ABSTRACT

Cormac McCarthy’s ninth novel No Country for Old Men is at points a thriller, a shoot-em-up, a novel of violence, a novel of the Border Southwest, but at its heart, it is a novel of the Vietnam War. Set in 1980, the text is populated by veterans of the war in Vietnam, and even those not explicitly identified as such carry the Vietnam War in their person and psyche. Llewelyn Moss and Carson Wells are sniper and Special Forces, respectively, while Anton Chigurh is too trained to be anything but a special operator. All three return from war to participate in war—a war based on the narco-economy and the violence secondary to such. In the work, each of the three uses military-taught skills to survive or not as the author conjoins each veteran’s postwar life with his peri-war training. Subversively, McCarthy creates a fourth Vietnam War veteran though the character of Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, a veteran of World War II. Bell’s psychological makeup, his guilt, his regret, his self-ostracization, is that of the Vietnam veteran. But, while McCarthy creates a novel of the Vietnam War, the Coen brothers’ film of the same title marginalizes the Vietnam War and cuts the theme from the film. The novel could not exist without the Vietnam War, but the film can, and does.

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