting western influence using Anton’s tactics. This is all just winging it, without a lot of thought, and I may be waaaaaaay off base. Nevertheless, a great essay and discussion. Thanks

  13. Anton is not an angel. No one is the novel is an angel. No one in the novel is a devil. There is the random & different senses of morality, as experienced in everyday life.

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